Chances are you’ve been diagnosed with a thyroid disorder. Most likely you’ve been told that your autoimmune thyroid disease is genetic and the only viable treatment option is thyroid hormone therapy. Often, there is minimal discussion about addressing underlying factors that may be aggravating your condition. Yes, hormone therapy may temporarily help you feel better, but to repair your thyroid, you must identify and treat the underlying issues.
In functional medicine, we want to know—not just what—but why your body is experiencing an imbalance. Uncovering the root causes of your disease is the key to reversing your condition. Everyone is different, and each person has a unique combination of factors that are causing their low thyroid.
These four common factors can play a significant role in your thyroid’s decline:
1. Liver Health
Your thyroid gland produces two primary hormones: T4 (thyroxine) and T3 (triiodothyronine). These hormones help control your metabolic rate, maintain energy levels, and regulate your body temperature. Your liver is responsible for producing proteins that transport thyroid hormones and is where most of T4’s conversion to active or free T3 happens. When liver function is reduced by toxins from alcohol, medication, heavy metals, environmental pollutants, and chemicals, or more, you may not be efficiently converting T4 to T3. This can leave you feeling tired, depressed, overweight, and with dry skin.
2. Gut Health
Your gut is where most of the immune system is located and is another major player in the conversion of active thyroid hormones.
If you have poor digestive health, the conversion of active thyroid hormone will be affected, exacerbating your low thyroid symptoms.
Poor gut health can result in malnutrition, autoimmunity, and a variety of other symptoms in people suffering from low thyroid. A vital step in reversing hypothyroidism is to restore gut health.
Chronic stress is one of those silent killers that can cause problems in your body for years before you ever get a diagnosis. Stress signals to the adrenal glands to secrete glucocorticoids such as cortisol. Cortisol fuels your body’s “fight-or-flight” response and temporarily increases energy production in order to take on the presented stressor. However, too much cortisol can interfere with thyroid hormone production.
Chronic stress causes inflammation and suppresses the immune system.
Cortisol interferes with the inactive T4 to active T3 conversion, by competing for resources used in that process. Stress also causes weight gain, cognitive impairment, and liver function, reducing your body’s ability to convert T4 to T3.
Every day, our bodies are bombarded by toxins via air, water, food, and other surroundings; they are everywhere. Here are just a few examples of thyroid-damaging toxins that we experience on a daily basis:
Perchlorates. This chemical is a byproduct of jet fuel and car airbags, and have been found in our drinking water.
Pesticides. have also been named culprits in thyroid dysfunction.
Heavy metals. Heavy metals are found in the environment and in common materials like vaccines, dental fillings, paint, or deodorant all have a damaging effect on the thyroid.
Medications. Some medications like glucocorticoids, dopamine agonists, or somatostatin analogs can reduce the production of TSH.
Address these factors for better thyroid health.
The thyroid is critical to so many areas of the body’s functioning. Metabolic processes such as sleep, mood, energy, and weight, as well as skin, hair, bowel movements, and nails rely heavily on the thyroid to regulate. So when it is not working properly, it’s essential to find out why.
Do your research and seek out a functional medicine practitioner to provide you with comprehensive testing, a proper diagnosis, and effective treatment to get you feeling like yourself again.