One of my favorite things about functional medicine is that I get to be a detective in order to help my patients. A diagnosis isn’t enough– we need to find the root cause of chronic ailments like thyroid disorders. So when I get a new patient with hypothyroidism, I start by identifying the underlying factors that are causing my patient’s issues, and this could include anything from a nutritionless diet to toxic exposures or infections. I’ve seen my share of each of these causative factors, and I do have to admit that infections are a little more tricky. And by infection I don’t mean viruses or bacteria; when I mention infection here I’m referring to those stubborn little buggers, parasites, which are often a main problem when it comes to thyroid disorders.
While a lot of people tend to think that parasites aren’t necessarily a problem we’d encounter in the U.S., the CDC suggests that at least ⅓ of Americans have a parasitic infection. And remember how I said parasites are a tricky animal? Well, one reason this is true is that current screening methods miss most parasites; moreover, conventional practitioners rarely test for parasites in underactive thyroid cases and other autoimmune conditions. If you think parasites may be at the root of your underactive thyroid, here are some things you should consider.
1. Leaky Gut
While thyroid cases can be a result of a number of underlying factors, about 90% are caused by leaky gut syndrome. Leaky gut causes damage to the intestinal tract that allows pathogens and undigested food to enter the bloodstream, which prompts a chronic immune response. Parasites can trigger this gut damage and cause intestinal permeability, which is the catalyst to thyroid-related autoimmune conditions like Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. If you have symptoms like chronic fatigue, pain, brain fog, and poor digestion, a parasite may be a potential cause of your hypothyroidism.
2. Trouble with Testing
In the world of parasites, there’s an extensive variety from worms, amoebas, and protozoa. Unfortunately, most tests will not detect any of these. Under a conventional approach, you’re most likely going to get a one-size-fits-all solution, so you might not ever get an answer pertaining to the specific variety of your parasite. Functional medicine practitioners, on the other hand, are likely to use specialized labs that offer DNA testing, which can help you identify the condition of your gut, its microbiome, and the specific bugs that may be causing your problems. Testing like this will give you a better idea about what specific parasite is triggering your symptoms.
3. Targeted Treatments
Parasite cleanses are a general but effective approach to getting rid of those pesky parasitic infections. But while some may find a cleanse is great for solving their problems, others may not have as much luck.
Advanced testing is going to be your best bet because it’s more specific than general solutions.
For example, a parasite cleanse may free you from the bug, but the parasite may have left damage that can still cause issues even after it’s long gone.
If you are suffering from hypothyroid symptoms and haven’t identified the root cause yet, your chances of feeling better are pretty slim. Whether it be from parasites or some other underlying cause, in order to eradicate it, you need to know what it is. I recommend partnering with a functional medicine practitioner who can help you pinpoint the cause of your condition. At our clinic, for example, we use cutting-edge testing to identify your specific imbalances, deficiencies, and infections to tailor a treatment plan to your individual needs. Skip the one-size-fits-all solutions, and start healing by putting your needs where they belong: first.