The thyroid is a small butterfly-shaped gland that forms a majority of the front wall of the larynx. This gland is responsible for producing two important hormones: thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). Both T4 and T3 hormones affect nearly every cell within the body, as these hormones play critical roles in maintaining healthy bodily processes like: regulating multiple metabolic rate, heart and digestive function, muscle control, brain development, mood, and even bone maintenance. Therefore, when T4 and T3 levels are imbalanced, the body cannot operate properly.
In the case of hypothyroidism, individuals have an underactive thyroid gland that fails to produce the necessary amount of T4 and T3 hormones. Thyroid conditions are common, as over 3 million hypothyroidism cases are reported in the United States per year. While the complications caused by hypothyroidism can diminish the quality of life, solutions to your diagnosis do exist. The Epigenetics Healing Center is equipped to help improve your status with hypothyroidism in a holistic way.
What Causes Hypothyroidism and What Are The Symptoms?
The majority of hypothyroidism cases stem from an autoimmune disease called Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. This disease is the result of misidentification within the body’s immune system where antibodies attack the thyroid gland and cause severe inflammation. While Hashimoto’s is the primary cause of hypothyroidism, several other deficiencies, mutations, and events can negatively affect the thyroid gland.
Other causes include:
- Radiation therapy in the neck area
- Radioactive iodine treatment
- Specific medications (amiodarone, interferon-alpha, interleukin-2)
- Thyroid surgery
- Lack of iodine
- Birth defect to thyroid
- Pituitary gland disorder
- Hypothalamus disorder
While living with hypothyroidism is manageable, it does present a variety of short and long-term effects on individuals. Short-term effects include:
- Increased sensitivity to the cold
- Dry skin
- Weight gain
- Muscle weakness
- Muscle aches, stiffness, swelling in your joints
- Thinning hair
- Slowed heart rate
- Enlarged thyroid gland (goiter)
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms it is recommended to schedule a visit with your primary care doctor, or Dr. Goodbinder to better understand what your body is trying to communicate. Inaction can lead to further damage to the thyroid, and further diminish other areas of the body that are dependent upon T4 and T3 hormones. If hypothyroidism is not addressed for a long-term period of time, it can result in complications like:
- Heart disease
- Peripheral nerve damage
- Birth defects
Due to the severity of undiagnosed hypothyroidism, it is suggested to have annual checkups with your doctor, in addition to having your thyroid hormone levels evaluated if you are experiencing symptoms.
How Traditional Medicine Approaches Hypothyroidism
Traditional medicine solutions typically address hypothyroidism with hormone replacement therapy. This therapy option involves measuring T4 and T3 levels, in addition to the thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), which is released by the pituitary gland. From there, physicians are able to determine what dosage of synthetic hormones are needed in the body. Unfortunately, this treatment variety often does not present a permanent solution. Traditional medicine views hypothyroidism as a lifelong condition, therefore, hormone replacement therapy will likely have to continue throughout the lifespan of an individual.
While hormone replacement therapy may be the right option for some patients, a significant portion of individuals who are following hormone replacement therapy do not need it. In fact, the side effects caused by hormone replacement therapy can do more harm than good in many cases. However, prescriptions for synthetic hormone drugs like levothyroxine have steadily increased since the mid-2000s. The American Cancer Society cites how many physicians have expressed concerns about thyroid hormone replacement therapy as a long-term solution as it can cause issues such as heart complications, osteoporosis, and more.
The good news is that other options exist. The human body is naturally designed to heal itself, however, we often prevent the body from being able to do this because of lifestyle choices. Functional medicine aims to promote natural healing and production by empowering individuals to properly maintain their bodies.
Functional Medicine and How to Improve Hypothyroidism
Dr. Goodbinder and the team at The Epigenetics Healing Center have been able to help hundreds of individuals living with hypothyroidism improve their status and symptoms by identifying and addressing the root cause of the abnormal hormone production. In many cases, poor thyroid hormone levels point to a lack of proper diet, gut health, exercise, detoxifying, nutrients, and more. All these adjustments can be made and sustained without the aid of man-made prescription drugs.
DIET: Off the bat, it is best to avoid any processed foods. American fast-food culture has pumped individuals and families full of harmful ingredients like high-fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners, MSG, sodium nitrite, food dyes, and more. These toxic chemicals are not meant to be introduced to the body, and therefore, can cause harmful side effects to parts of the body like the thyroid. It is also suggested to not take supplements like iodine unless directed to do so by your physician.
The two biggest things to keep a watchful eye one, in order to protect your thyroid, include goitrogens and gluten products. Gluten should be entirely avoided. However, goitrogens are typically very healthy and should not be totally abstained from.
Goitrogens: These substances disrupt the production of thyroid hormones and can promote the unhealthy growth of thyroid tissue, which leads to the development of a goiter. These compounds are found in cruciferous vegetables like brussel sprouts, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and more. They are also found in starchy plants like sweet potatoes and soy products like tofu and edamame. Certain fruits like peaches and strawberries also carry goitrogens.
Again it is not necessary to avoid these foods but to limit your consumption, in addition, it is best if these foods are not eaten raw.
Gluten: Gluten products have shown to have negative impacts on individuals who suffer from thyroid issues, as many of these individuals also are linked to having underlying celiac disease. Therefore, avoiding wheat, rye, and barley products may be beneficial for your health.
GUT HEALTH: Roughly 80 percent of the immune system is housed in the gut. A healthy GI tract, with good gut bacteria, is a large determinate of the body’s healing/functioning process. The modern-American diet has put the GI tract and immune system at risk. There are many foods and drinks that fill grocery stores and restaurants that the body is not meant to digest. The regular consumption of these products can significantly weaken the ability of the immune system to defend the body and operate at a high level.
If gut health isn’t the result of thyroid problems, then the next place to look is the liver. The liver is one of the most important organs to the success of the body. While its main job is to filter blood coming from the GI tract, it also detoxifies chemicals and metabolizes drugs. If liver enzymes are low in count or not functioning properly, this can cause adverse effects on the thyroid’s hormone production. Quick tips to improving liver function include a well balanced plant-based diet, regular exercise, avoiding alcohol, and reducing stress load.
EXERCISE / DETOXIFYING: Regular exercise stimulates thyroid gland secretion and increases tissue sensitivity to T4 and T3 hormones throughout the body. Exercise also helps rid the body of toxins that can affect thyroid health. Furthermore, drinking enough daily water (roughly a gallon per day) helps the body filter out these same toxins.
NUTRIENT DEFICIENCIES: The introduction of supplements should be done under the supervision of a doctor, but many cases of thyroid disease can be improved through vitamin and nutrient supplements. Iodine, zinc, selenium, and vitamin B are all important to healing and ensuring the proper function of the thyroid gland.
STRESS MANAGEMENT: The thyroid and adrenal glands work hand-in-hand. The small adrenal glands, which sit atop the kidneys, help manage the impact of stress. However, when excessive stress occurs for a prolonged period of time, the adrenal glands cannot handle the workload, and the body begins to become affected. Chronic stress can cause the thyroid to function to slow and result in further decreased T4 and T3 production levels.
How Dr. Goodbinder Can Help You Live With Hypothyroidism
The Epigenetics Healing Center has seen great success in helping their patients improve and live a fulfilling life with hypothyroidism. Dr. Goodbinder’s philosophy centers around putting the body in an environment to thrive. So what does that translate to?
- Healthy eating and drinking habits
- Regular exercise training
- Detoxifying harmful chemicals
- Quality sleep
- Limiting stress
- Nutrient improvements
In addition, part of improving and maintaining a healthy relationship with hypothyroidism revolves around regular blood testing. Dr. Goodbinder examines a variety of hormone levels, blood counts, and nutrient deficiencies to monitor a patient’s status and what needs to be adjusted in order to help the thyroid gland to function properly.
So what does a day in the life look like, living with hypothyroidism under Dr. Goodbinder’s guidance?
- Diet: It is a good general rule of thumb that most vegetables and fruits are positive food choices. In addition, drinking close to a gallon of purified water every day is vital to your health. Consuming enough water helps protect organ function, flush out toxins, carry nutrients, promote digestion, and more.
Some of the best foods to eat for your thyroid include:
- Meat in moderation (lamb, chicken, turkey, beef)
- Fish (salmon, tuna, halibut)
- Fruits (bananas, oranges, tomatoes, etc.)
- Nuts (brazil, macadamia, hazelnuts)
An example of a thyroid based meal plan could look like something like this:
Breakfast: Eggs, mushrooms, and zucchini with a cup of dairy-free yogurt like coconut or almond
Lunch: Grilled salmon served over cauliflower rice with mixed veggies
Dinner: Stir-fried chicken with steamed vegetables and a side salad
- Exercise: Regular exercise is vital to long-term health, in addition to supporting the functionality of the thyroid gland. It is suggested that 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise is done daily. A combination of aerobic and anaerobic activity will best serve the body’s overall health.
- Detoxifying: Removing the harmful toxins and chemicals that are absorbed into the body through both consumption and the environment is important to rejuvenate the thyroid gland. Therefore, drinking plenty of water (roughly a gallon a day), minimizing alcohol intake, getting enough exercise, and even attending the sauna can all help the body excrete these products.
- Quality Sleep: Sleep is an overlooked part of health. During this time, the body undergoes rest and bodily repair. Following a positive sleep program is essential to healing the thyroid gland. This includes getting 8 to 9 hours of quality sleep every night, in addition to going to bed by 10 PM.
- Limit Stress: Chronic stress can cause a lot of complications and diseases. As long-term stress can diminish thyroid function, it is important to manage triggers and reasons for stress. Finding a good work-life balance, and developing healthy outlets like yoga, meditation, recreational sports, and more, play a large part in reducing chronic stress.
- Nutrient Supplements: Depending upon a patient’s blood work, Dr. Goodbinder may suggest adding natural vitamin and nutrient supplements into a diet. Iodine, zinc, selenium, and vitamin B are all possible (and safe) options that may be introduced to help boost thyroid function.
Discover How to Help Your Thyroid Condition Through Epigenetics
Contact Dr. Goodbinder to schedule an appointment to examine your current health status. Thyroid problems are common and can be fixed. Improvement starts with the proper gameplan and identifying why your thyroid isn’t functioning properly. Learn how we can help address your health concerns, and adjust for a healthier life moving forward.
Dr. Jay Goodbinder ND DC DABCI is a doctor in Kansas City, MO who serves patients in the surrounding Kansas City areas, cities across the United States, and in several countries around the world.