Whenever I hear March Madness it hits home.
You see back in 2004, I had been “mad” for a very long time about my health. I was frustrated dealing with extreme exhaustion, unexplained weight gain, migraines and body pain, brain fog, depression and anxiety, and a host of other symptoms every day of my life for as long as I can remember.
I ended up losing my job, losing my marriage, and ultimately losing myself to this unexplained illness. It’s not that I hadn’t seen doctors, after all I am a doctor and have a lot of friends that are too. I had all the standard tests run and they all came back with the same plaguing confirmation: “Everything is normal and there is nothing wrong with you.” With good efforts and their hearts in the right place, my friends tried to give me good advice: “Jason, you’re doing too much, you need to take some time off and pay attention to your own health and then you’ll get better.”
So, that’s what I did. I took a teaching position at the University and used my free time to look into my own health. I dug a little bit deeper with my internal chemistry running all the labs that I could to find out what was truly causing these symptoms – after all, I knew I couldn’t live like this much longer. Eventually I had a diagnosis: Hashimoto’s thyroiditis an autoimmune thyroid disease. And although it felt comforting to have a name for my suffering the diagnosis did nothing to give me a path toward health.
I dug even deeper because I wanted to know why I had that diagnosis and what I could do to truly resolve the problem. In functional medicine I have been trained to look for the root causes of the disease and symptoms. I know that I had to look for triggers and toxins in my body that were stirring up the symptoms as well as deficiencies of nutrients and hormones that are necessary to regulate the system. In the end I needed to take out the bad stuff and put in the good stuff and restore balance to my body.
And that’s exactly what I did. I started by looking at my food sensitivities, heavy metals and other toxicities, underlying infections, gut health, hormones, nutrients — anything and everything that I could. And once I started addressing the root causes of these imbalances as well as my diet and my lifestyle slowly but surely I got my life back. My energy came back, I lost 110 lb, my brain fog went away, my migraines and body aches resolved, and I truly felt like myself again. I was finally able to return to practice and share with others what I had learned about myself from this experience. I knew that what I had learned about myself through this process could help millions of others also suffering from autoimmunity so I created the EPIC Five plan. This plan lays down a foundation for taking control of your health by establishing five keys pillars of health: hydration, diet, movement, stress management and sleep.
If you would like immediate access to this transformational plan CLICK HERE.
And in my research working through the complex thyroid and immune pathways I found there are three common mistakes that patients and doctors alike make when addressing the thyroid. Let’s get into those three mistakes.
I want to share these three mistakes with you because I don’t want you or your doctor to be misled by the myths surrounding restoring thyroid health so be sure to implement these with your doctor or any of your loved ones suffering from thyroid conditions.
Here’s the truth TSH is a poor representation of thyroid function. First of all, it is not a thyroid hormone. It is a stimulating hormone made by the brain in the pituitary gland that will tell the thyroid to make more or less of it’s inactive hormone called thyroxine (or T4) based on the availability of thyroid hormones in the body. As thyroid hormones go down, TSH would go up to stimulate the thyroid to make more thyroxine. If the body has too many thyroid hormones, TSH would then go down. Unfortunately, initially all doctors are improperly trained to believe that TSH is a perfect representation of thyroid function and that this is a simplistic mechanism. This couldn’t be further from the truth
I have found in my two decades of clinical work that very often my patients will have a normal TSH, as I did, but when we look at their actual thyroid hormones we often find irregularities. Sometimes we find too much of the inactive hormone, thyroxine (T4), and poor conversion of the active hormone, triiodothyronine (T3). To make matters worse, we very often find an elevated amount of reverse T3, also known as the anti thyroid hormone because it blocks thyroid function at the cellular level.
Without running a full thyroid panel we cannot adequately understand what TSH is representing. It is absolutely necessary for the clinician to look at TSH, thyroxine or T4, triiodothyronine or T3, reverse T3, as well as the antibodies that might be attacking the thyroid. Without all of this information we cannot know the status of thyroid function. TSH is a very small part of this puzzle and again is a poor representation of this very complex amalgam of various types of thyroid hormones. Any doctor still relying on TSH for full thyroid analysis should be relieved of his or her duty for treating the thyroid and return to classes on Basic Thyroid Physiology 101.
Hashimoto’s affects the thyroid but it is not a thyroid disease. Hashimoto’s is actually a disease of the immune system, an autoimmunity.
What happens is, those of us with autoimmunity have the genetic predisposition to create autoimmune antibodies that attack certain cells in our bodies. In Hashimoto’s, these antibodies primarily targt the thyroid tissue. When the thyroid tissue is being attacked by the immune system, of course function is not normal.
Unfortunately, these antibodies are rarely looked at in general medicine. And even more unfortunately, these antibodies are found in at least 50% of individuals diagnosed with hypothyroidism. Some sources say up to 90%. In my patients, I would say that approximately 65% come up positive for Hashimoto’s.
Unless the doctor is trained to address autoimmunity, the thyroid condition will never resolve. If your body continues to attack the thyroid over and over again, 24 hours a day, seven days per week, the thyroid function will always be irregular and the patient will continue to suffer.
Even more unfortunately, there is no known medical cure for any autoimmune diseases and the “treatments” employed like biologics and other immunosuppressive drugs, come with very dangerous side effects and “Black Box Warnings” from the FDA that are often not reported to the patients who take these dangerous drugs at their own risk.
Fortunately, through my intense and comprehensive training in functional medicine, as well as applying this in my own life, I learned to look for triggers or toxins in the body that stimulate autoimmune antibodies. By simply removing these triggers and toxins there is less noxious stimulation and irritation to the immune system and the body does not make destructive antibodies. Less antibodies = less damage to the thyroid = better thyroid function. Additionally, when the good doctor looks for nutrients and hormones that are necessary to regulate the immune system, and replete any deficiencies or insufficiencies as discovered with proper testing, we see better regulation of the immune system. Better regulation = less antibodies = better thyroid function. Following this simple yet complex protocol (take the bad stuff out and put the good stuff in), this is how I have been able to help hundreds upon hundreds of individuals, including myself, see their autoimmune antibodies go from positive on their labs to fully negative over time, thyroid function restored, and chronic symptoms disappear. This may seem like nothing short of a “medical miracle,” however it is really just applied science, physiology, and biochemistry.
Here’s the truth: medications cannot and will not ever “fix” the thyroid. Medications are designed to treat symptoms not fix underlying root causes. And in fact, there is no medication that can address the multitude of causes related to the overwhelming majority of hypothyroid cases.
Hypothyroidism is complex. When the body makes thyroxine (T4), it requires a host of nutrients including iodine, zinc, vitamin D, selenium, and others. And in our vast laboratory studies across hundreds and hundreds of patients, it is clear that the majority of Americans are deficient in these and other necessary nutrients. No wonder hypothyroidism is on the rise.
Furthermore, even if the body can make enough thyroxine, or (T4), this hormone is inactive and needs to be activated into its active form triiodothyronine (T3) before the body can use it effectively. This conversion from T4 to T3 takes place in a number of tissues, but primarily the liver and the gut.
If the liver is not functioning correctly, as we are seeing in more and more cases – just take a look at the statistics of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) – the body will not be able to effectively convert the inactive T4 to active T3.
Once the T4 passes through the liver it is delivered to the gut microbiome where probiotic bacteria do the final activation to T3. Without proper probiotic load in the gut, the body cannot effectively convert inactive T4 to active T3.
Finally, even if it is able to convert inactive T4 into active T3 very often we find our patients have a high amount of reverse T3 (or the anti thyroid hormone) that prevents T3 from functioning in the body. We find reverse T3 the highest in individuals that are prescribed synthetic thyroid medications, like Synthroid, levothyroxine, cytomel, or liothyronine. This is because the chemical structure of these synthetic medications closely resemble reverse T3 and these medications often have a similar biological effect on the body as reverse T3 – meaning that these drugs that are commonly prescribed to “treat” hypothyroidism often do more damage than good.
This doesn’t even take into the account the probably autoimmunity we discussed in Myth #2.
These are just drops in the bucket of the causes that could be behind hypothyroidism. These causes among others account for 90 to 95% of hypothyroid cases. And as you read through these causes I’m sure that you can see that no drug can address these.
You need to find a doctor that is very experienced in this thyroid pathway and capable of resolving these underlying casualties. If you are suffering from hypothyroidism or unexplained symptoms I highly recommend that you work with a Board Certified Functional Medicine doctor that is specifically trained inthyroid and autoimmunity.
For more information or to find a Board Certified practitioner: CLICK HERE
If you would like to apply to work with me as a private client CLICK HERE. You will be connected with my team.
But no matter what, don’t do nothing. You and your loved ones deserve YOU to be the healthiest and happiest YOU that YOU can be.
By Dr. Jason Bradley
ND, DC, PScD, DSc, IFMCP, DAARM, MA