Today, we're actually going to dive in to talking a little bit about the epidemic of thyroid issues that is currently infecting a lot of Americans. I think that it's a very common conversation that happens, meeting friends, meeting family and discussing maybe different things coming up in their current life. A lot of times, we are having a conversation about having a lack of energy or maybe having some inability to lose weight as that there was a recent diagnosis of a thyroid problem. I just find that nowadays, it's not only just women maybe in their forties, in their fifties, it's happening at a younger and younger age.
There are women that are getting put on these thyroid medications at fifteen years old, is one of the youngest cases that I've seen. We really want to dive in and discuss, is this truly just a thyroid issue or the classification of hypothyroid versus hyperthyroid, or is this something that is associated with autoimmunity? With that being said, there are some very distinct things that will differentiate the two. We're just going to dive in and give you some more information about how you can really figure out, are you currently dealing with hypothyroid, which is an under active thyroid, or are you truly dealing with an autoimmune condition called Hashimoto's disease?
I'm glad that you brought the medication because even before I was really practicing nutrition or functional medicine, I had a handful of friends and even family members that were suffering from hypothyroid and even a friend of mine that was suffering from a hyperthyroid. I think one of the biggest stigmas is that when you begin taking the medication, you have to take this medication forever. I think it's pretty detrimental, especially now that it's being diagnosed at a much younger age. Is a girl turning into a woman going to have to take this medication for the next, fifty, sixty, seventy plus years? And really, how is that going to be affecting their health as well? I'm glad that you brought that up and we could talk even a little more about that towards the end.
Let's really get into talking about what happens in the body when you're having this response of a hypothyroid or a hyperthyroid.
Sure. You understand a little bit about kind of the organs that are involved here. The thyroid is obviously a very important organ that is going to regulate your energy. It's going to regulate your body temperature. It's going to regulate your metabolism, but in reality, your thyroid is part of an entire access and it's part of the access that includes your hypothalamus, which is in your brain. We all know the brain is very powerful and that the brain essentially signals to the organs and tells them how to function. The hypothalamus in the brain will signal to your adrenal glands and your thyroid.
The adrenals are the other part of this access. Think of adrenals, think of adrenaline. Your adrenals, one of the primary roles that they play is they pump out stress hormones, one of them being adrenaline. They also pump out other stress hormones as well, but for the sake of simplicity, I'll keep it at that. The other thing that your adrenals will also produce is going to be your sex hormones. You have now your brain, which is your hypothalamus that signals to the adrenals, and then also signals to your thyroid, and then you also have the other part of this access, which is the fourth organ system which is your reproductive organs.
In reality, the whole access is controlling your energy, your body temperature, your metabolism, but then, it also plays a very big role in your stress levels and then also your sex hormones. It's a very complicated process or very complicated system, but the point that I want to make is that if you have a thyroid problem, chances are you have problems in those other parts. You might be having issues with your hormones. You might be having issues with the level of stress hormones that your body is pumping out, or issues with your cortisol levels, which is the other component of your stress hormones, or you might even have some issues in the hypothalamus. Also, the pituitary gland is part of the hypothalamus.
The reason why I even want to have a focus a little bit on the hypothalamus is because there's two primary things that are produced from there, TSH. I think that if you are relating to anything that we're talking about with thyroid issues or hypothyroid, hyperthyroid, at some point, a physician, an endocrinologist run your TSH. Sometimes, they will say that you have hypothyroidism based off of having low amounts of T4. Sometimes, they'll say you have a low functioning thyroid because you have high TSH, which is in relation to that hypothalamus gland.
This is a really interesting twist because if you have any type of things going on in your gut, if you maybe are dealing with constipation, if you're dealing with some gas, if you're dealing with bloating, if you're dealing diarrhea, if you're dealing even moderate loose bowel movements, there's something funky going on in your gut. If there's a bacterial overgrowth in your gut, if there's a yeast overgrowth in your gut, if there's parasite overgrowth in your gut, there are certain toxins that are going to be released by those organisms. The primary toxin that's released is called LPS, lipopolysaccharide.
If you have a bunch of this LPS that's being made by the bacteria, yeast or parasites and this kind of travels through your blood, it will actually affect your hypothalamus. The way that it affects that is it down-regulates your hormone that stimulates your adrenals and it also down-regulates the hormones that stimulate your thyroid. Sometimes for some people, they actually might have gut issues that are shutting down the production of thyroid hormone. Not everyone, but in a lot of cases that I see, if we resolve the gut issues, most of the time, their thyroid hormones balance out without even addressing it.
There's always that possibility and you definitely want to rule that in or rule that out before you commit to being on a medication for your whole life, because it might just be acting as a band-aid essentially. The thyroid being part of that very large access outside of the gut conversation, there definitely could be other things that would contribute to the thyroid functioning at a lower level, which definitely can be other things like endometriosis or PCOS, which are more in relation to the reproductive organs, but again, for not getting too complicated, just understand that if you've been diagnosed with a thyroid issue, you do want to rule in or rule out if you have other things going on in your reproductive organs, if you have an overabundance of stress hormones being produced, or if you have gut issues.
That was one thing I was just going to ask you too, because I know that being that this system is all connected and we've got the adrenals and the thyroid kind of playing a role, is it true that high levels of stress could possibly, over the long term, affect the thyroid levels as well?
Of course, yeah. If you're familiar with the concept of fight-or-flight, fight-or-flight is you're in the woods and you either fight the tiger or you run. You're body is essentially running on adrenalin. The thing is, we get stuck in these states of fight-or-flight and it's not always because you're grieving or you're blatantly stressed out or you hate your job. Sometimes, it's because you're a go, go, go. You're a mom. You're commuting. You're working. You're making dinner, you're getting home and then you're trying to workout, because you want to have a normal life.
You're just all over the place and you're doing a million things all the time, and some women might be in that right now and there's some women that might have done that for ten years and now, they're burnt out. If you have this overabundance of the stress hormones being produced, then yes, it is going to not only down-regulate your thyroid, it's also going to down-regulate your sex hormones. Your estrogen, your progesterone levels are going to drop and then you might experience some issues with just feeling fatigued, but then also even feeling like you're having abnormal, irregular periods as well.
When we're talking about older women, not necessarily older women, maybe middle-aged women who have gone through this high levels of stress and then we can kind of see how that kind of spirals downwards. When we talk about younger girls, we talk about fifteen, sixteen-year old girls, they're not necessarily having that level of stress. Could you then correlate that to possibly some type of gut imbalance?
Again, I can't speak for all the cases, but that is a very strong possibility. The reason being, especially nowadays, the food industry has just changed so much and we are getting exposed to a lot more organisms. We're getting exposed to a lot more bacteria. We're getting exposed to a lot more hormones that are in our meats, in our dairy. We're getting exposed to GMOs, which are still very questionable on how they're actually affecting our gut and our biochemistry as a whole. Yes, there is a lot of things to consider that could be contributing to gut issues at a young age, which then in turn, could be affecting the thyroid.
Now that we kind of briefly talked about what's going on with the thyroid, let's talk about the difference between just hypothyroid situation versus an actual autoimmune or Hashimoto's response.
The Hashimoto's versus the hypothyroid, it gets a little tricky especially when you're dealing with testing, because you can easily look at a thyroid panel and it looks perfect. What I mean by thyroid panel, I mean TSH, T4, T3. You look at those and everything looks within range and you might be deemed to say, "You have a perfectly functioning thyroid," but at the same time, you're sitting there going, "I'm tired. I can't lose weight. I feel cold all the time. This doesn't make any sense. I don't feel a hundred percent. How is this functioning well?" That can happen if you have not had your thyroid antibodies tested.
That is not necessarily a routine test that is ran, but the thyroid antibodies, one of them is called the TPO and then the other one is called is the antithyroglobulin or thyroglobulin. Those are antibodies that if you measure them, even in someone with a perfect thyroid panel, you might see elevations in those antibodies and that would be the indicator for Hashimoto's. The major difference between the two is you could have a perfectly fine or perfect level of T4 and T3 with Hashimoto's, but still be feeling those symptoms of fatigue and inability to lose weight, not a well-functioning metabolism, et cetera, but then, you can also have abnormal T4, T3 levels and also have Hashimoto's. It really depends on how far progressed the condition is.
It's definitely, the way that you treat hypothyroid versus Hashimoto's is very different though. With something like an autoimmune condition, there's a lot to consider which we can get in to, but if you use something like a synthroid or levothyroxine and think that that's necessarily going to improve the Hashimoto's or stabilize the autoimmunity, it's not. You might be helping to promote more of the T4 levels that you might be lacking, but you are never going to resolve the issue.
You're essentially not treating the actual root cause, which I'd like you to then kind of elaborate a little more what is happening within the body that's causing an autoimmune reaction versus just an actual hypothyroid.
Regardless of where you're at with your thyroid levels, like I said, because they can be completely normal, if you suspect, you're feeling the fatigue symptoms, you're feeling the brain fog symptoms, you're feeling that your weight is yo-yoing. If you're feeling those symptoms, then I would highly recommend going in to your endocrinologist and feeling comfortable of asking for your TSH, your T4 or your T3, and also asking for those antibodies because you do want to rule that in or rule that out, so that you can start to feel empowered to take control of your body. After I kind of explained the route cause of Hashimoto's, you'll have a better understanding to know what lifestyle choices you can make in order to improve your situation.
In reference to autoimmunity and we're specifically talking about Hashimoto's today, but autoimmunity, most conditions have a very similar root cause. We talked a little bit about gut. When you're dealing with something in the autoimmune world, it has a lot to do with the gut. The reason why I say this is, when you eat food, it goes into your mouth, goes through your gastrointestinal system and a normal part of digestion is that nutrients from your food will pass from your gut into your bloodstream and then go wherever they need to go.
Calcium, magnesium, vitamin D, all of those things that we get from our food are supposed to essentially pass through these little, little tiny ducts in our gastrointestinal system out into the blood. That's a very normal thing, but over time, if the gut becomes compromised, this could be because you've been exposed to mercury, because you've been exposed to too many pesticides, because you have eaten high amounts of sugar, because you maybe got parasites when you traveled abroad, or you have a bacterial strain because you got food poisoning. It could be so many different things that compromise the gut.
Those little ducts that allow for the nutrients to pass through, they essentially become bigger because they become damaged. Now, you develop what you call leaky gut. You still go about your life and you eat your food. Let's use gluten as an example. You eat your turkey sandwich on your wheat bread. You eat that, the gluten gets into your body. It moves through your system and now, these food particles can start to pass from your gut into your bloodstream. Now that gluten particle is in your blood and your immune system goes, "What the heck is that? That guy is not supposed to be here. Attack him."
Anytime your body attacks something or your immune system attacks something, it creates a memory, because it says, "Hey. That's a bad guy. If you see him again, attack him because we want to protect this person." Your body then attacks the gluten and creates the memory. It pretty much says, "If you see that guy again, attack him." You go about your life and you really like sandwiches, so you eat your gluten again and you eat again and again and again. Now, it gets to a point that your immune system is over firing, over firing, over firing, every day, all day. It's over firing and it gets to a point that it starts to get confused. Part of that confusion is what you call molecular mimicry.
The proteins that make up the structure of gluten can start to look very similar to the proteins that make up certain organs in your body. It's almost like they put up the face of the bad guy in the police and they say, "If you see that guy, arrest him." But sometimes, they bring in the wrong guy because they look alike. It's the same concept that if you keep eating the gluten, your immune system has the memory of it, and then your immune system being so overworked and so fired up that it starts to get confused. Now, your immune system goes, "Wait. Is that gluten? I think it's gluten. Okay, just be on the safe side, attack him." It starts to attack your thyroid.
Now, you have this immune system, your immune system attacking your thyroid which is not the most well-understood in our medical system. There's not a lot of great solutions for autoimmunity with the exception of using different doses and different grades of chemotherapy, that's really kind of the options that we have, which is going to shut down the immune system because they say, "The immune system is over firing so let's shut it down." I understand the concept, but that is not getting to the root of the issue. The root of the issue is, what is going on in this person's gut? Why do they have a leaky gut? Do they have bacteria? Do they have parasites? Do they have yeast? Can we resolve it? Which you can through the right approaches.
Then, we need to eliminate the things that have irritated this person's gut in the first place, if that's heavy metal toxicity that they've been exposed to, or if that's been inflammatory foods that they've been eating. Maybe that's a lot of sugar. Maybe that's a lot of bread. It's a matter of taking a very strategic approach to their diet, to take away those environmental or dietary factors that created the damage in the first place, but then also taking into consideration, have hey had this overgrowth of some type of pathogenic or disease-oriented organism and then get rid of that as well to resolve the gut issue, stabilize the immune system and then allow the thyroid to heal.
I'm glad that used gluten as the example because that one is pretty controversial in terms of thyroid and the effect that it could be having with autoimmunity. If anybody wants to learn more a little bit about food allergies and how that works, we do have a previous podcast on that so we do talk a little bit more about different foods that could be posing a reaction. If you'd like to listen to that one, it's on our podcast as well. We talked about kind of removing some of those foods. What else can people do?
I guess I should say too, I didn't use gluten as a hypothetical example either. If you really do start to get into the literature of some of the triggers, dietary triggers for, specifically Hashimoto's, but also diabetes type 1, which is an attack on the pancreas, then you will see that the protein structure of the gluten is very similar to the protein structure of both the islet cells of the pancreas as well as the cells that make up the thyroid. There has been correlation specifically with gluten and Hashimoto's and diabetes type 1. If you are currently diagnosed with either one of those conditions, the gluten is something I'd highly recommend removing from the diet.
Yeah, and I know that we like to give people kind of some tips if they are suffering with maybe one of these conditions, removing gluten, but what are some other maybe tips that you have that maybe certain foods that people can avoid or even types of testing to address the gut or address some of these underlying issues?
Some of the top dietary things that you can do is obviously avoiding the gluten, but avoiding some of the other inflammatory foods, cow-based dairy is another one. Unfortunately, our bodies don't do well, we can't digest it very well when you're talking about cow milk and cow yogurt, but something that some people usually do well with is using like sheep or goat-based products. Typically, it's because they have higher levels of colostrum in them, which is very similar to human breast milk. If you are currently doing dairy, doing gluten, I would say, try to remove those from the diet, but then opting for maybe goat and sheep products.
The other thing too is, if you have had longstanding Hashimoto's, I would really recommend starting to maybe even eliminate other grains like your rice, there's your quinoas. The reason why I say that is because sometimes, those protein structures can also look very similar to the gluten. Your body would have an equal inflammatory response to the rice and the quinoas as the same it would with the gluten. I guess I should say this too, is I'm talking about reactions, inflammatory reactions, et cetera. That does not mean you're going to be doubled over in pain. It doesn't mean you're going to have diarrhea after you eat these things.
I know a lot of times, we're kind of like, "I don't know if I should cut out gluten. I hear all these people cutting out gluten, but I don't have any digestive issues and I don't have any issues when I eat it, so why would I cut it out?" You're not always going to have those types of reactions. You might be having an internal inflammatory reaction that might manifest as you feel a little achy the next day, or you feel a little puffy the next day, or maybe you get like a rash or some hives or something like that, but it doesn't mean your throat is closing up. It doesn't mean you're going to be doubled over in pain.
You need to look for more of these subtle reactions that your body might be having. Then, I would say, outside of those primary inflammatory foods, when we're talking very specifically about Hashimoto's, you have to actually be careful with the cruciferous vegetables. Cruciferous vegetables are amazing and they're fantastic for detoxification, but when do you have Hashimoto's you actually need to make sure that you eat any cruciferous vegetables which we'll give you a list for. You have to eat them cooked, because once you cook that, it removes the goitrogens. Goitrogens are known to enlarge the thyroid and create what you call goiter, which is an enlarged thyroid.
You really want to be conscious of making sure that you're not consuming those in a raw form until your thyroid is healed.
Great. We can definitely send out, anybody who's listening, if you'd like to opt in, we can send out our elimination list as well as the list of cruciferous vegetables. Again, if somebody is struggling with this, what would you recommend as their next step, if they're really looking to get to the root cause and really treating this?
Yeah, definitely. Some of you might be working with a functional medicine physician. You might be working with an endocrinologist currently. It's really being able to get the right testing, is really first and foremost. If you are wondering if you've been properly diagnosed and curious about the possibility of having Hashimoto's, then you definitely need to work with a physician that is willing to run a very comprehensive thyroid panel which will include those thyroid antibodies, and we will make sure to add this as a resource to the podcast and we'll give you the full list of the different things that we run with our thyroid panel, just so you know and can have it as a visual if you do want to go in and request that from your physician or endocrinologist.
It's a matter of if you are curious or you feel like you're experiencing the fatigue, you're experiencing the inability to lose weight, you're experiencing the brain fog, then the first place to start is figure out, do you have elevated antibodies or do you have a thyroid problem at all. If you are diagnosed with Hashimoto's and you've been diagnosed for a period of time, then you do really want to explore the possibility of do you have something going on in your gastrointestinal system, and/or do you have food allergies that are exacerbating the Hashimoto's or exacerbating the autoimmune attack because there's a lot of inflammation that is happening within your body?
Yeah, and I think it's interesting, we could probably talk about this topic all day because it's so diverse and vast and there's so many different reasons why this could possibly happen, and just kind of giving you an overview and being able to learn more and be able to ask the right questions. One of the things that we definitely do want to offer to you for listening is setting up a free fifteen-minute strategy call with myself as the nutritionist and kind of talking to you a little more, do you have maybe more hormonal symptoms? Is it PMS? Is it more exacerbated menopause symptoms? Are you having those high stress levels? What really is going on and what really can you do to empower yourself to maybe find, seek out a functional medicine practitioner or another doctor?
That can really help you get to the root cause and feeling better and definitely, regulating those thyroid levels, but also really setting yourself up for success in the future, because it can, over the long-term, cause some more serious issues and things down the line too.
Yeah. I would say the primary thing that I see is once you have one autoimmune condition because obviously, the immune system is very imbalance, typically, it leads to more, more than one autoimmune condition. With the autoimmune conditions, there's something like Hashimoto's which is ... I don't want to say easy, but it's something that you can recover from in a shorter amount of time and then when you're dealing with other autoimmune conditions like lupus or like MS, multiple sclerosis, those are harder to recover. They're harder to manage the the symptoms. I'm not saying impossible by any means, but they're more complex types of autoimmune cases.
Yeah, so it's definitely important to, if you are suffering with this, whether you've been diagnosed or not, really finding out what's going on and making sure that you are giving yourself the best possible outcome.
Well, we thank you so much for your time and we hope you enjoyed it. We hope it was a great amount of information, giving you a lot of clarity around how to take those next steps to get your health to exactly where you want it to be.
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