What Is the Thyroid?
The thyroid is a small gland situated in the lower part of your throat area. It is central, governing part of the endocrine system which is the glandular system that controls your hormones. Hormones are potent chemical messengers sending instructions to your cells. When it comes to the function of the body, each gland of the endocrine system is intimately intertwined with the others and powerfully affect your general well-being. The endocrine system is mainly comprised of the thyroid gland, parathyroid glands, adrenal glands, gonads (ovaries and testes) and parts of your brain, the pituitary gland and hypothalamus.
Signs of Low Thyroid Function
I am seeing an increasing number of women who are either diagnosed with or exhibiting signs of low thyroid function or hypothyroid. The symptoms of hypothyroid include fatigue, hair loss, dry skin, weight gain, sensitivity to cold, poor memory, depression and constipation. Whether their blood tests are coming back normal or the thyroid hormones are measurably low, it is obvious that they have signs of hypothyroid. Finding the underlying cause of these symptoms is essential to correcting the problem.
What Can Cause Hypothyroid?
There are many things that can interfere with thyroid function, such as an autoimmune condition (discussed in detail below), stress, inflammation, iodine or other nutrient deficiency or dysfunction of one of the other glands of the endocrine system, such as the pituitary or adrenal glands. Iodine is needed for the production of thyroid hormones and can be blocked by excessive exposure to bromine from flour, fluoride and chlorine in your water.
I will borrow an analogy that helps to illuminate the interaction between the thyroid and the adrenal glands, whose primary function is in producing stress hormones. The thyroid can be thought of as regulating the RPM of your metabolism. However, under stress, the adrenal glands take over this role, so you could say the thyroid regulates RPM’s while idling and the adrenal glands regulate RPM’s while in gear.
Stress is always your body’s priority. So, if a person is under a lot of stress and the adrenal glands are busy producing stress hormones, your body may decide to down-regulate the thyroid to as not to blow a gasket. In other words, if you were to increase the idle RPM’s in a stressed engine and then need to hit the accelerator in an emergency, you may damage the engine. Better to keep the RPM’s low just in case extra energy is needed for an emergency. In this way, the adrenal glands can be the cause of low thyroid function.
According to Dr. Datis Kharrazian, the guru on hypothyroid, 90% of hypothyroid conditions today are actually autoimmune hypothyroid, called Hashimoto’s. Autoimmune conditions are a result of the immune system attacking a part of your own body. The immune system is supposed to differentiate between your own cells and harmful foreign invaders and destroy the invaders. So when immune cells start to destroy your own tissue instead, we have a major malfunction.
This malfunction can be caused by a number of factors, but the most common theory today is excessive inflammation. In a nutshell, the digestive system is not working properly. If proteins are not broken down completely in the digestive tract and then get absorbed into the blood stream in this state, they can look like dangerous foreign proteins and cause immune system attack.
Protein particles in the blood result from a lack of the proper digestive enzymes to break down proteins and a “leaky gut” or an intestinal lining that has become too permeable and is allowing proteins to pass through into the blood. Once these proteins, from food or other ingested chemicals, are in the blood stream, they are seen as foreign invaders and marked for destruction.
If this “leaking” of undigested proteins happens frequently or profusely, the immune system may become overactive (up-regulated) and start targeting other proteins that look similar for destruction. It just so happens that proteins of the thyroid gland look similar in structure to some ingested proteins, like gluten. A similar scenario is played out for other autoimmune conditions. And autoimmune conditions are dramatically on the rise. There are over 80 recognized autoimmune conditions today.
Summary of Causes
To summarize, the underlying cause of autoimmune thyroid and other autoimmune disorders, is poor digestive function, poor immune system function and excessive inflammation. So the answer is clear – heal the gut, settle down the immune system and mop up the inflammation. That is exactly what I spend a lot of time on these days since many people seeking help are suffering with these issues. I also spend time making sure the adrenal glands are healthy, the stress response is being managed well and nutrient deficiency is addressed.
How Can Holistic Methods Help?
Conventional medicine can be helpful for symptom relief and to get you through the day, but for the foundational work of correcting digestive function, balancing the immune system and healing the body, natural, holistic methods shine. Our bodies are designed for resiliency and adaptability, but in these times when our body is assaulted with excessive toxins and stress, many people need help in uncovering the underlying problem and re-balancing the body.
As you may have surmised, this is not an overnight venture and may take some time and effort to straighten out. But the results are so worthwhile – a healthier body, increased energy, vitality and an ability to enjoy your life more fully. Not to mention the empowerment you will gain learning about your body and what it needs to run smoothly and efficiently.
An estimated 10 million American have hypothyroidism, and as many as 10% of women may have some form of thyroid dysfunction. If you would like to get a snapshot of your whole health picture, take our free Health Assessment. Dr. Thompson will personally call you with your health score and to discuss recommendations and next steps to help resolve your health concerns.*
*As a Doctor of Chiropractic, Dr. Thompson does not treat any symptom, health issue, disease or condition. She has, however, witnessed the amazing healing power of the body once it is given the nutrients necessary for repair and regeneration, toxic exposure is reduced, and poor lifestyle habits are corrected.