Nearly 30 million Americans, mostly female, suffer with hypothyroidism and nearly half of those go undiagnosed. Shockingly, 90% of adult hypothyroid cases is due to Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, an autoimmune condition in which cells of the thyroid are slowly destroyed by a misguided attack from the body’s own immune system. During the early phases of Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis destruction of thyroid cells causes the release of excessive amounts of T4 leading to a sort of transient hyperthyroidism. Eventually, too few cells remain to produce adequate T4 leading to the common hypothyroidism.
Prominent causes for this autoimmune hypothyroid condition are the increased exposure to toxic metals and toxic chemicals in our environment leading to altered immune function, chronic systemic infections and altered human gut flora. Ah yes, the Gut Flora!! A healthy intestinal lining allows only beneficial nutrients into the body for optimal use and acts as a barrier system to keep unhealthy toxic substances (bacteria & yeasts + their wastes, undigested proteins, fats) from passing through. Amazingly, 70% of our total immune system resides in the human gut or G.I. tract. This “Gut” immune system is known as “gut associated lymphoid tissue” or “GALT”. When health flourishes, over one hundred trillion beneficial bacteria reside in our gut lining and the GALT works like a charm protecting us and keeping us vital!!
Consequently, a poor diet combined with environmental toxins, medications and antibiotics, the health of the gut bacteria gets severely compromised leading to intestinal wall damage, inflammation and permeability (Leaky Gut). With Leaky Gut, unwanted molecules enter the bloodstream activating food allergy responses. This in turn elevates the immune system to worrisome levels leading to “auto-immune” states like Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. Gluten has now been shown to be a primary factor in the development of Hashimoto’s disease. A gluten free diet is paramount for all Hashimoto’s cases or Destruction of the thyroid gland will occur!!
The human gut actually assists in the conversion of T4 into active T3 thyroid hormone!! Dysbiosis or poorly balanced gut bacteria reduces conversion of active T3 thyroid hormone and as T3 levels reduce, cortisol (adrenal stress hormone) increases conversion of T4 into reverse T3!! This is very bad – and it all emanates from the GUT!!
Addressing the underlying gut imbalance is the critical first step in treating hypothyroidism!! This goes contrary to most medical approaches in which a drug regime is the “cure”. Clean up the gut first by removing all gluten, sugar, animal/saturated fats and simple carbohydrates and adding elevated amounts of high quality fibers and phytonutrient rich vegetable sources. Antimicrobial herbs that will remove unwanted intestinal microbes such as Berberines, Turmeric, Ginger, Caprylic Acid, Oregon Grape Seed, Oregano Oil and Olive Leaf extracts combined with potent, viable probiotics plus the Ayurvedic herbs Coleus Forskohlii to increase thyroid gland hormone production and fat metabolism as well as Guggulsterones (Guggul) to help the body with conversion rates of T4 into active T3.
So, as one can see from this anatomical disconnect, most everything is connected physiologically. The Gut, the Thyroid and the Immune System intimately relate. This delicate balance must be accounted for in all dis-ease manifestations as the more we learn about functional medicine, the more we realize that our interconnectedness influences profoundly how well we function, infirm and ultimately, fully heal!