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.
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)
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):
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?"
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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