What Everyone Should Know About Thyroid Disease

Internist & Functional Medicine Clinician By Susan Blum, M.D., MPH
Internist & Functional Medicine Clinician
Susan Blum, M.D., MPH is a nationally recognized clinician, speaker, author, and teacher. She currently lives in Port Chester, New York, and received her master's in medicine from the State University of New York Health Science Center at Brooklyn and her master's in public health preventative medicine from Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health.
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Have you noticed that many people you know have been diagnosed as having a low functioning thyroid, or hypothyroidism? And have you also noticed that they all have Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, an autoimmune disease?

The conventional approach is to prescribe thyroid hormone medication, and this has become so common that no one really thinks twice about it. However, taking the medication does nothing to address the Hashimoto’s and what might be causing it. This is very familiar to me, because 14 years ago, when I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s, I made it my mission to find the cause and cure the disease. Within one year, my Hashimoto’s was gone.

In the last decade, I've become more concerned because this problem seems to be affecting our children now, too. More and more of my patients are bringing their kids in to see me because they've recently been diagnosed with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. We're experiencing a startling increase in the diagnosis of Hashimoto’s in all age groups, so I wanted to share some valuable information on treatment options.

What is Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis?

This disease occurs when the thyroid gland tissue becomes inflamed and damaged because the immune system produces damaging antibodies that attack the gland. Think of it as having an allergy to yourself; thus the word autoimmune. For a long time, the thyroid gland itself might function just fine, making its hormones despite the inflammation.

Eventually, though, the gland becomes damaged, and the thyroid starts to fail — then comes the diagnosis of hypothyroidism and a prescription for hormone replacement. From a functional medicine perspective, you can prevent the need for medication if you fix the autoimmune issue before the thyroid gland becomes irreversibly damaged.

There is another autoimmune condition that affects the thyroid, called Grave’s disease. With Grave's disease, antibodies actually stimulate the gland, causing hyperthyroidism. Again, in functional medicine, we approach the treatment for Grave’s the same as with Hashimoto’s.

In order to cure this disease, we first need to look at what causes the problem at the root. Here are the three most common causes of Hashimoto’s:

1. The thyroid gland gets damaged from toxins.

These can include mercury from fish and silver fillings, and pesticides in food and on your lawn. The thyroid is very sensitive to these toxins and absorbs them very easily, causing an immune attack on the gland. To treat this, you must detoxify your body and your environment.

2. Gluten triggers an immune reaction that produces antibodies that cross react and target your thyroid gland.

There are many studies looking at the association between gluten and Hashimoto’s. Gluten also damages the gut lining and can cause malabsorption of essential nutrients, like selenium, needed to protect the thyroid gland from damage. To treat this easily, remove gluten from your diet.

3. Due to poor digestive health, the immune system becomes dysfunctional.

Seventy percent of the immune system is in the intestinal lining and an overgrowth of harmful microbes like yeast, bad bacteria and parasites can cause the immune system to "misfire." It then makes a mistake and damages tissues at distant locations in the body, such as the thyroid. There is also an important relationship between stress and microbial overgrowth. Fixing the immune system by healing the gut is an important part of the program.

In my medical practice and in my book, The Immune System Recovery Plan, we work through these steps to cure the Hashimoto’s and all autoimmune diseases. I know it can be done, because I did it for myself. Today I feel better than ever and am committed to sharing this treatment program with as many people as possible. Hashimoto’s and Grave’s Disease are both indeed, curable.

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