Thyroid autoimmunity is the most common cause of hypothyroid. Conventional medicine typically does not treat thyroid autoimmunity, but more and more data is emerging that it is an important part of recovering your thyroid health. Let’s discuss a recent study correlating thyroid antibodies and quality of life, and some tips for successfully dealing with hypothyroid and thyroid autoimmunity.
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Thyroid Autoimmunity and Quality of Life
Dr. Michael Ruscio: Hi, this is Dr. Ruscio. And let’s discuss thyroid autoimmunity or thyroid antibody levels and quality of life.
If you’re not familiar with thyroid autoimmunity, thyroid autoimmunity is the most common cause of hypothyroid. And hypothyroid can manifest as fatigue; weight gain; depression; dry hair, skin, nails; thinning hair; constipation. There are really many symptoms that hypothyroid can manifest as. So many people who aren’t feeling well are rightfully so concerned that they may have hypothyroid. And again, the most common cause of hypothyroid is thyroid autoimmunity.
Now, thyroid autoimmunity is tracked using, amongst other things, a blood test that looks at thyroid antibodies. What’s interesting is a recent study—and I’ll put the abstract up here on the screen – found that thyroid antibodies – the higher they were (meaning the more severe someone’s thyroid autoimmunity was) correlated with a decreased quality of life. What’s most interesting here is that, that was irrespective of their thyroid hormone levels.
So what this means, is some people may be on a thyroid replacement hormone yet still have a low quality of life because of the antibodies. So this suggests something that I think conventional medicine has been very slow to acknowledge. But hopefully, this will start turning the tides there. In addition to thyroid hormone levels, thyroid hormone autoimmunity is also an important part of the process or the clinical considerations for someone with hypothyroidism.
Now, there is other information that supports this line of thinking also. The elevation of thyroid antibodies has been shown to predict subsequent thyroid autoimmunity. So the higher one’s thyroid antibodies, the higher the chance that you will become frankly hypothyroid in the future.
Additionally, the level of elevation of thyroid antibodies may predict future cancer risk. Those who have thyroid autoimmunity are at an increased risk for thyroid cancer, which is why routine screenings with your conventional doctor is very important. And the level of severity, again of those antibodies, may be predictive of future cancer risk.
So typically, the narrative in conventional medicine is to give someone thyroid replacement hormone once they become hypothyroid. But there is another component to this that’s very important, which is autoimmunity. Now, what can you do about autoimmunity?
Well, this video isn’t an exhaustive list of the things that can be done. But here are a few things that are very important to consider.
One is diet. A healthy diet, oftentimes one that is more of a paleo-like type of diet that removes common food allergens, may be very helpful. The best data that we have supports that a gluten-free diet may be helpful. Most of that data comes from people who have celiac disease.
But there is this new emerging clinical entity of what’s known as non-celiac gluten sensitivity where these people don’t fully have celiac disease, but they do notice that they feel better when they’re gluten free. And so the same benefit that applies to those with celiac may apply to those with non-celiac gluten sensitivity or, more simply put, those who notice they feel better on a gluten-free diet.
An easy way to ferret that out is to get your antibodies levels tested, go gluten-free for a month or so, and then re-test. If you notice a substantial drop, that re-affirms that you may want to be gluten-free or at least very gluten restricted in the long term.
Now, there’s also a protocol that consists of magnesium, CoQ-10, and selenium. And I’ll put a link to a previous video review I did of this study where this mixture of nutritional supplements was shown to lower thyroid autoimmunity. So, that’s another consideration in addition to diet.
And then thirdly, something that can be very important – I’m sorry. Before I go into the third item, let’s not forget about lifestyle. Sleep and stress, of course, will make anything better or worse if they are appropriate or inappropriate. So, it almost goes without saying. But make sure you’re getting adequate sleep and trying to manage your stress as best you can and also exercising.
The third thing that may be less apparent is digestive health. There are some preliminary studies showing that treatment of certain digestive imbalances or infections can actually have a positive impact on lowering thyroid antibodies and decreasing hypothyroid-associated symptoms.
In fact, what I would suggest for many patients is if they’re hypothyroid, they see their regular doctor, they go on a hormone, and their levels are normal but they’re still feeling hypothyroidism, have a good digestive evaluation or a good gut evaluation because sometimes, those hypothyroid-type symptoms are actually coming from inflammation in the digestive tract.
I had a patient just this morning. That exact scenario is what played out. She came in initially about a month or two ago with digestive symptoms. Bloating, constipation, and reflux I believe were her main symptoms. And she also had fatigue, depression, and weight gain that she thought were because her thyroid medication dose was inappropriate. And she wanted to do an in depth thyroid evaluation.
I said to her, “Let’s first take some time to look into your gut health. Make a few changes there. And then re-evaluate how the thyroid symptoms are looking once your digestion improves.” Several weeks later, she comes back in. The gas, bloating, and constipation are pretty much gone. She’s lost 16 of the 25 pounds she wanted to lose. Her depression is gone. And her fatigue is much improved.
So, the need to evaluate those other symptoms that we thought may have been from hypothyroid went away after we addressed the problems in the gut. So if you’re floundering with these hypothyroid-like symptoms that you can’t quite ferret out, a digestive tract evaluation may be very important.
But coming back to the premise of this video and the study, it’s important that you look at your thyroid antibodies because they not only correlate with your quality of life, but they also correlate with subsequent risk for hypothyroidism and thyroid cancer risk. So, do your best to manage your thyroid antibodies. Get them lower.
Another point I should make, is this is not a perfect-or-fail sort of scenario where you don’t have to, in my opinion, be in the normal range to be successfully managed.
Oftentimes, for example, looking at one of the fractions or one of the antibodies, the most commonly run is known as TPO or thyroid peroxidase. It’s not uncommon to see patients come in with that, when unmanaged, between 700 and 1400.
What I have noticed repeatedly happens when patients make some changes and are feeling much, much better and are generally very healthy is the antibodies may hover anywhere from one to 300. And I consider that a clinical win. One to 300 is somewhat normal. It’s a success in my opinion. Anything above 700 is cause for concern or at least some further evaluation.
So in any case, again, remember the thyroid antibodies are important because they correlate with multiple other parameters of health. The most practical might be just overall quality of life. So if you’re struggling with some of these symptoms that we mentioned, test your antibodies and consider some of the other interventions that we listed in this video.
This is Dr. Ruscio. And I hope this information helps you get healthy and get back to your life. Thanks!
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