Your Thyroid - From a Functional Perspective: Part 2
It All Starts at the Roots
In “Your Thyroid — From a Functional Perspective: Part 1” we talked all about the thyroid gland — what it is, how it works, symptoms associated with thyroid disease, and the specifics of blood testing that is helpful when looking at thyroid function. In Part 2, we are going to dive deep into what actually influences thyroid function!
In functional medicine, we always strive to understand the root cause of chronic illness — in fact, it is the only way to make effective and lasting change. The same is true in individuals with hypothyroidism, so let's take a look at some of the common root causes of a thyroid imbalance.
6 Root Causes of Decreased Thyroid Function
Hashimoto’s — The number one cause of decreased thyroid function is an autoimmune condition called Hashimoto’s, which is also referred to as autoimmune thyroiditis. Individuals with Hashimoto’s have thyroid cells that are attacked by the body’s own immune system. Over time this causes destruction of the thyroid gland and chronic inflammation. The key here is to figure out what’s causing the immune response that is affecting your thyroid, because that’s the real problem, not the thyroid itself.
HPA Axis Dysfunction —You might not know it, but your adrenal health also has an effect on your thyroid. During periods of prolonged stress, our body’s cortisol (that potentially pesky stress hormone), can have a ‘dampening’ effect on the production of thyroid hormones and their ability to bind to the cell receptors.
Blood Sugar Regulation Issues — When a person consistently ingests processed carbohydrates and sugar, their blood sugar elevates and causes the release of insulin in the body. In turn, the insulin inhibits the thyroid’s production of hormones.
Chronic Infections — By now you should recognize that your immune system has a large role on your thyroid’s production of TSH. Chronic infections such as Epstein-barr virus, H.Pylori and other gut infections, the flu, Lyme disease and other tick-borne infections, can all cause immune responses to the thyroid gland if active.
Environmental Toxins — Chemicals that interfere with a healthy thyroid are all around us in our day-to-day life. The more plastic we use, the more we are being exposed to BPA and phthalates, which are known endocrine disruptors (newsflash: your thyroid is an endocrine gland). Triclosan, which can be found in antibacterial soaps, has been shown to decrease thyroid function. Even the fluoride in our drinking water has been shown to negatively impact thyroid function.
Nutrient Deficiencies — Iodine, selenium, vitamin A, zinc, and iron are all necessary nutrients for healthy thyroid function. If your nutrient levels are imbalanced, your thyroid might be as well. Stay tuned for part three of this series, where we'll go into more detail about the nutrient deficiencies that can affect your thyroid health and the ways in which we can balance them.
Finding a Sustainable Solution
If you’re experiencing symptoms of a thyroid imbalance you might need to pay attention to the root cause of your symptoms. These symptoms can be quite discomforting and you might feel the inclination to focus on silencing your symptoms with prescriptions. But, as long as the underlying problem persists underneath those silenced symptoms, it will continue to disrupt your optimal health.
If we take the time to understand the underlying cause of your thyroid's imbalance we can create a plan to optimize your health to the fullest. Whether we decide to focus on your immune health or possible nutrient deficiencies, we can find a way to effectively and sustainably reach your optimal health.
If you have questions or concerns about your health, book a free 15-minute chat with Dr. Stefanacci by clicking here.