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April is Hashimoto’s Awareness Month - Darcy Proctor Wellness

April is Hashimoto’s Awareness Month

By Darcy Proctor

Apr 10

Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, an autoimmune disorder, is the leading cause of hypothyroidism in the United States.  If you have been diagnosed with hypothyroidism but not Hashimoto’s, please continue reading to make sure you have been properly diagnosed.

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According to the American Thyroid Association, 

“Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, also known as chronic lymphocytic thyroiditis, is an autoimmune disorder in which antibodies directed against the thyroid gland lead to chronic inflammation. It is not known why some people make antibodies, although this condition tends to run in families. Over time, however, this results in impaired ability of the thyroid gland to produce thyroid hormones, leading to gradual decline in function and eventually an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism). Hashimoto’s thyroiditis occurs most commonly in middle aged women, but can be seen at any age, and can also affect men, and children.” (1)

Signs and Symptoms

The signs and symptoms of Hashimoto’s are the same as hypothyroidism.  Every cell in our body utilizes thyroid hormone, so when thyroid hormone decreases as a result of Hashimoto’s, all of our body’s systems start to slow down as well, leading to the following symptoms (just to name a few):

  • Slowed metabolism
  • Fatigue
  • Weight gain or inability to lose weight
  • Impaired digestion including constipation or IBS
  • Acid reflux
  • Increased sensitivity to cold
  • Dry skin
  • Anxiety and/or depression
  • Loss of motivation
  • Brain fog
  • Muscle and joint aches and pains
  • Muscle weakness
  • Exercise intolerance
  • Irregular or heavy menses
  • Infertility
  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Hair loss
  • Missing the outer third of eyebrows
  • Allergies

Lab Testing

Lab testing, as well as symptoms, are used to diagnose Hashimoto’s.  A complete thyroid lab panel should be run to determine your levels of thyroid hormones as well as thyroid antibodies.  About 95% of those with Hashimoto’s will present with elevated TPO antibodies.

At a minimum, the following lab tests should be ordered by your physician, or you can order them by yourself through labs such as Ulta Labs or Direct Labs.  Check with your insurance company as you may be able to submit these self-ordered tests for reimbursement.

For a definitive diagnosis of Hashimoto’s, an ultrasound can also be ordered which would show any abnormal changes to the thyroid gland including nodules.

It is rather uncommon to be hypothyroid without having Hashimoto’s so I would encourage you to make sure you have been tested for thyroid antibodies or have an ultrasound if you have been given a diagnosis of only hypothyroidism with Hashimoto’s.  Many labs these days have a threshold and will give the result with a “less than” so you may in fact have Hashimoto’s but the antibodies at this time are still low enough to not register as a positive result.  Continue retesting for antibodies as they will change over time.

There are additional lab tests that can be run to get a more complete picture of the health of your thyroid that I discuss in this blog post, "Has Your Thyroid Disorder Been Properly Diagnosed?"

Treatment

By removing triggers and restoring your immune function, as well as addressing your unique root cause, you can absolutely reduce your antibodies and for some, put your Hashimoto’s into remission. 

Repair Your Gut

Because Hashimoto’s is an autoimmune disease, you must first strengthen your immune system by removing the triggers causing the immune response.  Since 80% of your immune system resides in your gut, ensuring optimal gut flora and function is essential.

For a large majority of those with autoimmunity, removing gluten and dairy from their diet drastically improved their symptoms.  Gluten has been shown to cause leaky gut, which is when your gut lining becomes permeable, leaking bacteria, antigens, and toxins into your blood stream.  This leads to inflammation and a potential autoimmune response.  Research has shown that leaky gut is a danger signal for autoimmune disease (2).  

The casein protein in dairy products also has been shown to cause inflammation particularly in those with autoimmune conditions.  Gluten and dairy contain chemically similar proteins that wreak havoc on the gut, increase inflammation, and can cause the immune system to attack the thyroid.  Removing these two inflammatory foods, while increasing gut healing foods like greens, and collagen from bone broth, are great places to start the healing process. 

Supplement with Thyroid Hormone Replacement Medication

Depending on the level of productivity of the thyroid, some may also benefit from thyroid hormone replacement medication.  The main medication options include:

I will go over these medications in more detail in a future post.  Please seek a qualified functional medicine practitioner who is well versed in thyroid disease to help you determine the right medication and the correct dosage for your unique situation. 

Maintain a Healthy Diet and Lifestyle

Limiting stress and toxins, and eating nutrient dense whole foods will decrease inflammation, support your immune system, and help you effectively manage Hashimoto’s and possibly put it into remission. 

  • Take an assessment of the potential toxins in your environment and your home and make healthier swaps when possible. 
  • Engage in regular stress reducing activities such as exercise, meditation, and yoga. 
  • Do a pantry clean-out of all processed foods and swap them out with whole food versions. 
  • If your symptoms continue to impact your life, seek a qualified functional medicine practitioner to help you uncover your unique root cause.
  • If you need help implementing these changes into your life, please feel free to set up a free health strategy session with me at your convenience.

While there is no cure for Hashimoto’s, you can absolutely manage this disorder and its symptoms with the proper diet and lifestyle interventions and the right people on your medical support team.

For more information and support, I would love to have you join my community or my private Facebook group for moms over 40 suffering from thyroid disorders, Healthy Thyroid Over 40.

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