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Thyroid Basics

I was a three-day thyroid conference in early 2011. I went to find out why a three-day conference on the thyroid would be necessary. The general thinking is that if you are an MD you run a TSH and give the person synthroid if it is high and refer them out to check for Graves Disease if it is low. You are a really advanced thyroid MD, you might use Armour once in a while. For alternative docs, you pick your favorite herbal formula for thyroid support or maybe use your super, special, organic iodine.

Learning to manage most thyroid problems today means learning the complexities of autoimmune conditions. The autoimmune condition, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis seems to be the most common of the thyroid disorders. Antibodies attack the thyroid as if it were foreign tissue resulting in lowered thyroid output. Adding iodine to an autoimmune thyroid problem usually makes it worse.

Graves is similar to Hashimoto’s in that it is also an autoimmune reaction. Instead of the antibodies attacking the pathways that produce thyroid, they attack the regulatory mechanism causing thyroid production to increase. Graves is more serious in the short run because excess thyroid can cause a thyroid storm and can cause the heart to stop. MD’s treat this aggressively with medications or with a thyroidectomy. Fortunately, Graves type of autoimmune condition is not as common as Hashimoto’s.

A complete thyroid panel is necessary when first trying to understand the nature of the thyroid malfunction. Proper thyroid function depends on coordination of several different steps involving the hypothalamus, pituitary, thyroid, intestines and liver. Knowing which step or steps are compromised can’t be determined by just checking T4 and TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) which is a typical approach used by doctors too often today.

Tests don’t exist for all steps but much can be surmised by testing for which information is knowable. We can test for the primary antibodies that attack the thyroid enzyme TPO and/or protein thyroglobulin. Once you have a positive antibody test, you can quit testing. These levels fluctuate in the affected person too much to be diagnostic. That is just because the levels might be half what they were last time doesn’t mean you are improving. It might jump to the previous level the next day.

Balancing the thyroid is important because every cell in the body depends on thyroid to help control its metabolism. As mentioned low thyroid is more common than high. Low thyroid causes a slowing of metabolism or speed of biochemical activity in the cell. This can show up as general fatigue or even depression because the brain cells aren’t firing at the proper rate.

The strategy for quieting the autoimmune response means eliminating foods it doesn’t want and giving it what it does want. The most common offender is gluten. For a more complete discussion of see Gluten Resources.

Vitamin D also helps the body modulate the autoimmune response. Lab testing can help determine how much vitamin D will be needed. For a more complete discussion of vitamin D basic concepts see Health Resources: Vitamin D Basics.

Probiotics also help modulate the immune system. For a more complete discussion of probiotic basic concepts see Health Resources: Probiotic Basics.

For thyroid specific supplements, see Shop By Concern:Thyroid Support

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