Hint: You can watch my video “What Causes Thyroid Disease” part one of three here. Let me know what you think in the comments!
I want to talk you all about what causes thyroid disease. If it’s there, why is it important to know what causes it? Well I would say it is important to really lower the amount of suffering, and by suffering, I have a very specific definition in mind.
Suffering vs. Pain
I distinguish pain from suffering. Pain I think of as just the natural extensions of a disease on our bodies. The way our bodies work is affected by having a disease, so in this case we could think about the muscular pain and the fatigue that shows up. We could also think about the digestive symptoms, depression, easier weight gain, thinning hair, and drier skin. Those would be the direct results of the disease causing pain. They are important, and they are totally critical.
Suffering with Understanding
The suffering I would argue, is a lack of clarity and lack of understanding. Why is that relevant? Well, a lot of data has shown that when we look at veterans or people who go through horrible situations, the more clarity they have on what they can expect, and how long it would last, the less apt they are to have lasting mental scars such as post-traumatic stress syndrome. It has been shown that those who have tours of duty, and know the time frame, have a strong emotional attachment to the outcome because they feel it is important and they have a clear sense of what to expect – good or bad.
Suffering without Understanding
On the other hand, another soldier who may not have as long of a tour of duty, and may not have as clear of a sense of what the duration will be, has a different reaction. Say they were told the time frame, but they know from their friends that they can’t trust that. Maybe they are not as emotionally engaged in the mission, or maybe they are not as sure what their tasks will entail. Sometimes, even just being bored or being underutilized can lead to greater mental scars and a greater chance of post-traumatic stress syndrome. That scenario makes the pain, the actual disease process, that much worse because the symptoms are more pronounced.
The more clarity and the more knowledge you can have about the situation that you are in – the better things will be. The more you will understand why this happened, what to expect, and you will have a clearer sense about what the paths are to take you out of this.
Understanding Thyroid Disease
So, what causes thyroid disease? Well I think about three big realms and we are going to talk about the first one here today. We will talk about the next few in coming sections, so stay tuned. The main realms would be the genes, the environment and the immune system. I think we can say that the genes are the starting place. They are our starting place. The first choice we made about our health was in selecting parents, if we did that, I don’t know. So we have got our genes and they affect a risk for Thyroid disease in a couple of ways.
Genes and Thyroid Disease
It seems that women have much higher rates for Thyroid disease and this is true of auto-immune disease in general. Some experts say it is about 8 to 1 female to male, some say between 6 to 9 to 1 or somewhere in that range. Why does that happen?
There are three theories on that. One of which is that there are persistent cells left over from the woman being pregnant. These little cells can circulate and can alter the immune system. That is one big theory.
The second theory is that there are the hormonal differences. You know we have estrogen hormones and androgenic hormones, and the ratios are different between the genders. We know that the androgenic hormones have some useful effects upon the immune system, and that difference may lay in whether or not the immune system attacks itself or own bodies.
The third big theory is that there are certain genes that act upon the system, that are on the x-chromosome. Why is that relevant to women? Well you all have two x-chromosomes and men have one. You have got twice the odds of carrying one of the genes that could be altered. What that does is two things. It makes women more apt to get it in general, but also it makes it to where the family history is relevant. That is why we know that if a direct relative has Thyroid disease – your mom, sister or aunt, then the risk are higher to have it, because there is a genetic link behind that.
Because women pass on two x-chromosomes to a female, like your mother had two x-chromosomes, you got one of those. A male would pass only one x-chromosome to a female. So, with my daughter for example, one of her x-chromosomes is mine, we know that. I only had one to give, and she has two, so she has got one of mine. My wife gave her two x-chromosomes and it could have been either one. She could have gotten a good one, or a bad one, in this context. But if I had a chromosome that was apt to develop Thyroid disease, my daughter got that chromosome. She has my x-chromosome. My son on the other hand would not have received that, but a female with a direct male relative has a very high risk of developing Thyroid disease. That is the relevance about that.
The Thyroid and Iodine
So why do the genes affect this? The genes act upon how selective the Thyroid and its act of concentrating iodine is. Most nutrients are eaten, swallows and absorbed. They then flow through our bodies and we have a certain concentration in our blood. That concentration is plenty for our brain, our muscles, and whatever else uses them. But in the case of iodine, the Thyroid is not like that. The concentration in the blood is far too low, so the gland has to grab it and concentrate it literally. That concentrator would ideally be selective and just get iodine, but it does not.
There are many things that we are exposed to, upwards of three million to be precise, that did not exist prior the 1900s. A long list of things within that three million have enough vague chemical resemblance to Iodine that they may become concentrated as well. The genetic variation is luck of the draw. Some people have more selective concentrators than others, and in those cases, they would have less of a tendency to have any environmental wastes. They would have less chance of any environmental wastes building up within the gland. Other people, per their genetic risk, have less selective concentrators that are going to grab whatever is around that kind of looks like iodine. Maybe it is the guy at closing time that is less selective, and whatever is there that vaguely has an approximation to iodine will get trapped and brought in with it.
That is the genetic link explaining how our genes affect our risk for Thyroid disease and that is the distinction between pain and suffering. The next step is we will talk about the environmental components and the immune components.