Thyroid disease is incredibly common and is one of the reasons many of my patients come in to see me at The Living Proof Institute. One of the first things I tell my patients is that it is crucial to first determine the root cause of the problem. Why is your thyroid not functioning optimally in the first place? Medications like Levothyroxine and Natural Dessicated Thyroid can be useful for symptom relief, but in the vast majority of cases, the root cause – the originating reason – is often overlooked.
6 Causes of Hypothyroidism
In our practice, we have identified the 6 most commonly overlooked causes of Hypothyroidism including Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, and I am excited to share them with you.
1. Chronic Stress
Our bodies and minds are bombarded with stressors on a daily (if not hourly) basis. These stressors can include emotional and mental stressors, but also chemical, biochemical and mechanical stressors that put our bodies on high alert for long periods of time. As these stressors build up over time, our bodies get tired of managing them and eventually begin to shut down.
Imagine an annoying bunch of neighbors that knock on your door multiple times per day. If these neighbors continue to do this over and over for many years, you will eventually get so annoyed that you will no longer answer your door. You will shut down and will no longer care if anyone knocks at your door. In the same way, our cells don’t want to constantly be bombarded and annoyed with the door knocking stressors that affect us on an hourly basis. This ‘non-response’ from the cells is what leads to harmful consequences, such as hormonal imbalances.
Learning to manage all kinds of stress is essential for preventing burnout. Here are some strategies to consider on a daily basis:
Environmental exposure: avoid harsh chemicals in products such as makeup, personal care products and plastics (e.g. water bottles, plastic containers).
Dietary exposure: avoid conventionally raised produce and switch to organic.
Mental stress: take breaks when sitting at your desk at work as mechanical stress and postural issues can also affect your health.
2. Leaky Gut Syndrome
It has been estimated that 70-80% of Hypothyroidism cases are caused by an autoimmune condition called Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. A leaky gut is the most common root cause of autoimmune disease.
A leaky gut is when the one-cell thick lining of the intestinal wall becomes permeable, allowing foreign substances to enter into the bloodstream. The body then views these proteins as foreign invaders and forms antibodies against them.
In the case of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, a process known as molecular mimicry is a contributing factor. For example, the protein in gluten known as gliadin is similar in structure to proteins that are present on the surface of thyroid cells. The body then creates antibodies against normal thyroid cells.
Specifically, Thyroid Peroxidase and Thyroglobulin antibodies attack proteins on the cellular surface of thyroid cells, after having been activated due to toxin proteins which enter our bloodstream via a leaky gut.
If you have antibodies acting against any of your own cells, you very likely have a leaky gut and in the case of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, it is essentially confirmed. It is important to see a functional medicine practitioner who can conduct a lab test to see if these antibodies are present, and can therefore help you determine if this is the root cause of your issues.
3. Chemical and Food Sensitivities
There are certain chemicals and foods that can lead us to have overactive immune systems as our bodies attempt to protect us. The way to combat these chemicals is simply to reduce your exposure risk.
Here are some of my top strategies:
Eat organic fruits and vegetables.
Avoid the most common allergenic foods e.g. gluten-containing grains, dairy products, peanuts and other legumes, and nightshade vegetables for those who are experiencing autoimmune symptoms.
If you choose to eat meat, ensure that it is not given antibiotics or hormone therapy, and ideally it is free-run, wild or grass-fed. Remember, you will eventually eat what the fish, chicken or cow has eaten before you.
Reduce exposure to plastics and cut down on microwave use.
Eliminate environmental sources of mold in your home and/or workplace.
These are just a few suggestions to make a positive change in your exposure levels. For more easy to implement suggestions for improving your environment, go to www.30in30.org and sign up for the emails.
4. Poor Nutrition Status
We have all heard the phrase “You are what you eat”. I disagree. The reality is, “you are what you DIGEST”. If your digestion is not optimal, then you will not be able to absorb all the important vitamins, minerals and macronutrients that we need in order to function at our best. When our nutrient status is not optimized, it is hard for our cells to function at their best. They can’t produce enough energy to protect us from chemicals and infections that may be triggering poor health and autoimmune diseases such as Hashimoto’s.
A great test to have done to check your functional nutrient status is an Organic Acid Test. Speak to a functional medicine doctor about having this test done for yourself.
What if your habits are leading you down a path which is causing thyroid dysfunction? The choices we make on a daily basis determine both our longevity and our quality of life. Making good lifestyle choices daily is paramount in the creation of the habit of being healthy.
Your food choices, clothing choices, choice of friends, choice of daily activity levels, choice of personal care products, etc. are all contributing to how healthy you are and the effort required by your body to eliminate unwanted intruders. While this root cause overlaps with the first four above, I wanted to include it as a separate point in this article to stress the role and importance of habit formation and breaking habits – they make the difference between having optimal or sub-par health on a daily basis
6. Stealth Infections
One of the most common root causes for autoimmune thyroid disease is a stealth infection in the gut. These are overgrowths in our gut consisting of bacteria, viruses, parasites, yeast, and fungus, that can trigger the body’s stress response, leading us to have a chronic stressor to deal with in the long term.
Overgrowths of bacteria can enter the small intestine, leading to a leaky gut. Overgrowths of parasites, viruses, and yeast can lead to nutrient deficiencies that stress our bodies to the brink of failure. These ‘stealth’ infections and overgrowths are often the stressors that are overlooked by medical practitioners when looking for the root cause of health concerns such as autoimmune thyroid disease.
Speak to your functional medicine doctor regarding the right stool testing to determine if a stealth infection is at the root of your autoimmune health condition.