The National Institutes of Health (NIH) states that five out of every 100 Americans over the age of 12 have hypothyroidism. The prevalence of this disease increases with age.(1) This makes hypothyroidism the most common disease arising from a hormonal insufficiency.(2) Gender is an influencing factor, as women are three to seven times more likely to develop hypothyroidism than men.(1) Known risk factors that increase the likelihood of developing this disease include having a family history of hypothyroidism and pregnancy.(1) Recent research by the British Medical Journal (2021) suggests that taking birth control pills, or oral contraceptives (OCs), may also increase the odds of developing hypothyroidism.(3)
In this episode of Functional Medicine Research, I interview Sally Norton in a discussion about how oxalates affect your thyroid and your health. We covered what oxalates are and how they can damage the body. We also discussed how oxalates affect gut health, liver health, thyroid health as well as all the symptoms and associated conditions connected to oxalates.
If you’re really struggling to get well, but your diet appears to be healthy, oxalates may be the missing link.
The Paleo Diet is a popular diet that can work well for many chronic diseases, especially autoimmune diseases like Hashimoto’s disease. However, the Paleo Diet can be somewhat restrictive which can result in deficiencies if the dieter doesn’t carefully review their food and micronutrient intake. Iodine is one important micronutrient that may become depleted on a Paleo Diet. The Autoimmune Paleo Diet is an even more restrictive diet so the same deficiency may happen.
Human herpesvirus 6 or HHV-6, is a herpes virus just like Epstein-Barr Virus, Cytomegalovirus, Chicken pox (varicella zoster), HHV-7, HHV-8 and Herpes simplex 1 and 2. There are two types of this virus including HHV-6A and HHV-6B. 100% of human beings get infected with HHV-6B by the age of three which results in fever, diarrhea and a rash called roseola. In rare cases it can cause seizures and encephalitis. There are many infection connections to autoimmune diseases like Hashimoto’s disease and in this article I’ll cover the connection between HHV-6 and Hashimoto’s disease.
The connection between iodine and Hashimoto’s disease has been one of the most requested topics that I cover, so I’d like to present the research on this topic, so we can set the record straight. Please be aware that none of this is my opinion but rather a detailed analysis of what the scientific literature currently presents.
Your body has about 15 to 20 mg of iodine and 70 to 80% of it resides in the thyroid gland. Iodine is transported into the thyroid gland through the sodium-iodine symporter or NIS. The thyroid peroxidase enzyme oxidizes iodine which is then integrated into thyroglobulin resulting in the production of thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). Thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) regulates this process.
Your thyroid only needs 150 to 250 micrograms a day of iodine to function properly. Once iodine intake exceeds this range, hypothyroidism and autoimmune thyroid disease may occur in some individuals.
“All disease begins in the gut.” –Hippocrates
Was Hippocrates right over 2,000 years ago? I would have to agree with him a majority of the time when it comes to chronic diseases. A healthy digestive system begins with excellent digestion so let’s go over some tips to help you improve your digestion naturally. Firstly, I’d like to briefly cover the reason why your digestion may be out of balance.
What causes bad digestion?
Eating very quickly while on the run and not completely focusing on your meal will result in poor digestion. You must be in a parasympathetic dominant state which is your “rest and digest” branch of your nervous system. Many people are sympathetic dominant when they eat which is the “fight or flight” branch of your nervous system.
Inflammation is at the core of most chronic illnesses including hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s disease. But how exactly does inflammation cause hypothyroidism? Nonthyroidal illness syndrome (NTIS) is the state in which inflammation causes negative changes to thyroid hormone including low T3 and increased reverse T3 (rT3). T3 is the most active form of thyroid hormone and rT3 actually blocks T3 receptors so inflammation can really knock out thyroid function. TSH levels however stay relatively “normal” in NTIS thus leaving many patients with the symptoms of hypothyroidism but no diagnosis since no one is checking their T3 or rT3 levels.
In this article I’ll be referencing a paper entitled, “IL-6 promotes nonthyroidal illness syndrome by blocking thyroxine activation while promoting thyroid hormone inactivation in human cells.”
TSH is the current gold standard for diagnosis of hypothyroidism but are the current TSH levels optimal and how do they relate to Hashimoto’s disease? An excellent paper out of China entitled, “Using Hashimoto thyroiditis as gold standard to determine the upper limit value of thyroid stimulating hormone in a Chinese cohort” has shed some light on this important question which looked at the upper limit of TSH levels in relation to Hashimoto’s disease and hypothyroidism.
The authors begin by stating that subclinical hypothyroidism is characterized by “normal” T4, T3, Free T4, and Free T3 with an elevated TSH. And these patients have an increased risk of cholesterol abnormalities, heart disease, mental illness, and pregnancy complications even though their symptoms are relatively mild.
Your gut microbiota has an intimate connection with your thyroid including connections with hypothyroidism, Hashimoto’s disease and Graves’ disease. In this research review I’d like to cover a recent paper entitled, “Microbiota and Thyroid Interaction in Health and Disease” published in the journal Trends in Endocrinology and Metabolism by Eleonare Frohlich and Richard Wahl.
The authors begin by stating that the gut microbiota can act on thyroid function due to the region of where someones lives, their diet including iodine intake, obesity, age, sex hormones, and how autoimmunity can impact the microbiota. I was impressed to see them state that the gut microbiota is linked to autoimmune disease, estrogen, iodine, and obesity. Estrogen can be a key factor in Hashimoto’s disease and a healthy gut is required for optimal estrogen metabolism and excretion through the feces.
They also mention the connection between the gut and the liver in relation to thyroid hormone metabolism in both these organ systems. Your gut is key to properly absorbing and utilizing the thyroid medication that you’re taking and they mention this as well.
Ashwagandha is one of my favorite supplements for Hashimoto’s disease and hypothyroidism and we have some excellent studies to support using it for these conditions.
The main study I’ll cover in this research review is entitled, “Efficacy and Safety of Ashwagandha Root Extract in Subclinical Hypothyroid Patients: A Double-Blind, Randomized Placebo-Controlled Trial” published in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. We’re already off to a good start just by reading the title which indicates that it is a double-blind, randomized placebo-controlled study so we know it is of the highest standard.