Functional Medicine Research with Dr. Nikolas Hedberg, DC

Functional Medicine Research with Dr. Nikolas Hedberg, DC

What Causes Hypothyroidism?

March 11, 2016

Have you ever wondered what causes hypothyroidism?
Are you suffering from any of the following symptoms?

Weight Gain and difficulty losing weight
Hair Loss
Cold Hands & Feet
Dry Brittle Nails
Lack of Motivation
Muscle pain

Your thyroid could be a major contributing factor to these symptoms. Your thyroid may have been checked by your physician, but were you evaluated for autoimmune thyroid disease?  What causes hypothyroidism?  The number one cause of hypothyroidism in the world is Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.  This is a condition in which the body produces antibodies that attack the thyroid gland.  This results in slow destruction of the thyroid gland leading to hypothyroidism.

What should everyone know about Hashimoto’s disease?
Hashimoto’s disease is the most common undiagnosed autoimmune disease in the world. More women are diagnosed with this condition than men.  Many patients do not receive a thorough evaluation of their thyroid gland and are put on thyroid medication without adequate testing for autoimmune thyroid disease.  Patients with autoimmune thyroid disease sometimes do not respond to medication and their doctors are continually adjusting their medication based on lab tests.  The autoimmune attack on the thyroid gland creates inflammation so there are a lot of ups and downs of thyroid hormone production.  This results in inconsistent blood tests, symptoms and frustration for the doctor and the patient.  Since medication is the only tool conventional doctors have to treat Hashimoto's disease, many patients are left without answers.  The key is finding out what is causing the autoimmunity and addressing those root causes because the problem is with the immune system, not the thyroid gland.
Is the TSH test enough?
The TSH test can significantly fluctuate in autoimmune thyroid disease due to the immune system’s attack on the thyroid gland.  Traditional medicine does not check for autoimmune thyroid disease routinely which leaves patients in limbo for months and even years before their doctor finally decides to run tests for autoimmunity.  Even in these cases the only treatment for autoimmune thyroid disease is medication.  That’s right, the treatment is the same for you whether you have autoimmune thyroid disease or thyroid dysfunction that is not autoimmune in nature.  Since only 10% of hypothyroid cases do not involve autoimmunity, millions of people are still not feeling well.
Is autoimmune thyroid disease genetic?
There is definitely a familial factor in autoimmune thyroiditis but not necessarily a genetic factor in everyone. Habits of living tend to run in families such as food choices, lifestyle, environment, location, and stress, all of which can contribute to the development of autoimmune disease.
How does Hashimoto’s cause hypothyroidism?
In autoimmune thyroiditis, thyroid cells are attacked by the body’s own immune system causing destruction of the thyroid gland and chronic inflammation. It can cause an overactive thyroid initially or underactive thyroid – the latter being the most common.  Most frequently, the thyroid is slowly attacked over time leading to hypothyroidism with an elevated TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone).
How is it treated?
Traditional medicine treats Hashimoto’s with synthetic T4 (thyroxine) and when the TSH is in the normal range, the patient is considered to be treated successfully. The autoimmune component is rarely addressed which does the patient a great disservice because the body’s attack can be greatly reduced sparing the thyroid gland for a much longer period than without treatment.  Many of these patients continue to take synthetic thyroid hormone but still have symptoms of hypothyroidism.
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