Unlocking Thyroid Mysteries: Ally or Foe?

The thyroid, a seemingly unassuming gland nestled under the Adam’s apple, holds remarkable power over the body’s metabolism. This butterfly-shaped organ secretes thyroid hormones. These hormones, specifically T4 (the inactive form) and T3 (the active thyroid hormone), profoundly influence weight, mood, energy levels, body temperature, and the proper functioning of nearly every organ in the body.

Imagine the thyroid gland as a symphony conductor, setting the body’s tempo. When it’s harmoniously in tune, there is boundless energy, and the body becomes a calorie-burning furnace. However, if the thyroid’s tempo is sluggish, bodily functions decelerate, and fewer calories burn. The consequences of low thyroid hormone levels can manifest as:

  • Unwanted Weight Gain: Those extra pounds seem to cling no matter what we do.
  • Dry Skin: Skin becomes parched and flaky.
  • Hair Loss: Every brush stroke reveals more strands left behind.
  • Eyebrow Thinning: The outer third of the eyebrows mysteriously vanishes.
  • Fatigue: Daily tasks feel like uphill battles.
  • Chronic Cold Sensation: Shivering even in mild temperatures.

At age 77, Alice had all these symptoms when she began the 7 Systems Plan. She was on eight medications (including thyroid), had no energy, and just wanted to feel good again.

Alarming statistics suggest that as many as 50 million Americans may have suboptimal thyroid function. Research reveals that one in five women and one in ten men may be grappling with hypothyroidism, a condition characterized by an underactive thyroid.

The question arises: What factors can compromise thyroid function?

Toxins: Insidious culprits like cigarette smoke, mercury, and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) can silently assail the thyroid.

Gluten Sensitivity: A growing concern, gluten intolerance and sensitivity can wreak havoc on thyroid health.

Phytoestrogens: Genetically modified, processed, nonorganic soy products introduce phytoestrogens that can interfere with the thyroid’s performance.

Iodine Deficiency: The absence of this essential nutrient can disrupt thyroid function.

Bromine: Found in baked goods, plastics, and various sources, bromine can negatively impact the thyroid.

Stress and Elevated Cortisol: The modern plague of chronic stress and high cortisol levels can throw the thyroid out of balance.

Now, let’s delve into a question frequently posed by individuals grappling with thyroid concerns:

Is Hypothyroidism an Autoimmune Disease?

Hypothyroidism itself isn’t inherently an autoimmune disease. Instead, it’s a condition where the thyroid doesn’t produce adequate thyroid hormones. However, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is a prevalent autoimmune disease and stands as the leading cause of hypothyroidism.

Hashimoto’s thyroiditis blurs the line between self and non-self, as the immune system erroneously identifies the thyroid as an adversary and launches an attack. It’s important to note that not all individuals with Hashimoto’s have hypothyroidism, and vice versa. The relationship between these two conditions can be intricate, but fear not; we will navigate these complexities and provide clarity.

The thyroid can take on two distinct personas: overactive (hyperthyroidism) or underactive (hypothyroidism). Graves’ disease typifies hyperthyroidism, an autoimmune condition that compels the thyroid to produce an excess of thyroid hormones, resulting in an overdrive state.

Startling statistics reveal that an estimated 20 million individuals in the United States contend with some form of thyroid disorder, and shockingly, up to 60% may be unaware of their condition. Furthermore, women face a significantly higher risk, with 5 to 8 times greater susceptibility to thyroid disorders than men.

In the realm of conventional medicine, the options presented for thyroid management are limited: the use of radioactive iodine to essentially obliterate the thyroid, the prescription of medications like propylthiouracil (PTU) with notorious side effects, or the surgical removal of the thyroid gland. These choices are daunting and irreversible.

However, it doesn’t have to be this way. I present you with the tools and knowledge to regain control over your health and reveal a proven method to reverse autoimmunity.

Digging Deeper

At its core, an autoimmune disease occurs when the immune system loses its ability to differentiate between the body’s own cells and external invaders. Hypothyroidism, fundamentally, is characterized by an insufficient production of thyroid hormones. In this context, hypothyroidism is not an autoimmune disease per se. However, certain factors such as chronic inflammation, stress, dietary choices, and toxic exposures can trigger an autoimmune response that targets the thyroid, complicating the situation.

To gain a deeper understanding, let’s explore what hypothyroidism entails. This prevalent thyroid condition affects nearly 5 out of every 100 Americans 12 or older. Hypothyroidism can result from a malfunctioning pituitary gland, a component of the endocrine system responsible for sending thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) to the thyroid.

Important Note: In some instances, TSH levels (the only test many doctors use) may appear within the normal range, yet the thyroid fails to produce an adequate supply of T4 and T3 hormones. The intricate dance of thyroid regulation also involves the hypothalamus, which monitors various bodily functions, including energy levels. When energy levels dip, the hypothalamus dispatches thyroid-releasing hormone (TRH) to the pituitary gland, triggering the release of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) directly to the thyroid.

The thyroid, a biochemical marvel, then utilizes the amino acid tyrosine and iodine to manufacture thyroid hormones. These hormones include T1, T2, T3, and T4, with T4 being the predominant storage form. Only a fraction of the hormones produced is T3, the active thyroid hormone. The roles of T2 and T1 are less understood, although T2 appears to influence metabolic rate.

When the body requires active T3, it converts the stored T4 into free T3 (FT3) through the action of deiodinase enzymes. The body also creates reverse T3 (RT3). RT3 is an inactive form of thyroid hormone that can bind to FT3 receptors.

Free T3 plays a pivotal role by entering cell membranes, facilitated by cortisol, to regulate mitochondrial energy production. Mitochondria, often dubbed the powerhouses of cells, number in the trillions throughout the body. Free T3 serves as the accelerator pedal for these cellular power plants, revving up energy production. Conversely, reverse T3 acts as a brake, tempering this energy generation.

These biochemical intricacies illustrate the thyroid’s far-reaching influence over critical metabolic factors, including heart rate, weight regulation, brain function, and fatigue. Disruptions in thyroid function can cascade into an array of seemingly unrelated symptoms, all with roots in this remarkable gland.

Does Hypothyroidism Weaken the Immune System?

Hashimoto’s, the predominant cause of underactive thyroids, is indeed an autoimmune disease. When the thyroid becomes a constant target, it struggles to produce sufficient thyroid hormones. However, an underactive thyroid doesn’t inherently compromise the immune system. Instead, the relentless assault on the thyroid can lead to a chronically engaged immune system that is less effective against genuine foreign threats.

The pivotal message here is that addressing the root causes of underactive thyroid, especially when autoimmunity is involved, becomes paramount in restoring health.

The Underlying Triggers of Hypothyroidism

One of the most prevalent causes is Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, an autoimmune condition characterized by inflammation of the thyroid. Conventional medical wisdom often claims that once you have an autoimmune disease, it’s a lifelong companion. However, as a functional medicine doctor, I offer a different perspective.

Autoimmune diseases have five fundamental root causes:

1. Leaky Gut – A compromised intestinal barrier can set the stage for autoimmune diseases.

2. Gluten – This common protein can incite immune reactions, triggering or exacerbating autoimmune conditions.

3. Toxic Mold – Exposure can instigate autoimmune responses.

4. Chronic Infections – can keep the immune system perpetually on edge.

5. Stress – Emotional and physical stressors can tip the scales toward autoimmunity.

Because these root causes are modifiable through lifestyle and dietary changes, the possibility of reversing Hashimoto’s exists. The intricate interplay between hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s underscores the importance of a comprehensive approach to thyroid health.

Signs of Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis

Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, discovered by Dr. Kakaru Hashimoto in 1912, is an autoimmune disease that compels the immune system to perceive the thyroid as an adversary. The thyroid produces a crucial enzyme called thyroid peroxidase (TPO), which is vital for thyroid hormone production. In the context of Hashimoto’s, the immune system produces TPO antibodies that erroneously attack the thyroid in a misguided effort to eliminate what it incorrectly identifies as a threat.

Hashimoto’s can manifest a range of symptoms, including:

  • Unexplained Weight Gain
  • Fatigue
  • Cold Sensitivity
  • Dry Skin
  • Hair Loss
  • Brain Fog
  • Muscle Weakness

If you resonate with these signs, requesting a comprehensive thyroid panel from your healthcare provider is advisable. This approach should include testing for free T4 (FT4), free T3 (FT3), reverse T3 (RT3), and thyroid antibodies to gain a complete understanding of your thyroid health.

So, what can you do to make your thyroid work for you? A critical step is to follow the 7 Systems Plan, a holistic approach to health that addresses various aspects of your well-being. In addition to this comprehensive plan, consider these steps:

1. Essential Supplements: Incorporate NutriDyn’s Essential Multi (which includes iodine), Omega Pure 1000, and D3 5,000 into your routine. Iodine, once added to many foods and salts, is no longer commonplace, potentially leading to thyroid issues.

2. Natural Thyroid Hormones: If your thyroid remains sluggish, consult your healthcare provider about natural thyroid hormone prescriptions like Armour, Westhroid, or Nature Thyroid. These medications contain T4 and T3, the active form of thyroid hormone, providing a more balanced approach than synthetic alternatives like Synthroid and Levothyroxine, which have only T4.

3. Embrace a Gluten-Free Lifestyle: If you’re sensitive to gluten, eliminating it from your diet can alleviate stress on your thyroid. Gluten intolerance can trigger an immune response that may inadvertently target your thyroid.

While conventional medicine may present limited options for managing thyroid conditions, a more holistic approach, guided by functional medicine principles, can empower individuals to regain control over their thyroid health. With the proper knowledge and tools, reversing autoimmunity and rediscovering optimal well-being is possible. Remember, your thyroid isn’t your foe; it can become your ally on your journey to health and vitality.

On the 7 Systems Plan, Alice lost 45 pounds and increased her energy by 600%. Her doctor took her off all eight of her medications, including her thyroid medication. While it is not possible for all patients to get off thyroid medications, it was for Alice. Her final comment on the 7 Systems Plan was, “I wish I had done this when I was 40.”

For your health,

Dr. Pat

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Dr. Pat Luse

I'm the president and CEO of one of the largest multi-disciplinary clinics in the Midwest. As one of the most highly trained health coaches in America today, I am uniquely qualified to help individuals have amazing health transformations and I can't wait to help you!

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