Why Do I Still Have Thyroid Symptoms When My Lab Tests Are Normal?
By Datis Kharrazian, DHSc, DC, MS
Morgan James Publishing, 2010
“In the U.S., autoimmune disease accounts for approximately 90 percent of adult hypothyroidism, mostly due to Hashimoto’s” (page 23).
“Although iodine deficiency is the most common cause of hypothyroidism for most of the world’s population, in the United States and other westernized countries, Hashimoto’s accounts for the majority of cases of hypothyroidism” (page 27).
Datis Kharrazian clearly establishes the fact that Hashimoto’s disease is not a thyroid issue per se but rather an autoimmune disease and therefore, like other autoimmune disorders, can only be treated by balancing the immune system. If there are 27 million Americans with malfunctioning thyroids, as some experts estimate, then there must also be a huge number of undiagnosed Hashimoto’s patients in the U.S. Most practitioners fail to test for Hashimoto’s in a hypothyroid patient because they do not change their treatment plan for Hashimoto’s. Instead of treating the immune system, conventional practitioners will treat the thyroid gland in a Hashimoto’s patient.
People suffering from hypothyroidism will greatly benefit from reading Why Do I Still Have Thyroid Symptoms When My Lab Tests Are Normal? In the first part of the book, Kharrazian explains the relationship between Hashimoto’s disease, the immune system, the thyroid gland, and gluten. Sadly, for people with Hashimoto’s, gluten must be avoided for life. The gliadin portion of the gluten causes the immune system to flare up and attack not only the gluten in the blood stream but also the thyroid gland, due to the similarity of gliadin and peptide fragments associated with the thyroid gland. A leaky gut is to blame for gluten getting in the bloodstream in the first place, but once the gluten-sensitive genes are turned on, they cannot be turned off, and therefore gluten must be avoided for life. Amazingly, “the immune response to gluten can last up to six months each time it is ingested.” Each time a person with Hashimoto’s consumes gluten, he risks a possible six-month attack on his thyroid gland.
Using emulsified vitamin D, glutathione cream and S.O.D. (superoxide dismutase), Kharrazian has had much success in the first step of bringing balance to the immune system. Not only is vitamin D a powerful immune modulator, but “90 percent of people with an autoimmune thyroid disease have a genetic defect that affects their ability to process vitamin D.” Although their blood tests may show adequate levels of D, the vitamin D deficiency is at the cellular level. Therefore, in his practice Kharrazian likes to see autoimmune thyroid patients in the high normal end of vitamin D status.
Vitamin D also supports the T-regulatory cells, which begin to malfunction in an autoimmune attack. As their name suggests, when T-regulatory cells malfunction, the regulation of the immune attack goes awry. Tissue damage occurs when the incorrect amounts of T-helper and T-suppressor cells are called for by the weary T-regulatory cells. Using emulsified vitamin D, Kharrazian reestablishes proper function of the T-regulatory cells.
Taming the dominant side of the immune system is the second step in balancing the immune system. The two major parts of the immune system are the TH-1 pathway, which produces an immediate response and the TH-2 pathway, which produces a delayed response. Using a lab test, Kharrazian measures the percentages of each type of cytokine to determine which side of the immune system is dominant. He lists in his book nutritional compounds that will stimulate each side (TH-1 or TH-2) of the immune system.
Kharrazian tames the dominant side by giving supplements that will strengthen the weaker side. For instance, if a person is TH-1 dominant, as 90 percent of those with Hashimoto’s are, then they would consume herbs such as astragalus and echinacea, which stimulate the TH-2 pathway. Since not all autoimmune responses are due to an imbalance of the two sides, Kharrazian also gives direction on how to treat an immune response when caused by an antigen or hapten, such as those created by chronic infection, pesticides or heavy metals.
The second half of the book concisely covers the six patterns of hypothyroidism that are not caused by Hashimoto’s, how to discover them from a blood test, and why only one can be remedied with thyroid medication. Kharrazian devotes a chapter to each of the following cofactors of thyroid health: blood sugar, digestion, adrenal glands, use of hormone pills that destroy thyroid health, and the brain. At the end of each chapter, the reader will find recommended supplements that can strengthen or stabilize each possible problem area.
Kharrazian has put together a very comprehensive guide to understanding the complicated and varied path toward reestablishing thyroid health including improving adrenal, blood sugar and hormonal health. I give this a hearty thumbs up as an excellent reference book with two small caveats. The first is that Kharrazian promotes using emulsified D and fish oil (for EPA and DHA) instead of cod liver oil, which he says, would not supply enough vitamin D without too much EPA and DHA. My opinion is that one could work with a practitioner and use cod liver oil in conjunction with emulsified D to obtain therapeutic levels of D. Kharrazian notes that vitamin A is a modulator to both sides of the immune system as well as “a critical nutrient for thyroid activity,” but fails to make the connection that cod liver oil is an excellent source of vitamin A. Finally he points out strong anecdotal evidence that people with Hashimoto’s do best on a casein free (dairy free) diet. The issue I find with advice to avoid all dairy is that rarely is any distinction made between raw, cultured, and pasteurized dairy; therefore, I feel that the dairy free recommendation may need to be explored on an individual basis.
This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly magazine of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Summer 2010.