Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) is a condition in which the thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough thyroid  hormones which regulate metabolic rate.  

It seldom causes symptoms in the early stages, but over time, untreated hypothyroidism can cause a number of health problems, including  obesity, joint pain, infertility and heart disease because it causes excessive inflammation in the body.

Conventional Treatment

Standard treatment involves daily use of synthetic thyroid hormone. Your TSH level is usually rechecked after two to three months on thyroid hormone to find the correct dose.

Excessive amounts of the hormone can cause side effects, such as:

  • Increased appetite
  • Insomnia
  • Heart palpitations
  • Nervousness
  • Shakiness
  • Weight loss

Conventional medicine aims to achieve a normal TSH level. However, many people will still suffer with symptoms even after TSH is within the “normal range”.

Functional Medicine and Hypothyroidism

Up to 90% of hypothyroid people actually suffer from an autoimmune attack against the thyroid gland causing destruction of thyroid tissue.  The reason many people do not feel better even after TSH has been normalized is because their autoimmunity is never addressed.

Autoimmunity against the thyroid identifies an underlying autoimmune condition and the thyroid is merely the targeted tissue of the immune system.

The focus of Functional Medicine is to manage the autoimmunity and decrease the attacks against the thyroid through dietary intervention and nutritional support.


Lab assessment of hypothyroid patients should include thyroid antibodies, to assess for autoimmune thyroid conditions.

If thyroid antibodies are positive, additional testing may include intestinal permeability testing (to assess for leaky gut), stool testing (to rule out an imbalance of gut bacteria) and food sensitivity testing.


A comprehensive approach to the management of complex conditions such as autoimmune disease must take into consideration many aspects of health, including gut barrier integrity and imbalances of gut flora, liver detoxification capacity and toxic burden, hormone imbalances, energy production capacity, nutrient status and most importantly, immune imbalances which promote autoimmune states.  More specifically, Functional Medicine approaches autoimmune disease by identifying the triggers and mediators of the autoimmune condition, modulating the self-destructive immune responses and enhancing the body’s ability to recover from flare-ups.  

There are 4 areas of management of autoimmune conditions in the Functional Medicine approach:

  • Identifying and avoiding triggers of autoimmune responses
  • Modulating the autoimmunity and reducing tissue destruction
  • Enhancing and supporting recovery from flare-ups
  • Addressing associated conditions that promote autoimmune responses
Dietary Intervention

Some foods can provoke immune responses and promote attacks against the thyroid, including gluten (found in wheat), corn, soy and dairy. Food sensitivity testing helps to identify and avoid these foods.

Functional Medicine seeks to restore normal body Function


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