There is one fundamental fact that anyone suffering from Hashimoto’s or Graves’ disease needs to understand in order to reverse their conditions.
You can think of it as a key that unlocks a door leading to true recovery and root cause resolution.
The #1 most important thing for anyone with Hashimoto’s or Graves’ disease to understand and act on is that while yes, they are thyroid diseases, they are first and foremost autoimmune conditions.
Important note: 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.
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 under produce its hormones, slowing down all of your metabolic processes. In Graves’ disease, the opposite occurs, and the immune system’s attack causes your thyroid to over produce 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 I hope you take away from this 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.
I see this all the time in my clinic. In fact, I just recently shared 3 success stories with “before and after” lab results from autoimmune thyroid patients. In the “after” labs they had all dramatically decreased their thyroid antibodies and as a result, gotten their thyroid hormone levels back in optimal range.
Best of all, they were able to eliminate their symptoms naturally by addressing the root cause of their immune system dysfunction.
These 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, using comprehensive lab testing and taking a close look at a patient’s history and environment, we can pinpoint their unique root causes and address them using dietary and lifestyle changes.
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.
And 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 anti-thyroid medications that can cause 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 short-sighted, it leaves you open to serious risk because if your immune system remains dysfunctional, eventually another organ or tissue ends up under attack.
In fact, if you have one autoimmune condition you are three times as likely to develop another one, IF you don’t address the root causes and restore optimal immune function.
So which route would you rather go? Would you rather address the real cause of Hashimoto’s and Graves’, restore your health naturally, and prevent another autoimmune condition from developing? Or, would you rather rely on lifelong medications or risky procedures, all while leaving yourself open to developing even more issues down the road.
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.