Why Thyroid Patients Are Often Still Symptomatic Even After Treatment by Glenn Gruby
Nov 04, 2019 08:53AM
By Michelle Vacanti
Thyroid disease is extremely common in America. According to the American Thyroid Association, an estimated 20 million Americans have some form of thyroid disease and up to 60 percent of these people are unaware of their condition.
In America, most thyroid disease is due to Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, an autoimmune condition where the immune system attacks and destroys the thyroid gland. Conventional treatment for Hashimoto’s involves putting the patient on replacement thyroid hormone because their own thyroid is no longer capable of producing enough on its own. Many patients feel just fine with this level of treatment. However, many others still feel bad even although they are medicated and their laboratory tests show thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) in range. It’s extremely common for people on replacement hormone to still have many of the symptoms of thyroid dysfunction such as weight gain, muscle pain, fatigue, dry skin, hair loss, brain fog, anxiety and depression. In my experience, it’s also common to see thyroid patients suffering from chronic digestive issues such as gas, bloating, constipation and abdominal pain.
These are the patients that fall through the cracks; their numbers are good, but they still feel lousy. This is where functional medicine, which attempts to identify the root cause of chronic health conditions, can really make a difference in their lives.
If you are still feeling symptomatic despite thyroid medication, a functional approach that strives to reduce inflammation and balance your immune system can be a big help. Generally, there is usually an inflammatory trigger that contributes to an imbalanced immune response and leads to autoimmunity. Typical triggers include food sensitivities, hormone imbalances, pathogenic organisms (imbalance in of good and bad gut bacteria), chemical sensitivity, stress, and a gastrointestinal condition known as leaky gut syndrome.
Leaky gut, or intestinal permeability, is a condition where the cellular lining of the small intestine becomes damaged and foreign molecules can make their way into the bloodstream and activate an immune response. From a functional medicine perspective, several factors have been found to contribute to this leaky gut. These include a diet high in processed foods, sugars, dairy, gluten and alcohol. In addition, certain medications such as antibiotics, corticosteroids and antacids, can also aggravate the digestive tract. Pathogenic organisms, parasites, yeasts and overgrowth of bad bacteria in the gut also contribute to leaky gut. Finally, a major contributing factor for this condition is a high stress lifestyle.
The specific factors that need to be addressed when it comes to thyroid health are leaky gut syndrome; chronic stress―physical, emotional and/or chemical; chronic inflammation; and poor diet, nutrient deficiencies and food sensitivities.
It’s very common to find those with Hashimoto’s to have gluten, or grain sensitivities. We find that most people feel better when they eliminate those foods that are triggering an immune response. But, if you only eliminate one food and there are other foods that are still problematic, you may not feel better.
In order to help a thyroid patient that’s still struggling, we need to identify if they have leaky gut, find the sources of chronic inflammation such as food sensitivities or gut infections, improve a poor diet, and address nutrient deficiencies, how stress is affecting their gut health, brain health and overall immune function.
This approach can bring fantastic results, but it also requires a level of commitment and dedication from the patient. In order to resolve their symptoms, they’ll need to change the way they think about food and decide to take personal responsibility for their health. Sometimes as a patient’s condition improves, they may be able to lower the dosage of their thyroid medication. However, our real goal is to get them feeling better, having more energy, reaching a healthy weight and improving their emotional health; in short, helping them live the life they were meant to live with energy, purpose and enthusiasm.
Glenn Gruby, L.Ac., is owner and practitioner at Functional Health and Acupuncture Institute located at 1050 Kings Hwy. N., in Cherry Hill. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call 856-321-9301 or visit FHAInstitute.com