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  • Writer's pictureMartha Calihan MD

Functional Medicine Approach to Thyroid Disease

I get asked a lot about thyroid disease, and treat a large number of people with thyroid conditions. In fact, it is one of the leading causes of concern that brings people to the practice to see me. Either they have a diagnosed thyroid condition and are often looking for a different approach to treating that condition, or they may have signs and symptoms of thyroid dysfunction without a clear diagnosis, and are searching for what they can do to help themselves heal.

The thyroid gland is an incredible - amazing really - gland. Located in the front of our neck, it is the master regulator of the metabolism of the body. It is “in charge”, ultimately, of much of the work and function of our entire body. It is exquisitely sensitive to damage from toxins and other factors that can interfere with its function.

We see a lot of people with auto-immune thyroid disease, mostly Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. This is a condition in which the body makes antibodies against its own tissue (in this case the thyroid) and that causes damage and dysfunction of the gland. We know that in recent years, the number of people with auto-immune conditions is rapidly increasing, perhaps especially in the number of cases of Hashimoto’s.

And why is this? Autoimmunity is the result of a number of core imbalances in the body, and can be influenced by a variety of factors, from nutrition, to genetics, stress, nutrient status and infection. Any one of these factors can tip the body’s balance, and cause stress in the system that can initiate a cascade of events that can, in certain people, progress to full auto-immune disease. Once this occurs there is likely to be damage to the thyroid gland, and thyroid replacement medication is then needed. I have written before about many of the core imbalances that can affect the thyroid here.

Oftentimes, I see people when they have just the signs and symptoms of thyroid disease, and yet their labs tests are in normal range and no intervention is suggested. This can lead to frustration, but perhaps worse, to missed opportunity. Because it is not uncommon for people in this situation to already have positive anti-thyroid antibodies present in their blood, and all the signs that an auto-immune process is “brewing”. These are the people who can most easily and effectively turn the situation around and heal their auto-immune condition.

This is done best through a full Functional Medicine assessment of the underlying imbalances in a particular person. No two people are exactly alike, and although there are common themes, each person needs to be assessed for the factors that are contributing to their particular circumstance. The beauty of Functional Medicine is that the assessment, and the treatment, is individualized. An individual’s particular needs are the basis of their personalized plan. The questions that are always asked in Functional Medicine are, “What does this person have too much of that needs to be removed, and what does this person lack, that needs to be replaced?” These questions, and the answers, are seen in the context of a person’s genetics, their lifestyle and their belief systems, and lead to the creation of their unique, personalized treatment plan.

It is easy to see then, how Functional Medicine is the perfect assessment vehicle for a person with signs and symptoms of a thyroid condition, particularly when there is an auto-immune condition present or evolving. We would be happy to help you evaluate your thyroid symptoms and see where your individual imbalances are and what you can do to reverse the condition.

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