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Using Functional Medicine with Hypothyroidism

Functional Medicine with Hypothyroidism

Using Functional Medicine with Hypothyroidism

If you’re struggling with hypothyroidism + trying to use a holistic approach, using functional medicine with hypothyroidism is a great idea! In this podcast episode, we’re breaking down different types of hypothyroidism, testing and symptoms, and if changing diet and lifestyle can impact thyroid function.

Functional Medicine for Hypothyroidism

Types of Hypothyroidism

Primary hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland fails to produce enough thyroid hormone. Secondary hypothyroidism occurs when the pituitary is dysfunctional and communication with the thyroid is not taking place, therefore thyroid hormone is not produced. Tertiary hypothyroidism results when the hypothalamus fails to communicate with the pituitary, which then fails to communicate with the thyroid.

There is also the possibility of Hashimoto’s disease, which is caused by the immune system attacking thyroid cells. 

In order for you to get the right support, you need to know what type is happening. This can be found through a full thyroid lab test. This is another reason why functional medicine with hypothyroidism is critical, so you can be sure you’re getting proper lab testing (cough* not just TSH).

Symptoms of Hypothyroidism

Symptoms of hypothyroidism are:

  • Cold hands + feet
  • Hair loss
  • Constipation
  • Thin eyebrows
  • Dry skin
  • Brittle nails
  • Irregular cycles
  • Depression
  • Brain fog
  • Stubborn weight loss

If someone is struggling with the symptoms listed above, a full thyroid panel MUST be taken. These symptoms do overlap with other hormonal imbalances and issues, so it may not be thyroid, but it’s important to rule it out.

Lab Testing For Hypothyroidism

A proper full thyroid panel includes:

  • TSH
  • Total T4
  • Total T3
  • Free T4
  • Free T3
  • Anti-TPO
  • Anti-TG
  • rT3 (If your panel doesn’t include this, that’s okay too)

Now, a variety of different results can happen when you get this test done. An example would be someone having low TSH and low T4. What this can suggest is that the hypothalamus and pituitary (cool parts of your brain) are having issues communicating with your thyroid when it should be if there is low thyroid hormone. AKA the best support in this case will be brain support. It could be things like neurotransmitters, heavy metals, inflammation, adrenals, gut microbiome, etc.

Another example of a result could be the classic primary hypothyroidism. This is where there is high TSH and low T4. This is showing that the brain is nudging the thyroid to work work work, but it’s not listening and it is a thyroid gland issue. PSA: If you have hypothyroidism, NEVER do a thyroid test without getting antibodies tested because majority of hypothyroidism cases are because of autoimmune Hashimoto’s. Fixing any underlying nutrient deficiencies is also key here!

Another thing that can happen is where a patient is feeling hypothyroid symptoms, but have normal T4 levels. This is why T3 is tested too because there would be a normal T4, but low T3. This implies that there is an under-conversion of active thyroid hormone T3 and T3 interacts with the cellular receptors (aka makes you feel all the good feels of thyroid hormone).

There could also be an over-conversion of reverse T3, which is a metabolically inactive form of T3 that binds to cellular receptors and blocks the active form T3. Deficiencies in nutrients, inflammation, adrenal fatigue, and heavy metals may be contributing factors to this condition.

See why it’s important to work with someone who knows where to target your support? And to answer another popular question – can diet and lifestyle actually work with hypothyroidism? Yes, hellooo functional medicine with hypothyroidism!

Diet and Lifestyle For Hypothyroidism {Functional Medicine with Hypothyroidism}

Hypothyroidism can be treated with diet and lifestyle modifications that can reduce symptoms and improve lab results. Eating a balanced diverse nourished diet not only provides your body with nutrients that are needed for thyroid hormone production, conversion, etc, but it also reduces inflammation and promotes a healthy body. This diet should be individualized per individual, but one dietary change commonly recommended for hypothyroidism (especially Hashimoto’s) is going gluten-free. You can read about that here + why it’s important!

Another common recommendation is that goitrogens should be avoided. Goitrogens are naturally found in foods like soy, cruciferous vegetables, sweet potatoes, peanuts, etc. These foods don’t have to be entirely avoided, but consumption amount should be watched and cooking foods can help diminish goitrogen levels. Cooked > Raw.

To produce thyroid hormone and convert thyroid hormone into its active form, many nutrients are needed. In addition to its antioxidant properties, selenium has been found to reduce thyroid antibodies in autoimmune thyroid disease. Selenium also plays a part in the T4 to T3 conversion. Zinc is needed for the conversion of T4 to T3 and helps T3 bind to the cell receptor. Iodine, iron, and tyrosine are all important components of thyroid hormone production. If anyone struggles with nutrient deficiencies in these categories, this can increase the risk of hypothyroidism.

Other lifestyle factors that can positively impact thyroid function are reducing stress, addressing emotions, and reducing environmental toxin exposure. Mental and emotional stress can increase or decrease TSH. Environmental pollutants can interfere with the binding of thyroid hormones to cell receptors, deactivate thyroid hormones, and inhibit thyroid production. It is imperative that lifestyle changes are a priority, just as diet and supplements are. Holistic support for the thyroid is best achieved through a functional medicine approach.

If you’re ready to take that 1:1 approach, our team would love to help you on your journey! Schedule a free 15 minute call with our team, so we can learn more about you + create a gameplan! View other links to our resources.

Lahana Vigliano, CCN

Avatar for Lahana Vigliano
Lahana Vigliano

Lahana Vigliano is a Certified Clinical Nutritionist and CEO of Nuvitru Wellness. She has her Bachelor's Degree in Nutrition Science and Masters Degree in Nutrition Science and Functional Medicine. She is currently pursuing her doctorate degree in Clinical Nutrition. Lahana and her team help support women who struggle with weight loss, hormonal imbalances, digestive issues, chronic fatigue, and many other lingering issues that leaves women not feeling their best. She uses food as medicine, as well as herbs and supplements when needed, to support her clients. She looks at the whole body holistically making sure women are understanding how nutrition, sleep, stress, and their environment impact their health. Connect with her on Facebook + Instagram (@nuvitruwellness).