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Drs. Richard and Karilee Shames on Their Holistic Approach to Thyroid Disease

Part 2

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Updated August 06, 2008

Mary Shomon: What do you feel are the main causes behind Hashimoto's/autoimmune hypothyroidism, and why do you feel that it is becoming more common?

Drs. Shames: We both have researched this question thoroughly because of Karilee's Hashimoto's and that of our three children. Our findings suggest to us that the main culprit is runaway industrial pollution of the air, food, and water, with endocrine disruptor chemicals. Obviously there are other triggers, such as puberty, childbirth, menopause, stress, viral illness, and neck trauma, to name a few - the endocrine disruptor theory, we believe, helps to account for the tremendous mushrooming incidence of this condition. It is well known in scientific circles that dioxins and PCB's, some of the most ubiquitous of pollutants, both cause autoimmunity and are directly thyro-toxic. Many thousands of other chemicals are liable to be exerting their own deleterious effects, but have not been as well studied. The scope of this problem is enormous and utterly daunting to government officials and research scientists alike.

Mary Shomon: What do you feel the role is of the adrenal system in dealing with hypothyroidism?

Drs. Shames: Adrenal function is absolutely and directly related to optimal thyroid function. Our various hormone messengers all work in concert, usually to good advantage. When adrenal levels are out of balance, however, thyroid hormone has a harder time getting from the bloodstream into the cells, and in addition has a harder time attaching to the proper binding site inside the cytoplasm before moving to the cell nucleus. Moreover, the conversion of T-4 (storage transport thyroid hormone) into T-3 (active thyroid hormone) is likewise dependent on proper amount of adrenal support.

Another important connection to keep in mind is the common coexistence of mild adrenal insufficiency along with low thyroid. When these two conditions are found together, but only the thyroid component is treated, the person generally feels worse. The doctor then concludes that thyroid treatment is somehow a mistake, and erroneously discontinues the medicine. This is a tremendous loss. The person needs treatment for the low adrenal condition along with treatment for the low thyroid.

Mary Shomon: Are there any particular supplements you think most people with hypothyroidism should probably be taking?

Drs. Shames: I try not to generalize, as each patient is unique. That being said, it is a good bet that low thyroid people have a tendency for low red blood cells. This can be helped with B-12, and folic acid, along with an easily digested iron source if they test low for iron as well. I attempt to steer all my patients toward healthier whole foods and a good multiple vitamin with minerals. This usually covers the bases listed above, as well as the important minerals of zinc, magnesium, copper, and selenium. The essential fatty acids are just that - they are absolutely essential. I recommend supplementing with EPA, Omega-3, and GLA, Omega-6. Finally, a gram or two of free-form amino acids each day helps tremendously. Moreover, the "itis" (inflammation) of thyroiditis benefits greatly from abundant antioxidants. A supplemental item in addition to the multi, therefore, should include liberal amounts of A, C, E, lipoic acid, pycnogenol, and milk thistle, among others.

Mary Shomon: Many holistic practitioners feel that supplemental iodine (whether it be atomidine drops, or iodine supplements, or high-iodine herbs like kelp or bladderwrack) should be taken by patients with autoimmune hypothyroidism. What are your thoughts about this?

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