Functional Medicine Approach For Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis
Inside- What is Hashimoto's disease? How functional medicine differs from conventional medicine in terms of diagnosis and treatment for Hashimoto's Thyroiditis & much more.
Hashimoto's is a common autoimmune disease that affects the thyroid gland. In the US, Hashimoto's is said to be the major cause of hypothyroidism or low thyroid.
The exact cause is still unknown for Hashimoto’s. But the current research suggests that environmental factors like poor diet, stress, infections, toxins, contribute to the onset of Hashimoto's disease.
The problem with Hashimoto's treatment is that conventional medicine can only offer you a bandaid approach of putting you on thyroid medicine. But they can't do anything to reverse this underlying autoimmune process.
However, with the Functional Medicine approach, every patient undergoes a detailed root cause analysis. With this, Hashimoto's problems are easily identified even in the earlier stages.
In this post, we will discuss, What is Hashimoto's disease? How functional medicine differs from conventional medicine in terms of diagnosis and treatment for Hashimoto's Thyroiditis & much more. If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with Hashimoto's Thyroiditis or suspecting one, read on!
What is Hashimoto's Disease?
The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped endocrine organ in the neck. The thyroid gland produces different hormones called thyroxine or TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone).
These thyroid hormones are essential for the regulation of one's metabolism, or the speed at which a person burns calories. In short, it is responsible for coordinating various body functions.
Hashimoto's Thyroiditis is an autoimmune condition that is caused by chronic inflammation of your immune system attacking your own tissue cells including those located in your thyroid gland causing it to swell up.
Hashimoto's Disease may progress due to environmental factors such as exposure to radiation, chemicals that hurt DNA molecules, air pollution, cigarette smoking, insufficient iodine intake, poor diet, stress, and even some prescription drugs.
Symptoms of Hashimoto's Disease
The progression of Hashimoto's disease usually occurs gradually over a period of years and it can cause chronic damage to your thyroid gland. Because of this, distinct symptoms don’t appear in the early stages. So, Hashimoto's disease has symptoms that are not very much different from those caused by an underactive thyroid.
Here are a few signs and symptoms of Hashimoto's disease.
- Weight gain or difficulty in losing weight
- Brain fog
- Hair issues
- Feeling cold
- Mood changes like depression, anxiety
- Menstrual problems like irregular periods or heavy periods
- Infertility problems
- Chronic pain especially in muscles and joints
- Dry and rough skin
- Swelling especially around eyes and face
Diagnosis of Hashimoto's Disease
Early diagnosis is very important for autoimmune conditions like Hashimoto's disease. Hashimoto's disease can be diagnosed with a blood test and an ultrasound.
The diagnosis is confirmed by the presence of antibodies to thyrocytes in the patient’s bloodstream (anti-TPO antibody).
The diagnosis is similar in both conventional as well as functional medicine approach. But the problem is conventional medicine doctors start with testing for thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) level and inactive thyroid hormone (T4) level only. There is a good chance that Hashimoto's problems are left out with these tests alone.
With Functional Medicine, a complete panel of thyroid health tests is done. They include testing for TSH, T3, T4, Reverse T3, and thyroid antibody levels. This clearly shows the presence of Hashimoto's disease.
Conventional Medicine Approach for Hashimoto's Thyroiditis
In Conventional medicinal practice, the treatment of Hashimoto's disease is to replace thyroid hormone.
Conventional medicine practitioners often don't go deeper into the problem to identify the underlying root cause. The goal in the conventional approach is always symptom relief and management of side effects from medications.
This can lead to being on medications for your entire life, and in meantime, symptoms keep worsening.
They usually ignore the need for diet and lifestyle changes. As a result, your problem won't be fixed even after being on medication. For example, if your issues are due to gluten insensitivity, they will not be cured until your gluten intake is reduced.
Functional Medicine Approach For Hashimoto's Thyroiditis
Functional medicine practitioners take a deeper look at the root cause of your symptoms. Functional medicine is an approach to health care that focuses on identifying and treating the underlying causes of disease, rather than just its symptoms.
In functional medicine, it's believed that issues in other systems or organs (such as gut problems) can contribute to autoimmune thyroiditis. Your body attacks itself because something else was wrong with you first.
So, if you have been diagnosed with this condition through conventional medical tests & treatments for years without seeing any positive changes in symptom relief- then perhaps there are things going on elsewhere in our bodies that need attention too.
The goal of the functional medicine approach is to first identify what has caused inflammation of your thyroid gland. And then work on improving the function of your thyroid gland.
A typical Functional Medicine approach includes —
- Identifying the underlying factors which lead to the development of Hashimoto’s. There are several factors that can lead to the development of Hashimoto’s, and for each and every individual these factors can be different. You need a trained Functional Medicine physician who can identify your underlying factors, by taking in-depth history and as well as ordering advanced lab testing.
- Preparing a comprehensive personalized functional medicine plan to address your Hashimoto’s. This often includes Dietary changes including foods to avoid & foods to add, Stress management, Prescribing supplements based on a full assessment, etc.
- Ordering advanced functional medicine tests: Often patients come to see me, telling me that their doctor has told them that their tests are all normal. But they are feeling awful, and still have symptoms. The reason is that conventional medicine tests don't check for everything. Through advanced functional medicine testing, we can precisely identify where the problem lies. And once we know the problem than making a plan to address it becomes so much easier.
- Giving you a road map for recovery from your Hashimoto’s, so that you can live your life symptom-free in the future and don't have to see doctors indefinitely. When I graduate my patients from my practice, they all look puzzled. They have never heard a doctor telling them that they can manage their disease on their own now, and don't him anymore. They have heard once you get Hashimoto’s you continue to see your doctor forever. But through functional medicine, we educate you about your disease so that you know what to do to live symptom free in the future on your own.
So you see this approach is very revolutionary which not only addresses your underlying cause of Hashimoto’s but also helps you reverse your disease and live symptom-free forever.
With all these said, the first step is to visit a Functional medicine doctor specializing in Thyroid healing. Your Functional Medicine doctor will discuss in detail your problems and devise an appropriate treatment plan for your Hashimoto's disease.
Dr. Gupta now offers virtual online functional medicine consultations for people from all over the country. If you are interested in working with Dr. Gupta, you can get started with a free 15-minute evaluation call.