03/18/2010 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

How Thyroid Medications Can Destroy Your Thyroid

Many people with thyroid disease have trouble getting well. The majority of hypothyroid disease is actually an autoimmune disease called Hashimoto thyroiditis. As an autoimmune disease Hashimoto thyroiditis attacks the cells of the thyroid slowly destroying its ability to function. Unfortunately, even when the disease is diagnosed correctly, the common treatment is just to replace the diminished thyroid hormone, usually with an oral tablet or pill of the thyroid hormone thyroxine (T4 or levothyroxine), a synthetic analog. According to conventional medical practice, most patients with hypothyroidism will need to be on T4 treatment for the rest of their lives.

The problem with only giving hormone replacement, is it does nothing to stop the progression of the true disease; it only masks some of the symptoms. So initially your thyroid tests come back normal. Meanwhile your immune system is still attacking your thyroid. Eventually your symptoms may get worse and more thyroid hormone may be prescribed. So while you are increasing your levels of thyroid hormones, making your levels of thyroid look normal on the lab results, you are still getting worse.

This may come as a shock. It did to me. I was taught both the conventional and alternative methods for treating thyroid disease, neither of which was wholly satisfying. It made so much sense to understand its autoimmune aspect, and it helped me to find solutions in situations in which I had previously failed. Autoimmune thyroid problems can present as hyperthyroid or hypothyroid. It may be marked by an inability to regulate our response to thyroid medications.

Symptoms common to hypothyroidism are:

• Enlarged thyroid (or goiter)
• Trouble swallowing
• Intolerance to cold
• Mild weight gain
• Fatigue
• Constipation
• Dry skin
• Hair loss
• Heavy and irregular menses
• Infertility
• Difficulty concentrating or thinking
(Source: The Hormone Foundation)

So how should it be treated? Autoimmune diseases are multi-factorial in their causes. That means that further tests must be done to properly evaluate the real underlying source of the disease. Some of the most common factors are:

• Wheat (gluten) sensitivities or celiac disease,
• Sudden changes in the hormone estrogen that may occur after pregnancy, abortions or menopause.
• Heavy metal toxicity.
• Vitamin D deficiency.
The important FACT is that without a more complete assessment of a complex situation, proper treatment is more than unlikely. And despite most usually reliable sites such as the, there is mention that the problem is autoimmune, but it's treatment as such is not addressed.

How can you find out if this is a problem for you? First you can discuss this with your doctor or endocrinologist. This is not a hidden secret, ask them about testing for autoantibodies. Most endocrinologists perform these tests regularly. The two major ones tested are Thyroid Antithyroglobulin Ab and Thyroid Peroxidase Ab. People with Hashimoto's disease have these antibodies in increased amounts, but people whose hypothyroidism is caused by other conditions do not. You can also find a source for testing thyroid autoantibodies by visiting:

Autoimmune diseases are not simple to treat and they require a sophisticated understanding of biochemistry and nutrition. But with proper diagnosis, the path to healing becomes more clearly defined.