In today’s health care system there are many specialists. It is easy to lose track of the fact that the body is a group of ecosystems, all interconnected and interacting. The thyroid is a perfect example of all these complex interactions and connections.
I have been a long time student of Dr. Datis Kharrazian, one of the leading experts of the treatment of the thyroid with functional medicine and author of the book, Why Do I Still Have Thyroid Symptoms When My Lab Tests Are Normal?. (This book should be required reading for anyone diagnosed with Hashimoto’s). The material in this post comes from some of my studies with him and from a book called The Thyroid, A Fundamental and Clinical Text, by Braverman and Utiger.
The body is not just a bunch of unrelated machine parts. Everything is connected in some way.
When you have Hashimoto’s, chances are good that you have symptoms in some other areas of your body. Read on and you will understand why.
That’s right, 11. In this 2 part blog post we will introduce each one of them briefly and also discuss how these connections affect Hashimoto’s patients. I will also be exploring all of these in more depth in future posts. Please let me know what interests you.
1. Bones and bone growth
2. Blood sugar metabolism
4. Cholesterol and other fats in the blood
6. Cardiovascular system
9. Maintaining Proper Weight
10. Protein metabolism
11. Red blood cell metabolism
Low TSH or a hyperthyroid state can lead to an increased lifetime risk for fractures, even after TSH has become normal again.
In children, a lack of thyroid hormones will affect normal growth.
Adult hypothyroid and some Hashimoto’s patients tend to have higher than normal bone density. But, this higher density does not necessarily mean good bone quality: there may be issues with collagen, bone turnover, the size of mineral crystals and bone structure. So, even though the bones are more dense, these people may still be at risk for fractures because the bone quality is really poor.
IL-6, an inflammatory cell commonly seen elevated in Hashimoto’s patients can also lead to bone loss.
Blood sugar is controlled by the pancreas. The pancreas and thyroid are both part of the endocrine system. The endocrine system is made of many feedback loops and their various hormones all “talk” to one another and make changes to the body to try and keep things in balance.
These systems also work in both directions. They influence each other. In the case of sugar, insulin is released by the pancreas to help the cells of the body absorb sugar so that it can be used. And the adrenals release cortisol to help sugar get absorbed by the cells of the body.
A hypothyroid state leads to a slow absorption of glucose, a slower breakdown of insulin, a decrease of the speed at which glucose is absorbed in the gut, a lower glucose to insulin response and, finally, less glucose in the cells for the body to use. All of this means less energy to power your cells and brain and more fatigue.
To make matters worse, all of this affects the adrenal glands and the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA axis). In order to try and fix the problem of not having enough sugar, the adrenal glands release the stress hormone cortisol to increase glucose in the cells.
Every Hashimoto’s patient has some degree of the sugar imbalance described above. If you are skinny, its probably hypoglycemia. If you are overweight it may be insulin resistance or metabolic syndrome. If you feel better after you eat, you are hypoglycemic. If you are tired after you eat, you have insulin resistance.
All of this creates a vicious cycle that can really stop you from getting better. All Hashimoto’s patients must take blood sugar problems seriously. You won’t get better unless you do. In my six week program you will discover how to do this. Click on the link to the right get my 4 video series and learn more.
Thyroid and the Brain
Thyroid hormones are very important for healthy brains. In the adult brain, thyroid hormones have shown the ability to help the brain grow and change and to help the brain age in a healthy way.
Hashimoto’s patients know about “brain fog”. There are many reasons for this, the principle ones being inflammation of the brain and a breakdown of the blood brain barrier. The proteins that protect the brain (called zonulin) are the very same proteins that protect the gut. So if you have leaky gut, there is a good chance that you also have leaky brain.
When your brain is inflamed you get brain fog and it degenerates. There are 2 primary symptoms:
It is no surprise that the most common drugs prescribed with Hashimoto’s are anti-depressants. You absolutely must support your brain if you have these symptoms.
Brain fog is a brain cell activated immune response. The immune system in the brain is not specialized and sophisticated like the immune system in the rest of the body. Brain immune cells (called microglia) are kind of like paranoid chihuahuas with automatic rifles. They tend to over react quickly and when they do you get lots of inflammation (brain fog).
In some patients, thyroid hormone may improve brain fog. In others it won’t. You have to reduce inflammation in the brain in a different way. In my 6 week course you learn how to do this and what herbs and supplements can really help with this. One important herb that is used is turmeric. Click on the link to the right to get my 4 video series and learn more.
Thyroid and Cholesterol
In hypothyroid conditions, both the breakdown and the use of cholesterol by the body are depressed. But the breakdown is much slower, so the net result is higher cholesterol, triglycerides and LDL. This may be slower because of a decrease in the breakdown of fats once they leave the liver or in a decline of LDL receptors.
This is why some Hashimoto’s patients also have high cholesterol, triglycerides and LDL (and sometimes low HDL). Once they get their thyroid under control, it is not unusual to see their cholesterol, LDL and triglycerides return to normal as well.
Thyroid and Gall Bladder
Gall bladder function is also adversely affected in hypothyroid conditions. Studies have shown that the gall bladder gets larger and doesn’t contract normally.
Studies also report an increase in the number of gallstones and stones in the common bile duct. One reason they think this might be happening is because the thyroid hormone thyroxine relaxes the gall badder’s opening (called the sphincter of Oddi). This makes bile not flow normally, and makes the possibility of stones forming in the bile duct more likely.
Bile also helps to break down cholesterol so when there is less bile, less bile flow and gall bladder is slow and sluggish you have the perfect situation for stone formation.
Thyroid and Cardiovascular System
Thyroid hormones have a big impact on many functions of the arteries and veins in the body. Low T3 levels have been linked to diseases of the blood vessels. One of the most common problems that Hashimoto’s patients have is cold hands and feet. Hair loss and fungal nail growth can also be signs of poor blood flow.
Low thyroid function means less nitric oxide is available in the blood vessels, this can lead to a break down of the vessels themselves. When you add in the problems with cholesterol and you have a recipe for plaque clogging the arteries.
For those patients taking levothyroxine, some of these problems have been shown to be reversed by the medication.
All those symptoms that you experience are not by accident or some coincidence. There are very clear reasons why your body is experiencing what it is going through. The goal of this blog, my website and my program are to help you to understand how all this works in simple terms, so that you can discover how to get control of your health.
That’s why I created my program Healing Hashimoto’s: The 5 Elements of Thyroid Health. To give you all the information and solutions in 1 place, to teach you how to better manage your Hashimoto’s and to make the goal of having more goods days than bad ones easy to reach.
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Mastering the Thyroid, Datis Kharrazian, 2011
The Thyroid, A Fundamental and Clinical Text, Ninth Edition, Lewis E. Braverman and Robert D. Utiger, 2005 Lippincott Williams and Wilkins