What Causes Thyroid Disease Part 3 of 3
Hi there. Dr. Christianson back with you again, and I want to talk about the third installation of “What Causes Thyroid Disease.” It is good to understand and important to know this, both in terms of preventing it from happening in those that do not have it, but also for those that do already have it…where the horse is already out of the barn. Understanding these causes and addressing them -this is the ticket out. These are the steps to really help you to thrive and regain your full health again.
The first topic we discussed was the genetic susceptibility. The second one was environmental factors, and now the third one is the immune response. How your immune system interacts with this. So think of the immune systems as a guard, a home security guard, and what it should do is shoot some guy with a mask on that is trying to break into your house. That’s its job. So that is: warding off bacteria, viruses, fungi..you know nasty critters that seek to do us ill. The immune system has an agenda of attacking things when it is not sure. So if it is not certain if something is dangerous or not, it is more apt to attack then ignore, and if you think about the consequences, in most cases, is to our benefit. If we sneeze from pollen, that is more harmless then ignoring a bacteria that could damage our heart. So it is a little better for it to shoot first, ask questions later. Now the issue, though, is that if it’s too much in a state of aggression…if it is too highly motivated…it can start to attack things that we need; important parts of our bodies that we need and that exist inside of us and that is what auto-immune diseases are.
So what stresses the immune system in ways that drive Thyroid disease? You can see that I often think in three’s and we have three big things here, too. We have infections, chronic infections. We have allergies and we have hormonal changes. So chronic infections are the first group. There is a host of types of infections that we have, that we suffer from for a little while, then they go away and they are pretty much gone. Most of these actually remain with us in microscopic amounts. You know, even that one memorable cold from fourth grade, there’s a few of those bugs lurking somewhere.
On any given day, there are literally hundreds and hundreds of low grade and probably irrelevant infections that our immune system keeps suppressed, but it is not uncommon for some things to become a little bit active and not totally suppressed. Some common ones we think about would be blood-born infections. These can often be viral. Things like Epstein bar virus, which can cause acute mono…can cause a chronic low grade infection. Simple things like herpes simplex, you know, cold sores. The herpes simplex type one virus that causes cold sores or genital sores for some people – apart from just annoying, painful outbreaks – it can cause a low grade, persistent infection that can drive the whole auto-immune Thyroid response. Then we have other blood-born infections like the Cytomegalovirus and some other more exotic viruses, but those are some common blood-born ones.
Then we have soft tissue infections. So that is most commonly nasal or vaginal; that can be yeast or that can be bacterial but these are recurring, persistent infections. Those often have more apparent signs. Someone is more aware that they have issues in those areas and are more aware of the infections coming back. There can also be recurring bladder infections. Some of them may come and go, but others may actually be persistent with episodic flares. They may be there, operating in the background.
Then we have bowel and intestinal infections. So we normally have hundreds of bacteria that live inside our intestinal tract. Any given day some of them can do us badly. We can see overgrowth of a good bacteria and we can see lack of good bacteria. We can see overgrowth of neutral bacteria, ones that are not really helpful or harmful. We can see overgrowth of normal things like yeast. Then there are pathogens and infections. There are a number of things that we are exposed to by our food and our food handlers that do not belong inside of us but can reside inside of us and can create more symptoms and issues. So bowel infections is another big category.
Next big immune stressor would be allergies. So I mentioned how the immune system wants to shoot first and ask questions later. Allergies are a classic example of this. So there are airborne ones and dietary ones. Those are the big two routes by which things enter our bodies on a regular basis. There are also skin allergies, but in most cases those are more identified as things that people do not chronically live with, but airborne and dietary ones commonly can be.
So airborne allergies – we have indoor pollutants. We have indoor normal aspects of our life. We have things like mites that live in our eyebrows and our pillows and we breath them in all night long. So, anything like this that we reside with and we can react to. Then we have outdoor items. There is a Palo Verde tree and a Desert Cottonwood tree behind me and these were blooming very recently and people can get strong allergies to trees like this. So outdoor seasonal items. We also have outdoor non-seasonal items. So grasses and things that are persistent throughout the year that can be reactive.
Then we have dietary allergies, and this is a big topic. There are two big categories of these. There is the obvious and the hidden. The obvious dietary allergies are the tough stories – where a kid takes a bite of peanut and he can not breath. So, you know we are seeing anaphylactic allergies, like nuts, rapidly increasing over the last decade or two. So those are more apparent. They are very real and they are very significant. Those are not commonly things that people are living with on a daily basis because they come on so fast, and they cause such sever symptoms, that they get figured out and they get avoided.
The other big category is the low grade, persistent type reaction and there is all these debates as to whether they are allergies or whether they are intolerances. I do not really care how you choose to define them. They are real. There are things that we do eat on a regular basis that do not make us drop over dead in a matter of minutes, but do goof up our immune response. There is really no debate about that, so categorize them how you want, they really are the same type of reaction that causes an allergy. They’re just at a slower rate of response. So either term is fine. The tough part is that some of these you would notice by eating the food and not perhaps having an anaphylactic reaction, but just not feeling your best. You know, having gas or bloating or headaches, or discomfort in a matter of hours, or in a day or so. A number of these…you would not notice in the short term. It may be on the order of a week or longer to notice that the food is affecting you. So some of these we call the hidden intolerances. These are most common to a certain class of bound sticky proteins. Which include casing from dairy, albumin in eggs, and gluten from wheat.
Now if you have gotten sensitized to one of these binary proteins it is not uncommon that your intestinal tract and your immune system is in a state that allows it to start to sensitize to most anything else that you have on a regular basis. So if you are already reactive to egg, or gluten, perhaps it is not uncommon that if you have almonds on a regular basis they may become reactive too. Some of the secondary intolerances may not have triggered reactions to begin with. They may not have started out as intolerances, but I think about those as the piggyback reactions. Those are things to where you already have something bothering you and they may start to become problems.
These are worth testing for and there are a myriad of labs available, some of which are more accurate then others in terms of just reproducibility. If you have this same test done by the same lab a day or two apart, you should get the same data. So an easy thing to think about there. These immune stressors, they also work along with the allergies, the infections to drive the response against the Thyroid.
Then we’ve got hormonal change. The big thing there is large shifts in ovarian function and large shifts in adrenal function. Those are the biggest factors. So the adrenals make cortisol and ideally there is this almost like a tide, like waves, to where you get this wave in the morning and a shut off at night. That’s healthy. There are a lot rhythms in our body and our immune system that are dependent upon that. Well, with modern life, and with our lights and our noise and our pollution…there are a lot reasons why that wave gets goofed up. That wave can crash at the wrong point. It can be always high or always low. It may not be ideal. That, in and of itself, changes our bodies inflammatory response. You know cortisol and cortisone are used as anti-inflammatories and there are reasons for that. So we need this flammatory cycle of a block and an opening and, without that, we are more apt to have auto-immune responses.
The other big thing we see is ovarian function changes. So what does that mean? That really means that the big time frames that mark a women’s hormonal life. So pregnancy -moving into it and moving out of it. Peri-menopause and the fluctuations leading up to menopause. The transition of menopause. All of these are times in which the hormonal shift causes an alteration in the immune response.
So big picture here. Thyroid disease causes. We’ve got susceptible genes. We’ve got exposure to toxins. That combination however it is, you have got waste in your Thyroid. Thyroid is inflamed. Then you have got some immune stressor. So there is this irritated Thyroid and your immune system now its pissed. Pardon the vernacular. Your immune system is stressed in some way and it wants to go after something. Its irritated by infections. It is irritated by allergies and here is your poor Thyroid crying out leaking inflammation and your immune system goes after it. You know it sees this as a possible threat. It is so engaged it is not being as well regulated. Once it starts attacking this gland, it persists. It becomes almost like vaccinated to where it now has memory anti-bodies against the gland. That attack makes it to not only where the gland can not make adequate hormone but it also makes it to where after the hormone leaves the gland your body can’t optimally use the hormone and that means we see all the Thyroid symptoms. Which include the main ones like the hair loss. The dry skin. The dry nails. The cold intolerance. The easy weight gain. The depression. The difficulty swallowing. The constipation. The menstrual irregularities. The muscle pain. The fatigue. So all these things come from the body not getting enough hormone and not utilizing it properly.
The main approach done in the conventional world is to give one of the three hormones and hope that the rest works out. The difficulty with immune Thyroid disease is that not only is the supply chain damaged, but the distribution network is damaged. So even if you give the one main hormone, the body can not always utilize it. The body can not always convert it. It can not always assimilate it. So to cover all those basis, it takes unpacking those three areas of cause and they are different from person to person. Everyone who gets Thyroid disease has some combination of those factors that’s off, but how the particulars play out is totally different for each person. But once those things are well understood, and well resolved, you can do better again and you can thrive again. Thank you so much and I will be back with you real soon.