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Approaches to Thyroid Disease Management

A Comparison of Conventional and Holistic Medicine

Conventional Medicine Approach
The main hormone produced by the thyroid gland is thyroxine or T4. This is converted to the more active form of the thyroid hormone triiodothyronine or T3. The treatment for a low functioning thyroid is to prescribe a drug that replaces the T4. That drug is levothyroxine. While this approach may be effective in controlling the symptoms of hypothyroidism in a lot of cases, patients are most often advised they have to be on the thyroid medicine for the rest of their lives.
The Downside of This Approach
1There is no attempt to determine the underlying cause of the thyroid dysfunction.
2There is no attempt to heal the thyroid gland.
3The treatment alleviates symptoms  only.
4There are many other factors not addressed that may be affecting thyroid function, including at the level of the hypothalamus, pituitary, the thyroid gland itself or the conversion of T4 to T3.
Functional Medicine Approach
The range of values considered to be abnormal is wider and allows for more cases to be diagnosed and treated. Some practitioners also measure and compare the free vs. total T4 antibodies to thyroglobulin, Reverse T3 or rT3. They may also address conditions that favor the conversion of T4 to rT3 in place of T3.
Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is an inflammation of the thyroid gland that reduces its activity and is caused by antibodies attacking the gland, hence autoimmune. Presence of thyroxine peroxidase antibodies and/or thyroglobulin antibodies will indicate an autoimmune thyroid condition such as Hashimoto’s or Graves’ disease depending on the part of the gland bound and the effect on hormone production.
Graves’ disease is also caused by antibodies against the thyroid gland, but in this case it stimulates the gland to produce more hormones, hence hyperthyroidism. The treatment approach for many functional medicine practitioners is to replace the thyroid hormone with drugs that contain both T4 and T3. These drugs include Armor thyroid, WP thyroid, Naturethroid and NP Thyroid. This approach is more effective than replacing with T4 alone. These are more natural sources of thyroid hormone derived from animal glands. They are comprised of a combination of T4 and T3 in proportions that resemble the levels found naturally in the body. Some may argue that the proportions are different from that of humans.
The Downside of This Approach
1Hormones are being replaced, but without addressing the underlying cause of the dysfunction, healing of the thyroid gland cannot take place.
2Patients will have to take these drugs for the rest of their lives with periodic dose adjustments.
Holistic Medicine Approach
The holistic approach is to identify the underlying cause and provide conditions that allow the thyroid gland to heal.
Most holistic practitioners do not use laboratory values but rather rely on the patients’ symptoms and the result of Nutrition Response Testing and/or Autonomic Response Testing to determine thyroid dysfunction. These methods use the neurological reflexes of the body to identify areas that are not functioning optimally and can identify thyroid dysfunctions even before they become apparent in laboratory tests.
Thyroid disease, like many chronic diseases, is associated with one or more of these factors:
Nutritional deficiencies or food sensitivities
Chemical and heavy metal toxicities
Immune challenges with viruses, bacteria, fungi or parasites
Autoimmune conditions
Stress and other factors that block the body’s innate ability to heal itself
Once the underlying cause is identified, the appropriate remedy to neutralize that factor is found. People that have specific food sensitivities are advised to cease eating those foods and prescribed specific enzymes. People that have problems with chemicals and heavy metals will be recommended supplements that will help with detoxification. Those with immune challenges are given supplements that will rebuild the immune system. Supplement selections are specific per individual. The next step is to determine supplements that will support the repair of the thyroid gland using Nutrition Response Testing or Autonomic Response Testing.
The body has the ability to repair damaged organs when we create the right conditions for healing. The process of identifying the underlying cause of the dysfunction in order to eliminate or neutralize it and then providing the desired supplements for the restoration of the thyroid gland will lead to a complete resolution of the problem. It takes time for this healing to take place, but in the author’s experience, strict adherence to the program will produce healing in three to twelve months.
Dr. Nwando Nwanna is a clinical pharmacist and Nutrition Response practitioner at
Wize Nutrition Therapy, located at East West Healing Solution, 34876 US Hwy. 19 N, Palm Harbor. For more information, call 727-216-3972 and/or visit WizeNutritionTherapy.com. See ad page 17.
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