The Underlying Causes of Thyroid Disease
The thyroid gland produces hormones that affect almost every organ, as well as the body’s energy level and ability to lose or gain weight. The list of symptoms of thyroid disease is almost to long too list, but can include: fatigue, weight gain, muscle pain or weakness, thinning hair, infertility, menstrual problems, depression, memory loss, and much more.
Hashimoto’s Disease is the most common type of hypothyroidism, or slow, “sluggish” thyroid. Grave’s Disease is the most common hyperthyroidism disease, a condition where the thyroid is overactive. But both of these thyroid diseases are autoimmune disorders. An autoimmune disease is any condition in which the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks the body’s own healthy cells.
Tragically, the average person with thyroid disease suffers from symptoms for about 10 years before being properly diagnosed! And, unfortunately, most physicians simply do not understand the symptoms, diagnostic procedures, or the underlying causes of thyroid disease.
But at Ruthie Harper, MD in Austin, TX we understand that early intervention can stop or reverse the progression of thyroid disease, as well as sometimes even prevent the need for medications. Obviously, it is much better to prevent damage to an organ than to heal a severely damaged one! Diagnosing and understanding the complex, underlying cause(s) of your specific thyroid problems is the first step toward getting the treatment that is best for you.
The Underlying Causes of Thyroid Disease
Most scientists believe that there is an interaction of complex factors that contribute to autoimmune conditions, including thyroid disease. These include hereditary factors, environmental exposures, dietary sensitivities or deficiencies, hormones and certain other “triggers” such as stress or bacterial and viral infections. In this article we explore some of this underlying “root” causes of thyroid disease.
Genetics and Thyroid Disease
There is an established hereditary component to thyroid disease. Many thyroid disorders such as Hashimoto’s Disease run in families. But, while genetic predisposition is a factor, it is not the whole story. We know this because in identical twin studies only 50 percent of studied twins both had thyroid disease. Which means that genes alone must not be the single responsible factor.
Environmental Exposure and Thyroid Disease
Exposure to excessive amounts of iodide / iodine can result in thyroid disease. Common causes of iodine exposure are cold and sinus medications, heart medicine (amiodarone), contrast dyes before X-rays . The drug lithium has also been indicated as a cause of hypothyroidism.
Exposure to other toxins, like fluoride and many others, can also cause damage to the thyroid and contribute to an autoimmune attack on the thyroid gland. Toxins can be found in everything from certain processed foods, to skincare products, make-up and certain medications.
Hormones and Thyroid Disease
Almost all autoimmune conditions, including thyroid disease, have a much higher incidence in women than in men. This is believed to be because the female sex hormones estrogen and prolactin play an important role in modulating the immune system.
Scientists believe that female hormones may play an important role in the development of autoimmune thyroid conditions. This is supported by the fact that some of the most common onset times for thyroid disease to occur in women are during hormonal periods such as puberty, pregnancy and peri-menopause.
Nutrition and Thyroid Disease
Nutrition affects every organ and function of the body – and the thyroid is no exception. Progressive scientists and physicians believe that diet affects thyroid disease in a number of complex ways.
To begin with, it is believed that any depletion or deficiency of nutrients may be enough to convince the body that it is “starving” – and so it shuts down the thyroid in order to slow metabolism and conserve the body’s energy. And, since most people consume a processed diet lacking in essential minerals, vitamins and other nutrients, poor diet may be a root cause of thyroid disease for many. Unfortunately, modern agri-business farming practices also strip the soil of essential nutrients, so even a diet rich in fruits and vegetables may no longer have enough nutritional value.
Similarly, many people skip meals or otherwise decrease caloric intake due to dieting, or simply because of a busy work/life schedule. This too can “trick” the thyroid into thinking the body is experiencing “famine” – triggering decreased thyroid production.
Other cutting-edge researchers believe that the diet-thyroid connection is even more complex. Some scientists have linked autoimmune diseases to gluten sensitivity, celiac disease, “leaky gut syndrome,” and reactions to multiple other proteins including dairy, eggs, nuts, seeds, and grains such rice, quinoa, and corn.
Glutamine deficiency and zinc depletion have also been implicated in various autoimmune conditions ranging from Hashimoto’s and Graves’ disease to Rheumatoid Arthritis and others. Others researchers speculate that small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) caused by antibiotic overuse, starchy foods, and other factors can result in intestinal leaks that lead to nutrition depletion, resulting in autoimmune thyroid disorders.
Other Underlying Causes of Thyroid Disease
While stress alone, or a bacterial or viral infection by itself, does not directly cause thyroid disease, these are also believed to be important contributing factors or “triggers” in some people with thyroid conditions..
When combined with a hereditary predisposition, dietary deficiencies, toxin exposure, and/or other environmental damage to the body, stress or infection can be the “final straw” that stimulates the body’s immune system to begin mistakenly attacking its own thyroid.
Thyroid Disease Diagnosis & Treatment – Austin, TX
The good news is that there are many things that a person can do to treat thyroid disease, including remedy dietary deficiencies, reduce stressors, and re-balance hormones.
But it is important to keep in mind that genetic predisposition, hormonal factors, environmental exposure, diet, stress and other “triggers” will vary greatly from person to person. For this reason, individuals experiencing thyroid disease need to consult with a physician like Dr. Ruthie Harper who truly understands disorders of the thyroid.
Most doctors simply do not recognize the effects of reproductive hormones, stress hormones, and nutrition on optimal thyroid function. And, effective thyroid disease treatment is much more complex, holistic and nuanced than just prescribing a “standard does” of Synthroid, like most doctors do.
Dr. Harper uses in-depth testing of all thyroid hormone levels (TSH, Total T4, Free T4, Free T3, and Reverse T3), combined with other diagnostic and nutritional testing, to provide a comprehensive and effective approach to diagnosing and treating thyroid disease.
Schedule a thyroid consultation with Dr. Harper today to restore your health and quality of life!