Functional Medicine For Hypothyroidism
Functional medicine takes an integrative approach by first identifying whatever is causing the issue before developing a personalized approach to restore balance to your thyroid levels.
What is hypothyroidism?
Are you suffering from impaired metabolism, issues related to weight gain and menstrual irregularities? Does your thyroid panel test reports shows an abnormal TSH levels? Then you must blame those insufficient levels of thyroid-stimulating hormones circulating within your body.
Hypothyroidism is a common thyroid disease, where your thyroid gland produces insufficient levels of thyroid hormones that slow down your metabolism upsetting the normal chemical balance of your entire body. Hypothyroidism does not show any symptoms during the early stage, symptoms start to show as the disease progresses which include Fatigue, hair loss, dry skin, heart palpitations, and trouble sleeping.
Hypothyroidism is the thyroid Issue Related to an underproduction of thyroid hormones. Generally speaking, this will lead to reduced energy levels, but hypothyroidism has many symptoms. The thyroid gland is about 2-inches long and lies in front of your throat beneath the prominence of thyroid gland occasionally known as the Adam's apple. The thyroid gland has two sides called lobes that lie on either side of your windpipe, and is usually connected by a strip of thyroid gland called an isthmus. Some people don't have an isthmus, and rather have two different thyroid lobes.
The thyroid gland is part of the endocrine system, which can be made Up of glands that produce, store, and release hormones into the bloodstream so the hormones can get to the body's cells. The thyroid gland uses iodine from the foods you eat to make two main hormones:
- Triiodothyronine (T3)
- Thyroxine (T4)
It's Important that both T3 and T4 levels are neither too high nor too low. Two glands in the brain--the hypothalamus and the pituitary communicate to keep T3 and T4 equilibrium.
The hypothalamus in the brain produces TSH Releasing Hormone (TRH) which Signals the pituitary to tell the thyroid gland to produce more or less of T3 and T4 by either increasing or reducing the release of a hormone called thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH). When T3 and T4 levels are low in the blood, the pituitary Gland releases more TSH to inform the thyroid gland to produce more thyroid hormones.
Correcting these problems requires an integrative approach which involves eliminating whatever is causing the issue before just simply taking a thyroid pill or going on to replacing and restoring balance to your thyroid levels.
How does Functional Medicine help hypothyroidism?
Functional medicine is a systems biology based whole-body, whole-person approach that focuses not just treating the symptoms of the disease but follows an individualized approach in treating the disease from its roots. The standard treatment for hypothyroidism which involves consuming thyroid hormone replacement medication on a daily basis often comes with side effects that can cause poor patient compliance. In such cases trying integrative therapies like functional medicine may cause fewer side effects, make you feel better, lower your stress, and also help maintain optimal thyroid levels in conditions like hypothyroidism.
To start treating hypothyroidism, the functional medicine doctor will first need to remove whatever is causing the problem before going on to replacing and restoring balance to your thyroid levels. The functional medicine approach starts by eliminating the triggers before hormone replacement therapy may begin. The investigative process may include detecting and correcting nutrient deficiencies, detoxification of all offending toxins inside the body, and problematic medications or drugs.
The functional medicine approach may include:
1. Combatting Stress- The impact of stress on the thyroid can slow down your body’s metabolism resulting in weight gain and other symptoms of thyroid. It’s difficult to fight stress but one can manage to reduce their stress levels by meditating, deep breathing exercises, yoga, or simply being outside on your foot. Relaxation leads to reduced stress, causing less impact on your thyroid health.
2. Detecting and correcting nutrient deficiencies-
Iodine- Iodine and thyroid function are directly correlated. Iodine deficiency, as well as high iodine intake both, several clinical issues like goiter, hypothyroidism, cretinism, and thyroid autoimmunity which can be life-threatening disorder in some individuals. The recommended adult daily iodine intake is 150g, with an increased dose of up to 250g during pregnancy and lactation. So, It’s necessary for an individual to maintain an optimal level of iodine intake daily.
Maintaining optimum levels of iodine is an easy and effective step one can follow by just consuming over iodized salt, drinking more amount of water, animal milk, certain seaweeds, and iodine-containing dietary supplements.
Selenium- Selenium (Se) is an essential micronutrient necessary for regulating the homeostasis of thyroid hormones. Selenium is found in abundance in foods like Brazil nuts, oysters, tuna, whole-wheat bread, sun- ower seeds, lamb, turkey, chicken, mushrooms, and rye.
Selenium is also known to participate in several enzymatic reactions and is a potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent.
Vitamin D- Another important constituent that plays a pivotal role in regulating good health of the thyroid gland is Vitamin D. Research has shown that cholecalciferol deficiency a component of vitamin D can cause autoimmune disorder of thyroid and it also plays a significant role in modulation of the immune system, by enhancing the innate immune response. . Vitamin D can be found in Fish and COD liver oil, fresh salmon, sardines and sitting in sunlight for a few minutes can also be a good source of vitamin D.
3. Improve your dietary habits- Hypothyroidism is associated with weight gain due to decreased metabolism and fighting weight gain can help improve thyroid levels. limiting foods like goitrogens and soy can improve symptoms of Hypothyroidism. A person with hypothyroidism should aim for a healthy diet and avoid eating food like Broccoli, rabe, cauliflower, cabbage, and processed foods, which tend to be calorie-dense and offer little nutritional benefit. These types of foods promote weight gain which can aggravate thyroid-related problems.
4. Detoxify your body- Exposure to harmful environmental chemicals like Lead, mercury, the excessive chlorine content in water, and perchlorate might alter thyroid hormone levels via several mechanisms. These mechanisms can lower the levels of thyroid hormone in blood by disrupting iodine (I) transport, thyroid peroxidase, THE-binding proteins and deiodizing, that can disrupt your thyroid function and can trigger the immune system to attack and damage thyroid cells. Environmental toxins reduce T3 levels in your body, causing a drop in metabolic rate and weight gain.
Detoxifying your body through sweat by exercising, and consuming a high fiber diet can help get rid of these harmful chemicals.
5. Treat your Leaky gut - Leaky gut is a condition where the permeability of the intestine is increased due to various infectious agents, food particles, and other proteins that make their way through the lining of the intestine. Leaky gut can suppress thyroid function and trigger Hashimoto’s disease. So, in order to maintain good thyroid hormone levels in the body, one should maintain good gut health.
Eliminate gluten from your diet as it is one of the most complex proteins that is a triggering factor for many autoimmune diseases.. Take probiotics and prebiotic fiber, eat fermented foods, avoid sugar and sweeteners, and Get enough sleep.
6. Try Phytomedicine- Medicinal Plants, Herbs, and crude drug substances are considered to be a potential source of antioxidants to combat various diseases including hyperthyroidism. Flaxseed is an important source of essential omega 3 fatty acids and coconut oil can help regulate the functioning of the thyroid gland. Ginger is rich in zinc, potassium, and magnesium and possesses anti-inflammatory properties that help treat thyroid disorders.
Studies in Functional Medicine for Hypothyroidism
1. The Hidden Phenomenon of Oxidative Stress During Treatment of Subclinical-Mild Hypothyroidism: A Protective Nutraceutical Intervention..
A clinical study conducted on a total of 60 females suffering from Subclinical-Mild Hypothyroidism has proved that nutraceutical intervention can be beneficial as an integrative treatment to be associated with long-standing THS regimens in subclinical and mild hypothyroidism.
The study included 60 females who were divided into two groups. Where one group received either fermented papaya based nutraceuticals 3 grams 1 sachet three times a day (t.i.d.) or placebo treatment for 3 months. Parameters like oxidative markers and redox markers were evaluated at baseline and after 3 months. The results showed a significant decrease in the redox markers after 3 months of treatment with fermented papaya based nutraceutical when compared to the placebo group.
Thyroid hormones are associated with the redox-balance homeostatic regulation and any dysfunction in this can cause oxidative damage of cellular membranes through the autocatalytic mechanism. Such damage may bring cell death and cause the production of toxic and reactive metabolites. Nutraceutical intervention like fermented papaya based nutraceutical is a redox-balance modulator that is known to protect the tissues against oxidative damage and provide long term effects in hypothyroidism.
2. Randomized, Double-BlindPlacebo-Controlled Trial of Low Dose Iodide in Endemic Goiter 
Endemic goiter is a condition that arises from a deficiency of dietary Iodine. This study aims to evaluate the efficacy and tolerability of low dose of I in adults with euthyroid, diffuse, endemic goiter. The study included Sixty-two subjects who were randomly assigned to receive I (0.2 mg/day) or placebo treatment for 12 months.
The patients in both the groups, after 12 months were followed up for further 6 months, and parameters like Thyroid sonography, thyroid-related hormones, thyroid antibodies and urinary I excretion per 24 h, were carried out at baseline and at 3, 6, 9, 12, 15, and 18 months. The results showed spontaneous remission of thyroid dysfunctions, and thyroid antibody titers , as well as lymphocytic infiltration, creased markedly in patients receiving low dose I when compared to the placebo group.
The results concluded that low dose I successfully normalized thyroid volume and body I supplementation in the subjects with endemic goiter.
Hypothyroidism is a precursor to many other clinical issues, as the thyroid-stimulating hormone plays a significant role in growth, development, and metabolism. If the thyroid function is altered it may lead to a variety of other problems like insulin resistance, obesity, PCOS and cardiovascular risks. The conventional treatments available today helps fight the disease temporarily and an effective medical approach like functional medicine can be beneficial in addressing the root cause of the disease by multimodal approaches. The demand for Functional medicine is growing in recent years due to its lower side effects and effective results. Functional medicine for hypothyroidism can address the root cause(s) and bring benefits to the people who are adopting it on a regular basis.
1. Claudio Tomella, Roberto Catanzaro, Nicola Illuzzi, Anna Cabeca, Nicola Zerbinati, Gulcin Celep,Michele Milazzo, Chiara Sapienza,2 Angelo Italia,2 Aldo Lorenzetti,1 and Francesco Marotta.The Hidden Phenomenon of Oxidative Stress During Treatment of Subclinical-Mild Hypothyroidism: A Protective Nutraceutical Intervention. Rejuvenation Res. 2014 Apr 1; 17(2): 180–183.
2. Kahaly G, Dienes HP, Beyer J, Hommel G.Randomized, Double-BlindPlacebo-Controlled Trial of Low Dose Iodide in Endemic Goiter. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 1997 Dec;82(12):4049-53.
4. Liontiris MI1, Mazokopakis EE. A concise review of Hashimoto thyroiditis (HT) and the importance of iodine, selenium, vitamin D and gluten on autoimmunity and dietary management of HT patients.Points that need more investigation.Hell J Nucl Med. 2017 Jan-Apr;20(1):51-56.