Hashimoto’s: What You Need To Know
Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is a form of hypothyroidism that is autoimmune in nature. As the result of particular trigger(s), your immune system produces antibodies that attack your thyroid. This immune attack on the thyroid causes a decline in thyroid function. Since the thyroid plays a role in over 300 functions in the body and we have thyroid receptor cells on every single cell in the body, this most often results in a multitude of symptoms and imbalances (poor digestion, nutrient insufficiencies, weight gain, and the inability to lose weight) that can affect your brain (mood, energy, cognitive function), your GI tract (acid reflux, pain, diarrhea, constipation), your skin (rashes, eczema), and your joints (pain, inflammation).
Who is affected?
- 90% of hypothyroidism is Hashimoto’s (inflammation of the thyroid due an autoimmune response) making Hashimoto’s the most common form of thyroid dysfunction
- 14 million people are affected by Hashimoto’s in the United States
- 8 women are diagnosed for every 1 man
- Patients with Hashimoto’s have a 1 in 4 chance of developing a second autoimmune condition
- Hashimoto’s (and other hypothyroidism) is underdiagnosed due to failure to evaluate a full thyroid blood panel (addressing TSH only), out of date reference ranges for labs, and failure of health care providers to recognize symptoms
- Thyroid Federation International estimates that as many as 300 million people are living with some form of thyroid dysfunction with up to half of patients living undiagnosed
What causes Hashimoto’s?
- There is a genetic component to the development of any autoimmune disease. If you have a family member with an autoimmune disease (including Hashimoto’s) you are more likely to develop an autoimmune disease
- Genes will only be “turned on” if there are environmental triggers and leaky gut
- Stress, environmental toxins, SAD (standard american diet), poor sleep
- Intestinal permeability (leaky gut)/imbalanced microbiome
The most common way to test for thyroid dysfunction is to look at TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone). Looking at only TSH looks at a small part of a complex chain of events that are required for optimal thyroid function. A more thorough way to assess thyroid function is to evaluate TSH, Free T4 and Free T3 in conjunction with the presence of symptoms. Lab tests only tell part of the story and are only part of what should determine the most effective treatment. The most common way to diagnose Hashimoto’s is to look for the presence of thyroid antibodies, specifically thyroid peroxidase antibodies and/or thyroglobulin antibodies. The higher the antibody production the more advanced the disease process and the more likely you are to develop a second, third, or even fourth autoimmune disease.
Treatments: Rhett Women’s Center’s Targeted Treatment Plan
The most common thought regarding treatment for Hashimoto’s is that treatment with thyroid supplement hormone (commonly Synthroid) is the only treatment available. By addressing Hashimoto’s using the functional medicine approach, we acknowledge that treatment is far more complex than just replacing thyroid hormone and hoping the disease doesn’t progress. Adequate treatment of Hashimoto’s should include:
- Optimizing your thyroid function (when the thyroid is functioning at an optimal level, patients often feel much better and slow the disease progression)
- Healing the gut: healthy gut function is the key to good health
- 60-70% of disease can be improved and/or reversed by optimizing gut function
- Ensure adequate pancreatic enzyme production, adequate production of stomach acid, and optimal balance of the gut microbiome
- Addressing nutrient deficiencies
- B vitamins, iron, magnesium, and vitamin D are extremely common deficiencies in Hashimoto’s patients. Correcting these deficiencies often eliminates a multitude of symptoms
- Optimizing hormones including sex hormones (estrogen, testosterone, and progesterone)
- Optimizing adrenal function to regulate cortisol levels
- Applying appropriate lifestyle interventions
- Removing inflammatory foods
- Especially gluten (about 90% of patients with Hashimoto’s are gluten intolerant and notice an improvement of symptoms by only removing gluten)
- Dairy (about 50% of Hashimoto’s patients are reactive to dairy)
- Modifying your exercise
- Hashimoto’s puts your body into a state of “fight or flight”, often adding intense exercise for long period of time can exacerbate symptoms
- Adding low-impact, strength and stretching activities is often very effective
- Getting adequate sleep
- Intentionally managing your stress
- Consider using prayer, meditation, breathing exercises, and other tools
- Maintaining life giving relationships with family and friends
- Removing inflammatory foods
Our approach to Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism is inherently different because we acknowledge that Hashimoto’s involves far more that just the thyroid and we know that adequate treatment involves a more complex approach than giving only thyroid supplement hormone. At Rhett Women’s Center, our team goes beyond just managing your disease to give you the power to reverse your disease. By working to identify the root cause(s) and correcting imbalances, we expect significant improvement if not complete reversal of your disease. We don’t expect you to wait for another autoimmune condition to show up, we actively help you restore your health and prevent further disease. We strive to give you the power and knowledge to take control back over your body and create health.