Euthyroid is the medical term for normal thyroid. It refers to a a thyroid that tests in the normal range for thyroid antibodies and thyroid hormones. If a thyroid is not testing euthyroid, then people are diagnosed with hypothyroidism, such as Hashimoto’s thyrodits, or hyperthyroidism, such as Graves Disease. A hypothyroid state means you are given thyroid hormone replacement and a hyperthyroid state means the thyroid is irradiated or has a part removed. A thyroid that is partially destroyed will almost always then become hypothyroid and require thyroid hormone replacement.
This is simplifying things a little and I am not talking in this article about thyroid cancers or genetic dysfunctions or other, rarer causes of thyroid disease. These two conditions though, represent the most common thyroid conditions and treatment seen in my clinical practice. Throughout my nursing training and even through naturopathic training, I was taught that Graves and Hashimotos’s were thyroid diseases, that they couldn’t be cured, only treated either with pharmaceutical or natural means which the patient would have to continue for the rest of their life. During my functional medicine courses, however, I learned something different.
The problem with both of these main types of treatment – thyroid hormone replacement or gland destruction/removal, is that they don’t actually cure the thyroid gland itself and get it functioning properly. It is a bit like saying a bucket with a hole in it can hold water because you are continually pouring water into it. Water is still pouring out, but it looks like the bucket is also holding water. Fix the hole in the bucket and the bucket really will hold water.
So why doesn’t your doctor fix the thyroid so that it really will work on it’s own again? For one thing, conventional medicine doesn’t believe that is possible. They do know that if there is iodine deficiency and you give iodine that will help, but iodine levels are not tested. This is because table salt is iodized and so low iodine isn’t an issue anymore, right? No, not true. I learned recently that the salt used in processed foods is not iodized, only our table salt is. So if someone doesn’t use a salt shaker at home or is careful with their salt intake because of high blood pressure or some other medical reason, they might not be getting much iodine at all. There are even studies showing that eating iodized salt is not an ideal way to obtain iodine.
In fact one of the most common causes of hypothyroidism today remains iodine deficiency. Eating some seaweed each day is a much better way to get iodine into your body. For those of you who rub iodine onto your skin every day, that has never been shown to really work to increase levels. I also recommend against taking iodine drops, unless under careful supervision since just a drop or two more than you need might suppress rather than stimulate the thyroid.
Iodine deficiency doesn’t cause all thyroid problems, however. The thyroid is actually part of our immune system, so if we have problems with our immunity, the thyroid can reflect this. Two other very common causes of thyroid problems are gluten or other food intolerance and intestinal overgrowth of bacteria, yeast or parasites.
I saw a patient yesterday who has reverted to a euthyroid state after becoming gluten free (she had elevated levels of deamidated gliadin peptide antibody on her celiac panel, and Candida overgrowth on her comprehensive stool analysis). There is actually about a ten fold chance over the normal population that you will have celiac disease if you have thyroid disease. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9872614 She went on a gluten-free, high nutrient diet, did a yeast cleanse and now she is euthyroid. No medications or herbal formulas for thyroid are now needed.
This will not necessarily happen in all thyroid conditions since we are all biochemically different. It’s a little like the weight loss infomercials where someone loses 50 pounds in one month and then the very small print tells you that results ‘may vary”. I have seen this euthyroid state reached on at least two occasions in my clinical practice, however.
I have some other patients where we are still seeing progress, the thyroid is getting better and the medication level is less, but there is not yet a euthyroid state . I should also add it takes a lot of work on the part of the patient. It is more difficult to adjust your diet and clean out your system than to pop a pill every day. Even on thyroid medication , though, a lot of people still don’t feel that great. Yes, they may function better than they did before the medication, but they are still tired, overweight and cold.
Consider also that the chance of breast cancer increase 200% when taking thryoid medication (when there is insufficient iodine intake). http://healthimpactnews.com/2014/taking-thyroid-hormone-increases-breast-cancer-risk-by-200/ . So, what can you do if you have thyroid disease? There are four steps to take:
1. Have your iodine levels checked. Meanwhile, add a little seaweed to your diet each day. If you are on thyroid medication, this will reduce your chance for developing breast cancer.
2. Ask for a celiac blood panel, (as long as you are currently eating gluten, otherwise it won’t be accurate). A normal test doesn’t mean you don’t have a gluten intolerance, however it is more of a pointer for celiac disease , so the next step is:
3. Go on an elimination diet. Cut out the most common food sensitivities for a few weeks or a month and then test them back. Any naturopthic doctor can set you up and monitor you through this process.
4. Obtain a comprehensive stool analysis or Organix urine profile to check for high levels of yeast , abnormal bacteria or parasites. These tests are available through most naturopathic doctors. If these organisms are stressing the thyroid, then eliminating them can help the thyroid to heal.
Since every change we make in our life has consequences, I must mention the side effects of taking the above actions. Say the following very fast. “You may experience increased energy, weight loss, better sleep, better sex, fewer colds, a decreased risk of cancers and heart disease and a longer life”. If only every treatment regime could offer this list of side effects! Also, I am not telling you to stop taking your current thyroid medications. Doing so will endanger your life since you need proper levels of circulating thyroid hormones.
I never take patients off their medications when we start working on the thyroid. I do, however, follow the steps outlined above and as we see the thyroid improve by the blood work and signs and symptoms of the patient, I ask the patient to return to their medical doctor and request a reduction in medication. At some point, even on a low dose, the medications may cause blood result readings that are now too high. This means the person is getting too much hormone between their own production and their medication and then I ask them to ask their medical doctor to take them off their medication.