Thyroid autoimmune disease occurs as a result of a complex interaction between genetic and environmental factors. While Hashimoto’s disease runs in the family, having family members who have thyroid disease does not necessarily mean that you will get the disease. At the same time, not having genetic predisposition doesn’t guarantee that you’ll have a thyroid problem.
So what puts you and your children at risk for the autoimmune thyroid disease such as Hashimoto’s?
There is a growing number of scientific evidence that a hidden group of triggers makes ANYONE susceptible to autoimmune disease that can develop at any time and at any age.
As we toxify our environment we toxify ourselves. There are more than 100,000 new modern-life chemicals that we did not use a hundred years ago. Their presence in the environment became complex due to a growing number of toxic chemicals, their interactions, compounding toxic effects and how they affect our health.
We are exposed to a vast number of toxins in everyday products including our food, water, home and beauty products. Even a low dose exposure to the many toxins and chemicals has a detrimental effect on our immunity and overall health. Toxins have been linked to a large number of existing diseases such as autoimmune and thyroid conditions, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, multiple chemical sensitivities and cancers.
Autoimmune diseases are more prevalent in women than in men. One in nine women will develop autoimmune disorder and Hashimoto’s disease is one of the most common. A possible explanation can be that women have a greater exposure to toxins due to using cleaning and household supplies and beauty products.
Toxic chemicals and pollutants interfere with the immune system ability to protect us from foreign invaders making environmental factors a greater risk than genetic predisposition for ANY autoimmune disease.
How toxins cause the disease
Everybody has a different ability to handle toxic load depending on their genetics, environment, type of chemical exposure and nutritional habits.
There 2 types of harmful effects toxic chemicals and pollutants can cause in humans:
1. Short term intoxication that occurs immediately after the exposure to toxins and is relatively easy to recognize and diagnose. The symptoms vary depending on the type of chemical involved and tissues affected and may include flu-like symptoms, unconsciousness, convulsions and result in death.
A shocking number of 3 million cases including 220,000 with a death outcome is registered worldwide every year for severe pesticide poisoning.
2. Long term exposure is usually a low dose exposure to the chemicals that occurs over the longer period of time. The damage is not detectable right away and it usually develops slowly. This mechanism of toxic exposure is behind the chronic illness and autoimmune disease.
Furthermore, research studies on how environmental chemicals and pollutants affect the immune system show that the “toxic chemical cocktail effect” can significantly intensify and speed up the damage to different body tissues. We have to deal with not a couple of toxins but with hundreds and thousands of chemicals on a daily basis. They can affect different organs and systems and can increase toxicity levels of each other by up to a couple of thousand times.
Synthetic chemicals are not the natural part of the human body and it is impossible for our liver to process and neutralize all of them effectively. Many chemicals go unrecognized or un-neutralized through the detoxification pathways in our liver. Toxins continue to build up over time increasing the overall toxic load throughout our lifetime and affecting the function of many organs including the thyroid and immune system.
Many research studies on toxins that trigger autoimmune thyroid disease discovered that:
- Mercury and other heavy metals can provoke Hashimoto’s disease and high levels of thyroid antibodies.Constant low-dose mercury exposure is typical from amalgam fillings and has been established as one of the causes for many autoimmune conditions such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis and Hashimoto’s disease. These effects can occur with exposure below acceptable safety limits through evaporation and leak of mercury from the dental amalgams.
- Pesticides, polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), polybrominated biphenols (PBBs) and polychlorinated biphenols (PCBs) were found to trigger, accelerate and exacerbate thyroid autoimmune disease.
- Some prescription drugs such as amiodarone and interferons can trigger an increase in TPO thyroid antibodies.
- Synthetic perchlorate can be found in many everyday foods and can have a suppressive effect on T4 and T3 thyroid hormone production.
Can your doctor help you?
We cannot ignore the fact that all chemical substances that enter our bodies with food, water, through our skin, digestive and respiratory tract, have to be filtered by the liver in order to be eliminated.
All our organs, glands and their ability to function effectively, depend on how efficient the detoxification process is. If the liver is overwhelmed by environmental toxins and impaired in any of these detoxification pathways it inevitably affects the way we feel and the ability of your body to function.
At the same time, toxicity is one of the environmental factors which is not taught in medical school and is largely ignored by the medical professionals. Your average GP or endocrinologist is not trained in environmental medicine and may not recognize the damaging impact of toxic chemicals on the immune and endocrine systems.
In conventional medicine the idea that toxins negatively affect our bodies and detoxification process has to be optimized is completely neglected and dismissed unless extreme consequences such as acute drug or food poisoning occur.
Current tests for toxicity analyse blood, hair and urine while new research studies show that significantly higher concentrations of toxins are found in the fat tissue that stores toxins. For example, levels of PCBs and chlorinated pesticides were found to be hundreds of times higher in the fat tissue than the levels detected by blood and urine tests.
When you go to your doctor and he orders standard lab tests to check your liver function he can establish if a liver disease such as hepatitis is present but he cannot say if you have a detoxification problem. The fact is that detoxification has a direct impact on your thyroid and immune functions and is never taken into account.
The health of your liver is directly connected to whether you will or won’t have hypothyroid symptoms despite of having normal lab results. Inactive T4 thyroid hormone produced by the thyroid gland has to be converted into its metabolically active T3 form. A large portion of thyroid hormone conversion happens in the liver but only if it is functioning properly.
How your body’s natural defense against toxins can protect you
Our body’s detoxification mechanism is designed to perform 2 main activities:
- Eliminate all waste products created as by-products during the normal body functions
- Detoxing and protecting us from potential threats caused by toxic chemicals and pathogenic bacteria.
Most of these functions are performed by the liver where the conversions of toxic substances such as metabolic waste, drugs, ammonia, alcohol and heavy metals into non-toxic substances take place. Then they are mixed into the bile and released into the intestine to be excreted out of the body.
There are 2 major detoxification pathways that occur within the liver:
In Phase 1 toxic chemicals are transformed into less toxic substanceswith help from the liver enzymes. In a healthy liver free radicals produced during this process are compensated by antioxidants and prevent possible damage to the liver tissues.
However, if the toxic load is too high or levels of antioxidants are too low, detoxification pathway can be disrupted and some substances can be converted into carcinogenic compounds. Synthetic chemicals, caffeine, alcohol, some drugs, pain and car exhaust fumes, saturated fats, dietary linoleic acid (polyunsaturated Omega 6 fatty acid), excessive sugar (especially fructose) and pesticides can interfere with detoxification process in Phase 1 and can lead to buildup of toxins.
During Phase 2 toxins are converted into water-soluble compounds and prepared to be excreted from the body.
If any of these detoxification pathways are not working properly the liver loses its ability to convert toxins into non-toxic substances. It gets overwhelmed by environmental chemicals and waste products and can create even more dangerous compounds that increase its toxic load.
For example, if the liver cannot process xeno-estrogens it won’t be able deal with the estrogen produced within the bodyeffectively and any other hormones that go through the same detoxification pathways.
What can you do?
By knowing and avoiding common sources of toxicity your toxic exposure can be dramatically reduced. The scientific evidence for the damaging toxic effects of many chemicals and pollutants is so strong that you need to act now.
Ignoring this problem does not make toxicity go away. Learning about toxins that can affect your thyroid and trigger autoimmunity could literally save your life, make most unexplained symptoms disappear and be the best investment that you can make in your health.
You can learn more on what chemicals and pollutants affect your thyroid and contribute to autoimmunity and Hashimoto’s disease in a do-it-yourself 12 day guided Thyroid Detox program that was created by a Certified Holistic Health Coach who specializes in thyroid issues and Naturopathic Nutritional Adviser and detox specialist.
P.S. Do you like what you read and would like to read more? Subscribe to the Outsmart Disease thyroid blog updates and get your FREE e-mail course Nutritional guide for Hashimoto’s disease.