Can Thyroid Disorders Be Treated Naturally?
Thyroid disorders often have a negative impact on the quality of life of the patient. They can affect a patient’s energy level, mood, weight, digestive system, libido, sleep cycle, and more. On top of that, conventional treatment protocols often include long-term use of synthetic medications or even surgery, in certain cases. Not surprisingly, many patients with thyroid disorders seek natural alternatives.
The most common forms of thyroid disorders are primary hypothyroidism, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, and Graves’ disease. Unfortunately, the medical community is often clearly divided between two schools of thought on health and illness: the medical model or the alternative model.
The medical model
In the medical model, doctors focus on analyzing the symptoms and then narrowing the chances until they reach a diagnosis. The doctor then follows an established treatment protocol to treat the condition. Treatment often includes medication.
The standard treatment protocol for Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism and thyroiditis is hormone replacement therapy. The American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists recommends synthetic levothyroxine T4 for clinical hypothyroidism to restore thyroid-stimulating hormone to normal levels.
In Grave’s disease, the thyroid gland makes too much thyroid hormone. The standard treatment protocol includes thyroid suppressant medications or surgery to remove the thyroid. Many physicians in the United States prefer to use radioactive iodine as first-line therapy.
The alternative model
Unfortunately, the alternate model is often thrown into a huge pile, when in reality there are multiple models within it. These include naturopathy, acupuncture, herbalism, and functional medicine. This article focuses on the functional medicine approach to thyroid disorders.
In the functional model, the doctor examines all aspects of a person’s health. They look for the root cause of a problem, rather than treating the symptoms. For example, there are many possible causes if a person suffers from depression. One person may have a blood sugar imbalance, while another may have a mineral deficiency. There is no point in treating all depression in the same way, if the main cause is different.
Some alternative models use similar paradigms. For example, herbalists may recommend St John’s Wart for a patient with certain types of depression once they understand the underlying cause.
I feel that this model draws on the wisdom of other alternative disciplines and combines it with the scientific data collected from functional laboratory tests. It also involves the patient in a therapeutic association where they actively participate in their well-being, important for recovery.
Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and Graves’ disease
In Hashimoto and Grave disease, the functional approach looks for sources of stress on the immune system. Severe and Hashimoto’s are autoimmune disorders and they are not thyroid problems at all. Thyroid dysfunction is just one symptom of the underlying cause: a dysfunctional immune system.
Autoimmunity develops for many reasons. Again, each person is unique and requires specialized tests and treatments based on the underlying cause. For example, if a person has a condition called “leaky gut syndrome,” it can result in undigested food particles in the bloodstream and trigger an immune response.
Food allergies or food sensitivities can also cause an immune system reaction. When you continue to eat problem foods, it can eventually lead to an autoimmune condition.
Since these thyroid problems can have many underlying causes, we cannot define a standard treatment protocol or standard of care for thyroid conditions. Unfortunately, the multiple factors that contribute to these diseases also make self-treatment difficult.
How can functional medicine help you?
Understanding the underlying influences that affect the thyroid requires some knowledge of physiology and the ability to interpret functional laboratory tests. A trained physician can provide proper care and correct the immune system dysfunction that prompted your diagnosis in the first place.
Of course, restoring full function depends on whether you still have thyroid and your condition if you do. If you do not have a thyroid gland, or it is severely damaged, you will need medicine to support thyroid function.
However, the functional approach can help patients when they do not process drugs efficiently and correctly. Doctors usually prescribe a synthetic version of the thyroid hormone T4, but it is less physiologically active than T3. Consequently, your body needs to convert it, but some people cannot convert it well.
Other patients convert T4 to reverse T3, rather than T3. Reverse T3 does not help the thyroid. Fortunately, I can address both of these issues through functional medicine so that you get the most benefit from your medication and the most relief.
Experience taught me that the medical model has its place. It can help patients to control symptoms and can provide a diagnosis of thyroid problems.
However, it does not address the root of the problem. A working model delves into underlying causes to prevent further problems and reverse existing problems, rather than treating symptoms.
Naturally, I look forward to the time when the medical and functional models combine to provide efficient and seamless patient care. Both have many benefits, but together they can provide targeted and optimized care and recovery.