Are Thyroid Patients at Higher Risk of Infection?
There’s no doubt that by now you’ve been inundated with information regarding the coronavirus or COVID-19.
Today we aren’t going to focus on the things you’ve heard 1000x by now but instead, we are going to talk about the virus and its effects on thyroid patients specifically.
Does having thyroid disease impact your ability to either fight off this infection (with a favorable outcome)?
And the answer is a definite yes to this question.
Having thyroid problems absolutely does impact your ability to fight off this infection and is something that you as a thyroid patient should be aware of.
All of these conditions impact your thyroid function which will, therefore, impact your immune system which will impact your ability to fight off infections.
But the connection between these two systems is not as straightforward as you might think.
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Your Immune System with Thyroid Problems
As I mentioned, there is a strong connection between your immune system and your thyroid.
In fact, this connection has been known for at least 20 years.
But what’s interesting is that this connection is BIDIRECTIONAL.
What does that mean?
It means that thyroid problems affect your immune system but it also means that immune problems affect your thyroid system.
And the primary connection between these two systems it the hormone TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone).
You probably know TSH because it’s one of the markers that conventional doctors use to evaluate your thyroid function.
But what you may not be aware of is the fact that TSH also plays a stimulatory function with your immune system (1).
In addition, we also have information that shows that your immune system can actually PRODUCE TSH!
This is one way, and perhaps the most important, that your thyroid and immune function are intertwined.
Impaired Immune Function Increases your Risk of Infection
Why does it matter that your immune system and thyroid function are linked?
Because if you have a problem in one system that will ultimately affect the other.
And when it comes to the novel coronavirus, we happen to care a lot about your immune status!
Impaired immune function will not only increase your risk of becoming infected when exposed to the virus it will also increase your risk of a negative outcome if you get it.
This isn’t anything necessarily to be alarmed about or to freak out about, but it is something that you should be aware of.
So with this in mind, I am going to discuss several steps that you can take to not only improve your thyroid function but also improve your immune system in the process.
These steps will help naturally enhance your immunity, reduce your risk of becoming infected, and provide you with some tips to help reduce your viral load if you do become infected.
Let’s jump in…
How to Think About Treating and Preventing Viral Infection
One of the biggest issues in dealing with the novel coronavirus is understanding how to think about it.
Most people are sufficiently freaked out that their response is to attempt to completely avoid the virus by hunkering down and staying away from every living creature or thing.
This is manifested as what we call social distancing.
But, for the purposes of this article, we are going to avoid talking about social distancing because the chances are very high that ultimately you will end up being exposed to the virus.
Social distancing, at least as it currently stands, is something that cannot last indefinitely and is unlikely to last until we have a vaccine.
This means you will have to prepare to be exposed to the virus and take every step in your power to improve the outcome if/when this does occur.
So the way that we are going to think about this is twofold:
#1. How can I ensure that if I am exposed to the virus I am in the most healthy state possible?
And #2. How can I reduce the impact that the virus has on my health to ensure that I can weather the storm (when it comes)?
Optimize your Immune system BEFORE you get infected (Immunity boosting therapies)
This first step is pretty self-explanatory.
Our goal here is to optimize the immune system so that if you do come into contact with the virus you are reducing the severity of the infection.
Having an immune system that is functioning at optimal capacity will help your body reduce the viral load which in part determines the severity of your illness (2).
If your immune system is functioning well then this will help kill off the virus and reduce the chance of things like a cytokine storm or damage to your intestinal lining as a casualty of inflammation.
One of the theorized mechanisms by which this virus causes so much damage is through an immune-mediated response which causes damage to the lungs and results in something called acute respiratory distress syndrome.
How do you optimize your immune system BEFORE you get infected as a thyroid patient?
This is what I would do:
#1. Optimize your Thyroid Levels.
Your first focus should be on your thyroid hormone levels.
Your goal here should be to optimize your free T3 and free T4 such that they are not LOW and preferably in at least the mid-range.
You should also optimize them such that you are no longer feeling the symptoms of hypothyroidism.
When it comes to immune function, you should aim to not suppress your TSH down to unreadable levels.
The TSH does play a stimulatory role in your immune system so you want there to be some TSH left.
Do your best to optimize your thyroid while NOT suppressing your TSH.
This may include the use of thyroid medications but it can also be done with natural thyroid remedies, depending on the severity of your thyroid disease.
#2. Make sure you are not zinc deficient.
The next thing you want to do is make sure that you are not zinc deficient.
Zinc serum tests are not capable of assessing this so you don’t need to worry about getting a test.
The best way to assess for zinc deficiency is with a trial of zinc supplementation.
And because zinc also helps improve thyroid function through thyroid conversion, it’s probably a good idea to go through a bottle of zinc supplements to make sure you are “topped” off.
There’s very little downside to this method as long as you use a low dose.
For those who aren’t aware, zinc plays an important role in regulating immune function and it is something that many thyroid patients are deficient in.
#3. Optimize Vitamin D levels.
Vitamin D, much like zinc, also helps to regulate immune function and vitamin D deficiency has been implicated in autoimmune disease.
So, naturally, you would also want to ensure that your vitamin D levels are in the optimal range.
For most people, this will include taking vitamin D3 supplements but I would also encourage you to get outside and get some sunlight (where appropriate).
Natural sunlight provides the body with a natural source of vitamin D and is far better than using supplements.
If you are unable to get outside due to various circumstances then make sure that you are supplementing with Vitamin D3, at least for the next 3-6 months!
#4. Reduce Inflammation.
The next thing you should do is ensure that you do not have any extra sources of inflammation in your body.
Normally, you would want to find the cause of the inflammation in your body but given that we don’t have a huge amount of time you may get the most bang for your buck by taking anti-inflammatory supplements as well as consuming anti-inflammatory foods.
This should help to cool down inflammation and improve immune function, at least temporarily, in the short term.
Inflammation is something you want to avoid in general but it’s especially important if you are trying to fight off an infection.
#5. Manage thyroid antibodies
Lastly, you will want to pay attention to your thyroid antibodies.
The presence of thyroid antibodies indicates that you already have a problem with your immune system, otherwise they wouldn’t be there!
If you have thyroid antibodies then your immune system is certainly impaired which does put you at increased risk.
I have a list of several therapies, including natural options that you can use at home, which can help reduce thyroid antibodies.
Take a look at this list and be aggressive in the therapies that you choose to use!
Reducing Viral Load if/when you are Infected
You’ve probably heard a lot already about how to improve your immune function but now we also need to talk about things you should do if you do become infected with the coronavirus.
Again, the chances are quite high that you will ultimately come into contact with this virus at some point which is why you need to have some therapies in your back pocket that you can use to reduce your viral load.
The severity of your illness will largely be determined by how much viral load is in your body.
The higher your viral load (the more viral replications that occur inside of you) the higher your risk of complications secondary to the viral illness.
So your strategies and therapies to TREAT the virus should focus on reducing that viral load.
The good news is that there are several ways that you can do this and some are not as intuitive as you might think.
And, by the way, these strategies ALSO work if you have any viral illness so I would remember them and consider using them the next time you get sick.
These strategies are all designed to help keep you out of the hospital and away from a ventilator because the chance that you will ever get off a ventilator if you get on one is about 10-50% (depending on which study you are looking at).
#1. Mechanical disruption of your mucus membranes.
The coronavirus can live in your nasal passageways where it can both replicate and then be ejected during a sneeze to try and infect others.
If you have the infection one of your main goals should be to eliminate these particles if at all possible!
Luckily, you can do just that with mechanical disruption of your nasal passageways or mucus membranes.
This may sound complicated but it’s actually very easy.
One way to do this is with the use of neti pots.
Neti pots are not only considered safe by major health associations but they are also considered to be very effective (3) (provided they are cleaned and used properly).
Neti pots work well because they eject extra viral particles as you flush out your sinuses which reduces viral replication and viral load.
If you are infected make sure to utilize this technique 2-3 times per day!
#2. The use of mucolytics.
Another important way to reduce viral load in your respiratory tract is with the use of substances called mucolytics.
Mucolytics help to make your mucus more watery-like which allows your body to eliminate the mucus which often contains high amounts of viroids.
The more mucus you expel the lower your viral count will be in your body.
So mucolytics are a great way to reduce that viral load and actually reduce your ultimate risk.
Mucolytics come in two varieties:
Over-the-counter medications and over-the-counter supplements.
Use whichever jives best with your own personal preferences.
If you want to go the route of over-the-counter medications then you can use guaifenesin.
1,200mg taken every 12 hours should do the trick.
Guaifenesin is very well tolerated and is relatively benign as far as medications go.
You can buy it at any major grocery store and at places such as Costco.
If you want to go the route of over-the-counter supplements then you will want to look into the following:
These are supplements that have multiple effects, one of which is to help your body expel mucus.
NAC is probably the strongest and most well-researched but bromelain and quercetin are also very effective.
If you do decide to use these supplements make sure you find a quality brand.
#3. Reducing viral load in your mouth.
The coronavirus (and other respiratory viruses) take up residence in your respiratory tract.
Your mouth, nose, and lungs are all included in the respiratory tract and are all places where the virus can take up residence.
One way to kill any viroid particles in your mouth is with the use of Listerine (4) (provided it contains alcohol).
Alcohol denatures the viroid particles and swishing with Listerine at least once a day can reduce the viral load directly in your mouth.
You want to reduce the viral load in your nasal passageways as well as your lungs (which are other topics we will talk about as well).
Heat has been shown to do two very important things:
#1. Ambient heat from the outside causes viroid particles to fall to the ground which reduces their spread through the air.
And #2. Heat reduces viral replication which can reduce viral load (5).
This is probably why our own bodies react with a fever to try and prevent viral replication (from the heat).
This is also probably why disease severity is decreased in climates that are warmer.
If possible, get outside in warm weather to expose your body to heat and to improve your vitamin D levels.
#5. UVB exposure.
Ultraviolet rays have been shown to kill viroid particles and this is another reason to get outside.
How can you get exposure to UVB rays?
By going out in the sun.
This is yet another reason why I recommend sunlight exposure.
It will help you improve your body heat, improve your vitamin D levels, expose yourself to UVB rays, and it reduces the spread of viral particles from the heat directly.
#6. Aerosolized Colloidal Silver
Another therapy that you may want to consider is the use of aerosolized colloidal silver.
Colloidal silver is a natural anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, and anti-viral agent.
It’s considered to have an excellent safety profile and it’s available over the counter.
The only downside to colloidal silver is that it must be exposed to the virus/infection in order to be effective.
That’s where aerosolization comes into play.
You can aerosolize the colloidal silver particles with the use of ultrasonic cavitation and then inhale these particles.
They will then travel down your lungs and can help kill the virus on contact once they are there.
You can aerosolize these particles with the use of a diffuser which uses ultrasonic cavitation technology (not all diffuses use this though, so make sure yours does!).
This is something that I do when my kids get regular colds and it works well.
As a thyroid patient, you should be acutely away of the risk that you face if you remain undertreated or mistreated (as most thyroid patients are currently).
This doesn’t mean that you need to be scared or frightened but it does mean that you should have an understanding of this potential risk.
This article outlines several therapies that you can use (at home) to help you bolster your immune system and also help reduce your viral load (which reduces your risk of side effects from the coronavirus) should you get infected.
Given that we probably will not see a vaccine for some time, and that we will not be able to stay locked up forever, there’s a high chance that you will be exposed to this virus at some point.
Now I want to hear from you:
Were you aware of the connection between your thyroid and your immune system?
Are you using any of the strategies listed above to help improve your immune system BEFORE you get sick?
Do you feel like your immune system is weakened from your thyroid condition?
Leave your comments or questions below!