Kristien M Boyle, L.Ac.,MSOM.,Dipl.O.M.,Dipl.Ac.,Dipl.C.H (Director of Functional Medicine) protocol for Auto-immune disorders, Hashimoto’s and Hypothyroidism
It is estimated that in America, 90% of hypothyroid cases are caused by an auto-immune disorder called Hashimoto’s. Most of these cases go undiagnosed because mainstream medicine does not treat Hashimoto’s. Since there is no treatment for Hashimoto’s, doctors will often not run antibody testing, leaving many patients diagnosed with simply hypothyroidism.
The problem is that Hashimoto’s is a immune system dysfunction that leads to the hypothyroidism. Until the immune system is treated, there will be a continuance of fluctuating thyroid symptoms and a constant battle to regulate TSH levels. The fluctuating thyroid lab ranges are instigated by the immune system, which attacks the thyroid and releases high levels of thyroid hormones into the blood. Immediately following this, the thyroid goes back into a low functioning state. As a result of these ‘flair-ups,’ lab ranges will drastically fluctuate. Furthermore, depending on when you get your blood work you will see varying TSH and other thyroid hormone levels.
We practice functional medicine at The Holistic Wellness Center of Charlotte and use different lab ranges then mainstream medicine. The Functional Endocrine Society use tighter lab markers to identify disorders. This is important due to the millions of Americans having lab work performed, still suffering with symptoms, but falling between the large ranges used in conventional medicine. This is even more evident in thyroid lab testing. For example: in mainstream medicine TSH levels range from .4 – 5. Whereas in functional medicine, TSH levels should be between 1.8 – 3. This is a big difference and can help us identify thyroid patterns earlier in its progression.
With any auto-immune disorder, one side of the immune system is polarized and hyper-functioning. Their are two main sides to the immune system: TH1 and TH2. TH1 cells are the NK cells, cytotoxic t-cells and macrophages; TH2 cells are all the B-cells, which identify pathogens. Research indicates anywhere between 60-90% of Hashomoto’s cases are TH1 dominant. Why is this important? At the Holistic Wellness Center, we know exactly what herbal immune tonics that stimulate TH1 and TH2 cells. Through a simple functional test while taking TH1 and TH2 stimulants, we are able to identify which side of the immune system is polarized; thus, we are able to give the patient the opposite immune stimulants to balance out the immune polarity to reduce auto-immune flair ups. Furthermore, we know through years of research which supplements and herbs stimulate TH3 cells which balance out both TH1 and TH2 cells.
Unfortunately, many patients go un-diagnosed for many years and once the auto-immune expression has been turned on they will start to develop other organ/system failures and symptoms such as: leaky gut, adrenal dysfunction, allergies, pain, depression, and memory loss. Once we are able to calm down the auto-immune ‘flair-up,’ we are then able to focus directly on these systems and regenerate some of them back to their normal capacities.
We have found that, whenever managing Hashimoto’s and other auto-immune disorders, it is always important to investigate and find out each patient’s triggers. It could be various allergies, stress or blood sugar issues. All must be dealt with to reduce auto-immune flair ups. One specific trigger is normally gliaden, which is the polypeptide found in gluten. Research indicates roughly 35% of Hashimoto’s patients suffer with celiac disease and another 60% will be gliaden sensitive. There are many tests including blood and saliva testing which check for gluten intolerance. However, they are highly inaccurate due to 2 reasons: 1. many people with gluten intolerance will have weak immune systems that cannot produce enough anti-bodies to show up on a test. 2. These tests only check for Alpha gliaden. Alpha gliaden is only one of many varieties of gliaden’s that a patient could be allergic to. We have 2 methods of testing. One tests all the gliaden variations and the other is a simple elimination diet. Elimination diets must include all gluten cross-reactors until they are determined to be safe. All it takes for the immune system to identify another food or substance as the same as the original allergic substance is a 3 amino-acid chain. Foods such as oats and quinoa, which are popular on a gluten-free diet, fall under this category.
Research and leaders in the field of Hashimoto’s theorize that gluten is on many occasions part of the original causes of Hashimoto’s due to its molecular similarity with the Thyroid gland. Once the gluten molecules enter through the tight junctions in the gut and trigger an immune reaction, the immune system then looks through-out the body for other possible molecules which are similar – one of which is the Thyroid gland.
These same principles discussed above can be applied to many auto-immune disorders, as the underlying cause is a dysfunctional immune system.
Even if you have primary hypothyroidism, there is more treatment needed beyond taking a thyroid pharmaceutical. There are a litany of other biological in-balances that can disrupt thyroid hormone uptake and conversions such as: liver function, brain inflammation, allergies, Adrenal dysfunctions, and blood sugar in-balances. These must be addressed for proper thyroid hormone production, conversion and uptake.
Using functional endocrine markers with a complete thyroid panel (which includes more thyroid markers than is tested for in conventional medicine) will tell us how the thyroid, pituitary gland, and liver are functioning, thus acting as a vital diagnostic test for other endocrine disorders from infertility to dysmenorrhea.
Kristien M Boyle, L.Ac. implements functional herbal/nutritional protocols with all his auto-immune patients that address the underlying issues. Furthermore, he empowers his patients with knowledge so they can handle their condition indefinitely through dietary and lifestyle changes.