People all across the country are being told on a daily basis that their thyroid gland just died or stopped working. Some patients just accept this without question. Others ask how this could happen. The usual response by their doctor is that it is just something that happens. Almost as if the thyroid gland was a light switch that could just be turned off.
Thyroid glands do not just stop working and die for no apparent reason. It is usually a slow process that takes years until one day you go to your doctor continuing to complain of thyroid symptoms and they run a TSH and you get the bad news. It is well published that the number one cause for thyroid dysfunction is an auto immune disease called Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. This means that the body has lost self tolerance. It attacks healthy thyroid tissue and destroys it as if it was a foreign invader. This destruction leads to less and less of healthy thyroid tissue leading to less release of the needed hormones. It is estimated that 85-95% of all people with hypothyroidism have Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis.
Most people have never heard of Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. Even though it is the most common reason for hypothyroidism, it is rarely ever checked. Part of that is because it is considered as “waste” of resources in the HMO medical insurance model. There is no reason to test for it if you are not going to treat it any differently than primary hypothyroidism. The standard medical treatment is to give hormone replacement until the thyroid gland “dies” or “burns out” and then keep the patient on thyroid meds because they no longer are able to produce their own.
There are few flaws to that type of treatment. First, the majority of time the thyroid gland is not the only tissue that is being attacked by the body. Research shows that areas in the brain, gut, and pancreas have a high prevalence of being attacked in patients with Hashimoto’s. Taking thyroid hormone replacement does nothing for the attack and destruction of these tissues. Second, it does not address the attack on the thyroid gland. It just replaces what the gland is no longer able to release. The thyroid gland is left defenseless against the auto immune process that is destroying it. Another reason this treatment has a flaw is because it does not address the cytokines that block the thyroid receptor sites. This means that even though you are taking the medications, they may not be able to be bound to the sites they are intended to because a cytokine is blocking it. This, along with the above reasons is why the patient can still feel terrible even though they are taking their medications as prescribed.
So if you have been told your thyroid gland died or stopped working, ask your doctor to explain why. Make sure you have had the proper testing including a complete thyroid panel and thyroid antibody tests run. The antibody tests will catch 80-90% of the patients with Hashimoto’s.