Your thyroid has many important functions including keeping your metabolism running and in balance. Your thyroid is also responsible for controlling heart, muscle, and digestive function, brain development and bone maintenance. Thyroid hormones, thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3), are in constant circulation throughout your body and are regulated by a special thyroid-brain feedback loop (hypothalamic-pituitary-thyroid feedback loop). This keeps hormone levels in your blood stable and at the correct level.
A healthy thyroid gland produces the exact amount of thyroid hormones needed to keep all these important functions in your body balanced, including your metabolism.
Unfortunately, there are many reason why your thyroid may become damaged which can bring on symptoms of sluggishness and weight gain just to name two symptoms.
Common imbalances or conditions fall into two categories, when thyroid gland produces too much hormone (hyperthyroidism) causing you to use up nutrients and calories too quickly or when the thyroid doesn’t produce sufficient hormone (hypothyroidism), resulting in your body slowing down and not converting energy well, causing weight gain and fatigue.
The common symptoms of hyperthyroidism include extreme or quick weight loss, nervousness and excess sweating, infrequent periods, eye issues, skin issues, muscle weakness, and a fast heart rate.
The common symptoms of hypothyroidism include unexplained weight gain or having trouble losing weight, sluggishness, heavier periods, brain fog, dry skin and hair, sensitivity to cold, slower heart rate, fatigue, more frequent and stronger menstrual periods, memory issues, and dry skin and hair.
What causes thyroid imbalances or disease?
There are many things that can compromise thyroid health. Nutritional factors, environmental toxins, pregnancy, and genetic factors can all play a role in thyroid disease of thyroiditis. Depending on the type of thyroid imbalances or disease, most people experience multiple factors creating their symptoms.
In some cases, genetic factors can impact your thyroid, like in the case of Hashimoto’s disease. Hashimoto’s is an autoimmune disease that can trigger genes by a stressful, life-changing event, gut issues such as leaky gut, or even a stealth infection.
Apart from more serious autoimmune thyroid condition, women can contract thyroiditis after giving birth, this is also referred to as postpartum thyroiditis.
Nutrition also impacts your thyroid functions. A diet high in sugar, junk foods, inflammatory foods like gluten and poor quality fats, regular alcohol consumption can all disrupt thyroid health. Deficiencies in important thyroid nutrients, like iodine, selenium, and zinc can also be to blame.
The Conventional Approach To Treating Thyroid Issues
Worldwide over 200 million people have some type of thyroid disease and it’s on the rise. While everyone is susceptible to thyroid disease, women are 7 times more likely to have issues with thyroid imbalances.
The conventional approach to thyroid health is not preventative. While most conventional practitioners will test for thyroid health using a blood test, this is only part of the equation when it comes to protecting your thyroid. If the case of hypothyroidism and lack of sufficient thyroid hormones, hormone replacement which may be needed.
However, replacing hormones is a delicate balance. Most traditionally-trained clinicians will use synthetic hormone replacement therapies such as thyroid medications that can actually bring on more unwanted side effects and not give you the proper balance you need. There is also no way to test if you have the correct amount of hormone when using synthetics which is why many people deal with so many symptoms.
In addition, the conventional treatment approach does not test or look at the other factors that cause thyroid imbalances, like heavy metal and gut issues, which is why you may have hormones issues in the first place.
The Functional Medicine Approach To Thyroid Health
What we’ve realized, through current medical studies and advanced medical testing, is that environmental toxins and gut health hugely impact thyroid health. This is why we work with patients in our programs to do proper liver detox, make smarter, less toxic food choices, and upgrade other lifestyle choices to decrease their toxic load. If hormone replacement is needed, we look at bio-identical hormone replacement that is better adapted in the body and can be tested with blood work to ensure correct dosage.
Environmental toxins and toxins in our food are incredibly harmful for your thyroid, and they have greatly increased over the past three years. Heavy metals, which have made their way into our food and seafood, can damage delicate gland tissues and cause your thyroid to malfunction. One problematic heavy metal, mercury, that was extracted from the earth during the industrial age to produce felt and mirrors, is now in high quantities in our oceans. Mercury is also found in high quantities in fish, especially large fish like tuna who eat smaller fish and accumulate it in their tissues. Regular consumption of these foods (more than once monthly) can cause heavy metal build-up in your body.
Gluten is an inflammatory protein molecule that can be found in wheat, barley, rye, and the grains. This can inflame thyroid tissues, especially if you have a gluten sensitivity or genetic markets for gluten sensitivity. More than 18 million Americans are currently suffering from some form of gluten sensitivity and many people have an undiagnosed sensitivity.
We are exposed to many more man-made chemicals (so-called xenobiotics) today – present in medications, beauty products, cleaning supplies. There are byproducts of industrialization like pesticides from farming, PCPs, plastics, synthetic perfumes, lignin, and more. Xenoestrogens, which are man-made estrogen-like compounds, are especially harmful for your hormone and thyroid health. They were created to make plastic supple, like plastic wrap, plastic water bottles, and plastic food containers. While this is great for the practicalities of food storage, it’s awful for your hormone health as these containers laced with “fake estrogen” leech into our food and get into our bodies.
These toxins accumulate inside your body, literally getting stuck in your tissues, ultimately triggering more serious disorders that affect hormone balance, digestion, joint health, and proper liver function.
That’s why Dr. Lechner follows a functional medicine approach to identify what factors that can compromise your thyroid health, which are many times the same factors that can harm your thyroid health as well. Together, we can create a custom-tailored protocol to address all the issues that are causing thyroid issues, instead of immediately using hormone replacement meds.