There is one fundamental fact that anyone suffering from Hashimoto’s or Graves’ disease needs to understand in order to reverse their condition. You can think of it as a key that unlocks true recovery and root cause resolution. This piece of information is that while yes, they are thyroid diseases, they are first and foremost autoimmune conditions.
It is important to note that 90% of people with hypothyroidism have Hashimoto’s, the autoimmune form of an underactive thyroid. Similarly, Graves’ is by far the most common form of hyperthyroidism, or an overactive thyroid. So if you have a thyroid condition, it’s very likely that you are dealing with an autoimmune disease. But what does this mean exactly and why does it matter?
Who’s Really to Blame, the Thyroid or the Immune System?
Autoimmune conditions occur when the immune system goes rogue and begins attacking your body’s own tissues, in this case your thyroid gland. If you have Hashimoto’s, the antibodies sent by your immune system attack your thyroid and cause it to underproduce its hormones, slowing down all of your metabolic processes. If you have Graves’ disease, the opposite occurs and the immune system’s attack causes your thyroid to overproduce its hormones, speeding up all of your metabolic processes. In either situation, your thyroid is simply the innocent bystander that ended up in your immune system’s crosshairs. The real root of the problem (and the key to overcoming it) is your immune system.
What this Means for Overcoming Hashimoto’s and Graves’
The good news (and the most important thing to take away from this blog) is that by supporting the immune system you can stop its attack on your thyroid, and by extension, your symptoms. For many patients, it’s possible to completely restore optimal thyroid function and even come off of all thyroid medications. To start, you must address the root cause of your immune system dysfunction.
Environmental root causes are different for everyone, and can include nutritional deficiencies, toxic exposures, infections, gut imbalances, stress, and a variety of other triggers. However, by using comprehensive lab testing and taking a close look at a patient’s history and current situation, unique root causes can be pinpointed. From there, specific diet and lifestyle changes can be implemented to improve the patient’s health.
It’s not an easy fix or overnight solution, but with the right guidance, testing, and mindset, it is possible and the transformation in your health can be incredible. When you think about it, it just makes sense. If your immune system is attacking your thyroid and causing your symptoms, the best way to treat it is to go to the source and correct the imbalance within the immune system.
THE RISK OF NOT ADDRESSING THE IMMUNE SYSTEM
Contrast the functional medicine approach with conventional medicine’s treatments for Hashimoto’s and Graves’. If you have Hashimoto’s, your doctor will typically prescribe synthetic thyroid hormones to get your levels back within normal range and then send you on your way, doing nothing to address the real cause of the problem. If you have Graves’ disease your options are even worse. Typically your choices are antithyroid medications that can have serious side effects, having your thyroid destroyed with radioactive iodine, or having it surgically removed.
You’ll notice that none of these treatments involve looking at the immune system, and this is not only shortsighted, it leaves you open to serious risk. If your immune system remains dysfunctional, eventually another organ or tissue ends up under attack. In fact, about 25% of patients with autoimmune diseases have a tendency to develop additional autoimmune diseases, especially if they don’t tackle the root causes and restore optimal immune function.
If you have (or suspect you have) an autoimmune thyroid condition and you would like to restore your health naturally, please review our Adaptation Programs and book a free discovery call. At GrassRoots Functional Medicine, we take a comprehensive approach to thyroid health. You deserve a better care experience than relying on lifelong medication or being corned into invasive procedures. Sustainable, safe solutions are out there, and we can help you find the best treatment options for your unique situation.
About the Author: Dr. Seth Osgood is a Doctor of Nursing Practice, Board Certified Family Nurse Practitioner and Institute of Functional Medicine (IFM) Certified Practitioner. Dr. Osgood received his post-graduate training in Functional Medicine through the IFM and from working with Dr. Amy Myers. He has helped people from around the world improve their health utilizing a Functional Medicine approach.