Sunday, September 23, 2018
Autoimmune thyroiditis - what can you do?
For those of you not familiar, an autoimmune process means that your body is making antibodies that are attacking one or more of your tissues. This includes diseases like Hashimoto's and Grave's when it happens to the thyroid gland.
If you have one of these issues and it goes untreated, you are more likely to develop other autoimmune diseases like Rheumatoid arthritis, Lupus or Multiple Sclerosis. By treatment I don't mean drugs, which just try to stop the symptoms but don't address the Root Cause of an illness.
Since most of your immune system is in your gut (along your intestines), it makes sense that one of the triggers of the autoimmune process can be food.
As a Functional Medicine physician I see many patients with autoimmune thyroiditis. The first thing we do is an elimination diet to remove possible triggers. Many times, after the elimination diet is done we see antibody titers coming down. The most common food triggers are gluten and dairy.
Food is not the only possible trigger, though. Medication can also be a trigger. I have a patient whose antibodies were fairly low and she was put on one of the new anti-coagulation drugs and her antibodies went through the roof - into the thousands - and when I wrote to the Cardiologist to ask them to change her medication, the nurse practitioner (not the doctor to whom I had written) sent a response that the patient needed that particular medication. For those of you unfamiliar with anticoagulants, that statement is false. There are other options.
If your thyroid isn't functioning as it should then work with a Functional Medicine doctor to see if it may be an autoimmune problem. Many conventional doctors don't look at thyroid antibodies and if you don't look, you won't know whether you are dealing with autoimmunity. I routinely check thyroid antibodies if a patient is having symptoms of thyroid dysfunction. I mentioned the symptoms of thyroid dysfunction in my previous post.
If your antibodies remain high after consideration of food and drug triggers then you may want to take a closer look at other things your body comes into contact with.
This slide from my conference this weeks shows some of the other triggers. Heavy metal toxicity can come from exposure to contaminated air, water, toys and food. Heavy metals can interfere with multiple metabolic processes. There is research that shows a link between mercury exposure and thyroid antibodies and persons treated for heavy metal toxicity have had improved thyroid function after treatment.
The other area where we get huge exposures is personal care products and household cleaning or air freshener products that contain dangerous chemicals. Check out EWG.org to see if your makeup, shampoo, lotions, dishwashing liquids, etc. may be making you sick.
I have seen patients who successfully eliminated many possible triggers from their life and brought their antibodies down almost to the 'reference range'. Some of these had many nodules on a thyroid ultrasound which were no longer there after they searched for root causes and got rid of them.
So there is a glimmer of hope. We don't have all of the answers but many pieces of the puzzle are falling into place. Since unmanaged stress can also be a trigger, I leave you today with a stress-busting exercise.
ALTERNATE NOSTRIL BREATHING (Nodi Sodhan)
Use your thumb and ring finger to close one nostril at a time. You can either bring the index and middle finger to your forehead between your eyes or bend them.
First close the left nostril and breathe in through the right, then close the right nostril and breathe out through the left. Then breathe in through the left, close that nostril and breathe out through the right. This is one 'cycle'. Complete 10 cycles then relax and take 5 deep cleansing breaths, paying attention to the movement of air and how it moves through your airways, down into your lungs and expanding your belly as you inhale and how your chest and abdomen fall and draw in as you exhale.
Benefits of Nodi Sodhan:
- Inhale left, exhale right: Helps to make you calm and integrates unwanted negative emotions and stress. Excellent by itself before bed.
- Inhale right, exhale left: Gives clarity, and positive mood. Helps us to focus on what is important.