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The Spine’s Role in Thyroid Health

courtesy of maxliving.com

The Thyroid Plays a Critical Role in Your Body

Such a tiny gland, yet what a dramatic impact it has on nearly every function within your body. Your thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland, found at the front of the neck under your voice box, that weighs just 20 – 60 grams.

This gland makes two main thyroid hormones: triiodothyronine (T3) and tetraiodothyronine (thyroxine or T4). Your pituitary gland produces thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), which helps control how much T3 and T4 the thyroid makes.

Your thyroid regulates your metabolism, or your body’s ability to break down food and convert it to energy. When you hear someone say they have a fast or slow metabolism, they’re referring to how well your metabolism “burns” food for fuel.

Thyroid hormones do lots of other things. They impact how fast your heart beats, your breathing, body temperature, menstrual cycles, and what most of us know too well: Whether you lose or gain weight easily.

“In fact, there’s not a single cell in the body that doesn’t depend on thyroid hormones in some way,” says Izabella Wentz, PharmD, in Hashimoto’s Protocol, “In other words: trouble here can lead to trouble just about everywhere.”

Hyperthyroidism and Hypothyroidism

While other things can go wrong with your thyroid (including nodules, abnormal growth, and cancer), here we’ll focus on what happens when your thyroid overproduces or underproduces thyroid hormones:

Hyperthyroidism occurs when your thyroid gland becomes overactive and makes too many hormones. Hypothyroidism occurs when your thyroid becomes underactive and doesn’t produce enough hormones. Both imbalances can create numerous symptoms.

Most adult hypothyroidism – about 90 percent, in fact – stems from an autoimmune condition called Hashimoto’s or autoimmune thyroiditis. (For simplicity, we’ll call this Hashimoto’s disease throughout.)

More than 80 autoimmune disorders exist. Typically, more than one culprit triggers them, including genetics, environmental factors, and gut problems, like leaky gut.

Emerging research shows three factors must occur for an autoimmune disease to develop:

1. Specific genes that make you susceptible to developing an autoimmune disease

2. Triggers (such as environmental triggers) that turn on those genes

3. Leaky gut, which impairs immune system function

In other words, all three factors must occur for an autoimmune disease to develop. That last one highlights how crucial gut health becomes for thyroid function, and it makes sense considering about 70 percent of your immune system exists in your gut.

Hashimoto’s: When Your Body Thinks the Thyroid is the Enemy

With Hashimoto’s, your body mistakenly thinks the thyroid gland as a foreign invader and wages an immune attack with two antibodies that attack your thyroid.

“Many people with Hashimoto’s will have an elevation of one or both of these antibodies,” says Wentz, “and the higher the thyroid antibodies, the greater the likelihood of developing overt hypothyroidism and possibly additional autoimmune conditions.”

Hashimoto’s impacts women about 10 times more than men, typically between the ages of 30 – 50. This autoimmune disease can create numerous symptoms, including weight gain, depression, fatigue, and muscle and joint pain.

Some of these symptoms mirror those with hypothyroid; others are hyperthyroid symptoms. “In Hashimoto’s, individuals can fluctuate between hypothyroid and hyperthyroid symptoms, and even experience symptoms of both conditions simultaneously,” says Wentz.

Among the wide-ranging effects of these symptoms, she says, include:

Immune system overload

Adrenal hormone abnormalities

Gut dysbiosis

Impaired digestion

Impaired detoxification


“This cycle is self-sustaining and will continue to cause more symptoms until an external factor intervenes and breaks the cycle apart,” Wentz says.

Put another way: When your thyroid becomes out of whack, other systems, such as your adrenals and gut, also become out of whack.

That explains why individuals diagnosed with Hashimoto’s have a greater risk for other autoimmune diseases. When the immune system mistakenly attacks one organ – in this case, your thyroid – it can more easily mistakenly attack another.

While you might discover Hashimoto’s via self-examination –  such as finding a new lump or vague discomfort in your neck – your doctor might also discover this condition during an exam for some other problem you experience.

If you suspect any form of thyroid imbalance, visit your healthcare professional. She or he will measure TSH levels since your body produces more TSH to increase production of thyroid hormones when levels are low. Your doctor may also test your T3 or T4.

Functional practitioners might opt for a complete thyroid test panel, which measures TSH, various forms of T3 and T4, and thyroid antibodies. With Hashimoto’s, most lab findings revealelevated thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) and low thyroxine (T4) levels coupled with increased anti-thyroid peroxidase (TPO) antibodies.

The Spine-Thyroid Connection

Your thyroid and spine are more connected than you might imagine. The inflammation and swelling in thyroid problems like Hashimoto’s can push one of the nearby vertebrae out of place, causing a subluxation in your cervical spine.

Long-term uncontrolled hypothyroidism can affect your spine in other ways. These thyroid imbalances can cause damage to your peripheral nerves, which carry information from your brain and spinal cord to the rest of your body. Signs and symptoms of peripheral neuropathy may include pain, numbness, and tingling in the area affected by the nerve damage as well as muscle weakness or loss of muscle control.

Chiropractic care can address those issues as well as other problems related to Hashimoto’s including arthritis, generalized pain, and back pain.

One study among 7,094 patients with Hashimoto’s antibodies found a higher frequency of spinal degenerative disc disease among those with autoimmune thyroid disease. A newer study, this one among 7698 patients, also connected Hashimoto’s with spinal degenerative disc disease.

Thyroid imbalances like hypothyroidism and your spine are more intricately connected than you might imagine. A chiropractor can complement your primary healthcare professional’s approach, address other issues that might accompany Hashimoto’s including adrenal and gut issues, and develop a protocol for your specific condition.

The Right Diet to Support Thyroid Health

Making thyroid-supporting foods the foundation of your plan can help optimize thyroid function and minimize many symptoms associated with thyroid imbalances.

Copious research shows that oxidative stress and chronic inflammation both drive hypothyroid and thyroid imbalances. That means you want to eat plenty of antioxidant-rich plant foods (to fight oxidative stress) and anti-inflammatory foods.

Our Advanced Plan increases both antioxidant-rich and anti-inflammatory foods. It increases the intake of healthy fats, moderates intake of protein, and eliminates sugars, grains, and higher-sugar fruits that could contribute to or exacerbate thyroid imbalances.

The goal is to reduce the consumption of inflammatory foods, nourish the body on a cellular level, support regular hormone function, and promote the use of fat (instead of sugar) as the body’s primary source for energy.

These antioxidant-rich, anti-inflammatory, immune-boosting foods include:

Leafy greens. Rich in many thyroid-supporting nutrients including magnesium, a mineral many of us are deficient in.

Nuts and seeds. A powerhouse of thyroid-supporting nutrients including magnesium and zinc as well as healthy fats.

Wild-caught fish. An excellent source of iodine and selenium as well as anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids.

Healthy oils. These include extra-virgin olive oil and coconut oil.

Eggs, grass-fed beef, and other quality animal-based sources. Other excellent nutrient sources rich in anti-inflammatory fats.