Because the thyroid orchestrates the entire metabolism, when it slows down EVERYTHING slows down. 80% of thyroiditis is autoimmune in nature and rooted in gut health. The thyroid is finally getting some attention in the medical community, but typical care still only looks at the tip of the iceberg.
Imagine a scenario where a tired woman in her 30’s is suffering from mild depression and weight loss resistance. She’s finally in a place where her career is stable and she’s on track to meet her career ambitions but is finding the fatigue and weight to be making it all much harder. She is given an SSRI and sent on her way, only to discover five years later her thyroid has been struggling and the subsequent constipation led to developing SIBO and chronic yeast infections, which then continue to aggravate the gut, increasing permeability and equally increasing the risk of food intolerances and autoimmunity. She also now has elevated cholesterol, a common side effect from thyroid malfunction due to its impact on the liver’s ability to clear cholesterol. This happens all the time.
Her doctor will put her on a statin (which will not prevent a heart attack but increase her risk of diabetes), send her to a gastroenterologist for her gut (who may or may not recognize SIBO as an issue) and give her anti-fungals every few months for the chronic yeast, but alleviation of symptoms is always temporary and she will continue to feel older, sicker, and more lethargic as time goes on.
Many MDs are pushed beyond their capacity to deliver comprehensive care, so we all must advocate for our health like our lives depend upon it.
Function Nutrition can step in here and address the problem by assessing nutritional deficiencies, working with this woman to relieve symptoms of SIBO while boosting her nutrient density to get her energy up, support her thyroid and help with that weight loss. With this person I would absolutely look at root cause of thyroid dysfunction and refer her to get testing to rule out an autoimmune component, which is commonly overlooked in the traditional medical model because treatment won’t differ (thyroid meds).
HOWEVER, if she has Hashimoto’s and her immune system is attacking her body, she’s at increased risk of developing MS, lupus, or other autoimmune diseases down the road. THAT can be prevented.
The intestinal wall is the first place where the body determines if our food is safe or not, and it will mount an immune response to the larger particles that pass through when the gut is “leaky”. This is the current working theory on how most autoimmunity develops and time and time again when gut health is reestablished severity of disease is reduced or even put into remission.
In addressing her thyroid and gut health, her cholesterol levels will likely normalize, her energy and depression will lift, and the autoimmune attack on her thyroid will be reduced through calming the immune system, thus significantly reducing her risk of acquiring additional autoimmunity after pregnancy or menopause (times of life when women are most at risk).
By digging and inquiring to antecedents, triggers, and perpetuators of disease, functional medicine can address the real root cause of disease and accelerated aging, rather than chasing symptom management as a form of care. Nutrition and lifestyle is the foundation of functional medicine, because functional medicine recognizes no amount of healing can occur if the body is not properly oxygenated, rested and nourished. As a health coach, functional nutritionist and certified personal trainer, I can address this foundation so that lasting health can be achieved and maintained. By partnering with medical practitioners, we can work together as a powerful team to help you regain your health and meet the demands of life feeling younger and more energetic than you have in years.
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