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The thyroid gland plays an overlooked yet powerful role in the body’s overall wellbeing. Unfortunately, most people don’t understand how vital this little gland is for our health, and the avalanche-effect it has on the body when its function is disrupted. Even more unfortunate is the lack of attention given to the thyroid by medical experts when reviewing a patient’s symptoms. Testing thyroid hormones and function seems to be an afterthought for our current form of healthcare. Sadly, ignoring the imbalances in this gland only makes symptoms worse over time. It’s time to clarify the dangers of Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, the autoimmune condition of the thyroid gland that affects millions but is often discovered too late.

What is Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis? 

Nestled within the cells of the butterfly-shaped thyroid gland lies an autoimmune condition that can disrupt this harmony – Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. Named after the Japanese physician Hakaru Hashimoto, who first identified it in 1912, this autoimmune disorder silently orchestrates an attack on the thyroid, leaving a trail of perplexing symptoms in its path. [1] Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis affects about 5% of Americans and is also commonly known as chronic lymphocytic thyroiditis. [1][2]

What is “Thyroiditis”?

If something ends with the suffix -itis, it generally refers to inflammation. Thyroiditis, then, refers to inflammation of the thyroid gland.  Hashimoto’s disease often results in hypothyroidism due to the gradual destruction of the thyroid gland. It’s the most common factor in hypothyroidism, which refers to an underactive thyroid that doesn’t make enough thyroid hormones to meet the body’s needs.

In very rare cases, it can also contribute to the opposite problem: When attacked by antibodies, the thyroid might first develop too much thyroid hormone, which is referred to as hyperthyroidism or overactive thyroid. [2] If this condition develops, it’s usually extremely early on in the disease and labeled as Hashitoxicosis.

Hypothyroidism: Also Known as “Low Thyroid”

Hypothyroidism occurs when your body isn’t producing adequate thyroid hormone. This condition can develop from several contributing factors, including: [3]

  • Production. Production problems happen when the thyroid isn’t producing enough hormones. 
  • Conversion. Conversion is a problem when the hormones aren’t converting to their active form well. 
  • Destruction. Destruction occurs when there’s an autoimmune disorder, as with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. However, Hashimoto’s isn’t the only trigger. 
  • Interference. Interference happens when your thyroid hormone levels are affected by an outside factor like bromine, which is in some processed foods. 

It’s possible to have more than one of these issues, especially if you have an autoimmune condition and some level of toxicity.

Symptoms of Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis

As a hypothyroid autoimmune disease, Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis has many symptoms associated with generalized hypothyroidism.

Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis Develops Over Time

While teenagers can develop this condition, it generally develops around 30-50 years of age. [3] While symptoms may be present for years, they’re so mild that people generally dismiss them as other lifestyle factors, such as sleep deprivation: The disease will become more prominent as the years go on. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) provides a list of common symptoms of Hashimoto’s disease, which include the following: [1][3]

  • Fatigue  
  • Weight gain  
  • Low tolerance for cold temperatures
  • Constipation  
  • Joint pain  
  • Muscle pain   
  • Dry skin  
  • Dry hair or thinning hair 
  • Slower heart rate  
  • Fertility problems  
  • Heavy or irregular periods  
  • Goiter (enlarged thyroid)  
  • Mental health disorders  
  • High cholesterol  

Heart failure, heart disease, and myxedema (a severe form of hypothyroidism that can lead to multiple organ failures) can occur in severe cases. [4] Patients with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis also have an elevated risk of developing thyroid cancer 

Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis vs. Graves’ Disease

While Hashimoto’s is an autoimmune disorder that leads to hypothyroidism – when the thyroid doesn’t make enough thyroid hormones – Graves’ Disease is the opposite. Graves’ leads to hyperthyroidism, which causes the thyroid to make too much thyroid hormone.

Oddly enough, it is possible for both of these disorders to occur at the same time. After all, both Hashimoto’s and Graves’ are autoimmune conditions that challenge the body’s ability to find balance.

Who is Most Likely to Develop Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis? 

There are several contributing factors to Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. A few examples are: 

  • Women are about 4-10 times more at risk of developing Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis than men [3]
  • Family history 
  • Age (the most common age group for developing Hashimoto’s is 30-50 years old) [3]
  • Radiation exposure 
  • Excessive iodine intake 
  • Certain viruses, such as hepatitis C [3]
  • Those who have been diagnosed with another autoimmune disorder, such as celiac disease, lupus, or rheumatoid arthritis

These risk factors paint a general picture of who is susceptible to Hashimoto’s. However, these risk factors don’t consider the actual cause or trigger.

How is Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis Diagnosed?

There are a few different approaches taken by our current form of healthcare to approach a diagnosis of Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. Doctors operating within the current medical system will likely want to gather information from the following methods:

  • Medical History and Physical Exam: Your doctor will ask questions about your medical and family history first to determine risk factors. During the physical exam, your doctor will focus on checking for a goiter – a swollen thyroid – in your neck, which can develop in some individuals with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. [5]
  • Blood Tests: Blood tests are vital for receiving an accurate diagnosis. Your doctor will order specific blood tests to determine thyroid function and identify any contributing factors of hypothyroidism.
    These tests typically include evaluating levels of thyroid hormones T4 (thyroxine), T3 (triiodothyronine), and TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone). Another blood test that might be recommended would involve testing for the presence of thyroid peroxidase antibodies (TPO), a type of antibody commonly found in individuals with Hashimoto’s disease. [5]
  • Thyroid Ultrasound: In most cases, blood tests will provide enough information to confirm Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. However, if your doctor suspects the condition but doesn’t detect the presence of antithyroid antibodies in your blood, an ultrasound of your thyroid could be recommended.
    The ultrasound images can reveal the size of your thyroid and specific features associated with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. Furthermore, thyroid ultrasounds help rule out other contributing factors of thyroid enlargement, such as thyroid nodules: These nodules are common and usually benign, characterized by lumps within the thyroid gland. [5]

After getting test results, your primary care doctor will want to discuss various treatment options. However, these treatments will usually fall under prescribed medications or surgery.

The Fireman vs. The Carpenter in Healthcare

At The Wellness Way, we talk about the current medical system’s perspective on healthcare versus our perspective, as the “fireman approach” versus the “carpenter approach.”

The current medical system’s “fireman” doctors have two tools (treatment options) to take care of people: an axe and a hose. The axe represents cutting things out during a surgical procedure. The hose represents using medications to extinguish the “flames”: inflammation, pain, and other symptoms.

Wellness Way doctors are more like carpenters: They assess the body’s current state with testing and then create a personalized plan to rebuild using nutrients from foods and supplements. Sunshine, rest, and positive relationships are some common natural therapies that support the body in healing.

While these things are considered “complementary medicine” or “alternative medicine,” scientific research backs up their effectiveness in supporting the healing process.

However, The Wellness Way considers this testing to be incomplete. After all, TSH isn’t a thyroid hormone—it’s a pituitary gland hormone. TSH tests help to determine thyroid demand, not thyroid function. The thyroid does create T4, which is why this measurement gives a better picture, but it’s still missing T3, the active hormone circulating in the bloodstream.

Remember the four issues that affect thyroid function, as mentioned above? (Production, Destruction, Conversion, Inference). When you measure only TSH and T4, you only test for hormone production. Standard treatment options also reflect this.

The Current Medical System’s Approach to Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis

Our current form of healthcare acknowledges Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis as an autoimmune disease but tends to view these conditions as inherited or with an unknown cause. First-line treatment of Hashimoto’s is usually medication to make up for the body’s deficiency in thyroid hormone.

Common Medications Prescribed for Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis

The most common medical treatment is thyroid hormone replacement [6]. Here are some of the most common medications prescribed for Hashimoto’s thyroiditis:

  • Synthetic T4 replacement drugs: Levothyroxine, a synthetic T4 replacement (Levoxyl, and Synthroid) is the most common medication to restore the body’s healthy levels of thyroid hormone. While medical doctors will adjust the dose based on future blood tests, this medication will be required of Hashimoto’s patients every day for the rest of their lives.  
  • Synthetic T3 replacement drugs: In some cases, Liothyronine (Cytomel) will be prescribed as a synthetic hormone replacement of T3.  This medication can either be prescribed in addition to the T4 medication levothyroxine or if T4 medications are not as effective in alleviating symptoms. [6]

If your doctor prescribes a thyroid hormone replacement medication, they usually expect you to stay on it your entire life.

What Causes Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis? Traumas, Toxins, & Thoughts

When considering the contributing factors leading to Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, the physical, chemical, and emotional stressors – categorized as traumas, toxins, and thoughts (the 3 T’s) – must also be considered and addressed before developing a treatment plan.

Traumas (Physical Stressors)

Traumas or physical stressors can be acute or chronic. Chronic subluxations in the spine can inhibit nerve and blood flow to the small intestine, leading to autoimmune conditions like Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. Other potential traumas that could trigger Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis include:

  • Poor posture
  • Concussions
  • Physical abuse
  • Sexual assault/rape
  • Car accidents
  • Severe illness or infection
  • Having a baby
  • Surgery

Physical traumas and the potential of chiropractic care should not be underestimated when it comes to Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. For example, subluxations at C7 in the neck could lead to reduced nerve and blood supply to the thyroid, contributing to dysfunction. Traumas are made worse when coupled with toxic exposures. 

Toxins (Biochemical Stressors)

Toxins are biochemical stressors that may be either natural or synthetic. Toxins that may contribute to autoimmunity and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis include:

  • Sugar overload – Researchers have found a link between insulin resistance and thyroid diseases, including Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. [7]
  • Dysbiosis – An imbalance in beneficial gut bacteria versus more detrimental strains can alter the lining of the gut, opening the door to Hashimoto’s and other autoimmune conditions. A more diverse gut microbiota is associated with a decreased risk of Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. [8]
  • Medications – Certain medications like amiodaronelithium, and interferon α can also trigger thyroid inflammation and Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism. [7]
  • Viruses and Vaccines – Viral infections have been known to trigger Graves’ disease, whether acquired directly or through vaccination. [7][8]
  • Smoking – Chronic smoking is linked to thyroid autoimmune conditions such as Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. [9][10]
  • Food allergies – Food allergies are a known trigger of autoimmune diseases. [11]
  • Endocrine-disruptors – Phthalates are a group of chemicals used in plastics that can trigger hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s. [12]

Traumas and toxins are made worse by negative thought patterns and chronic emotional stress.

Thoughts (Emotional Stressors)

Emotional stress is a significant contributor to Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis as it causes the nervous system to stay in a state of fight-or-flight. Scientific research has confirmed that stressful events can trigger Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis and the onset of intense hypothyroidism symptoms. [13] Emotional stress can come from the following:

  • Relationship issues– Relationships can turn toxic, leading to chronic stress. Prolonged stress can lead to dysregulation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, which can, in turn, affect digestion and the immune response.
  • Financial stress– Financial struggles can lead to dysbiosis and chronic inflammation due to the long-term effects of increased stress and cortisol.
  • Watching the news– The mainstream media rarely focuses on the positive. Regularly exposing yourself to bad news increases fear, worry, and overall stress, setting off an immune response.
  • Feeling overwhelmed– Stress from significant life changes, like a recent marriage, a new baby, graduation, a divorce, or even moving to a new city can lead to gut dysbiosis and an increased susceptibility to autoimmune conditions.
  • Holding a grudge/pent-up anger– Holding a grudge creates stress in the body and may cause gut imbalances, leading to autoimmunity.
  • A death in the family or a close friend– Grief is another form of stress that may create imbalances in the nervous system, gut, and immune response.
  • Military combat – PTSD (Post-traumatic stress disorder) from combat or other causes can create a chronic sense of fight-or-flight in the body, creating a dysregulated immune response.
  • Witnessing violence or a natural disaster – Being a witness to a mass shooting, murder, accident, or natural disaster is another potential cause of PTSD that may create chronic immune imbalances.

The cumulative effect of these traumas, toxins, and thoughts can create inflammation and increase the risk of dis-ease anywhere in the body.

The Wellness Way Approach to Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis

At The Wellness Way, we dig deeper to solve the health challenges others can’t. We start with testing to see where there may be imbalances and then develop a personalized nutrition and supplement plan to help your body heal itself. 

What causes Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis? It’s important to determine the immune system and causing destruction. You may need to address production, conversion, or interference in hypothyroidism, but autoimmune disorders are triggered by a stressor on the immune system. The goal with any autoimmune condition should be to support the immune system and healthy immune responses as much as possible.

The Body Doesn’t Make Mistakes

When the term “autoimmune disease” comes up, most people imagine the immune system making a mistake and attacking itself. That’s what we learn from doctors, books, and articles, but it’s incorrect. An autoimmune disorder develops when the body makes antibodies against its own tissues. There can be antibodies to the muscles, intestines, or other normally healthy tissue. When this occurs, the body is working exactly as it’s supposed to in response to its environment.

Important Tests for Assessing Your Gut and Immune Health

Is it a matter of production, conversion, destruction, or interference? The Wellness Way thyroid panel measures all the thyroid hormones and other factors that help address these four main contributors to thyroid imbalance. However, it’s also important to check for food allergies, antibodies, and gut dysbiosis or infections:

Just because a food is healthy in general doesn’t mean it’s healthy for you: Getting a food allergy test can tell you which toxic foods to avoid for your body’s individual responses. However, your testing strategy will depend on which ones your Wellness Way clinic considers most important for your health history and symptoms. 

Dietary Changes for Those with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis

Lowering inflammation is the most important first step to restoring health so the gut can heal, and the immune system can calm down. That means avoiding your food allergies and following a personalized nutrition program, as recommended by your Wellness Way clinic. The following are some additional guidelines for inflammatory and autoimmune conditions like Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis:

  • No sugar or processed foods – Both increase inflammation and lead to gut dysbiosis, aggravating the immune response and increasing the risk of autoimmune conditions like Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. [10]
  • Gluten-free, mostly grain-free – Gluten is known to aggravate the gut lining, contributing to chronic inflammation throughout the body. Those with autoimmune thyroid disease often also have Celiac disease. [14]
  • No cow’s milk dairy products – Goat and sheep’s milk products may be better tolerated. In fact, they may even be beneficial for lowering inflammation in the gut, which makes up a large part of the immune response. [15]
  • Avoid high omega-6 vegetable oils, like corn, canola, soybean, cottonseed oil, sunflower, grapeseed, and others, which can alter the omega-6 to omega-3 balance to be more inflammatory. [16] Instead, use fruit oils like olive, coconut, avocado, and palm oil; or animal fats like beef tallow, bacon grease, and duck fat.
  • Avoid alcohol – Alcohol compromises the intestinal lining, increases inflammation, and alters the bacterial balance, causing dysbiosis and increasing the risk of autoimmune disease. [17]
  • Consume an overall low carbohydratenon-inflammatory diet of organic whole foods, which supply nutrients, antioxidants, and food for a healthy gut microbiome.
  • Eat grass-fed red meat – L-carnitine is a key amino acid needed for healthy thyroid function, especially for supporting healthy levels of thyroid hormone in Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis and hypothyroidism. [18] The best sources are lamb and grass-fed beef.
  • Eat omega-3-rich foods – Wild-caught salmon, herring, sardines, walnuts, and ground flaxseeds provide omega-3 fatty acids and help lower inflammation, which can reduce autoimmunity. [19]
  • Follow a Personalized Nutrition Program based on your food allergy test results.
  • Add specific nutrient-dense foods: Add Liver/organ meats, sauerkraut, and microgreens for enhanced nutrition. Liver is nature’s multivitamin, according to Dr. Patrick Flynn.
  • Focus on antioxidants – Including things like turmeric, green tea, berries, dark chocolate, green leafy vegetables, and other foods rich in phytochemicals helps keep inflammation under control. They also support a healthy microbiome. [20][21]

Diet is paramount, but supplements can help the body heal the digestive tract.

Supplements For Supporting Gut and Thyroid Health

Every patient is different, but some herbal remedies used at The Wellness Way for Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis may include one or more of the following:

  • Albizia – Albizia lebbeck is an herb with a strong anti-inflammatory effect, which may be helpful for autoimmunity. [22]
  • Vitamin D3– Vitamin D is important for getting inflammation and autoimmune disease under control. A 2020 study highlighted the role of vitamin D in the health of the mucosal lining of the intestine. [23]
  • Selenium – Selenium was shown to reduce thyroid hormone antibodies and associated symptoms of hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. [24][25]
  • Iron – People with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis are more likely to have an iron deficiency and develop anemia, which iron supplements can support. Your Wellness Way clinic can recommend a pure supplement free of harmful fillers and toxins. [26]

Supplements can help, but dietary and lifestyle changes can help to shift the body out of autoimmunity and into a state of healing.

Lifestyle Changes & Complementary Therapies to Support Those with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis

  • Physical activity – Regular exercise supports healthy blood flow, metabolism, thyroid health, and oxygenation throughout the body, facilitating healing. You don’t have to commit to a marathon; even walking and gardening can help.
  • Regular chiropractic care – Chiropractic care helps to improve blood flow and nerve flow while decreasing overall physical stress on the body. It also supports balance in the autonomic nervous system. [27]

Be a well-informed patient! Here are some resources for learning more about thyroid imbalances, Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, and other autoimmune conditions.

Educational Resources for Thyroid Conditions

Videos & Webinars for Further Education on Thyroid Imbalances and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis

Articles to Support Thyroid Conditions

References

  1. Hashimoto’s Disease | Endocrine Diseases | PubMed (nih.gov).  
  2. Hashimoto’s Disease: An Overview of Symptoms, Risk Factors, Diagnosis and Treatment | Mayo Clinic 
  3. Hypothyroidism (Underactive Thyroid) | National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases | U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Health Information: Endocrine Diseases | (nih.gov).
  4. Myxedema and Coma (Severe Hypothyroidism) | Department of Endocrinology & Metabolism | University of Amsterdam: The Netherlands | National Center for Biotechnology Information | National Library of Medicine | PubMed (nih.gov).
  5. Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis | Endocrine System: Adrenal Gland Procedures | Conditions and Diseases | Johns Hopkins Medicine
  6. Hashimoto’s Disease: Management and Treatment | Health Library: Diseases and Conditions | Cleveland Clinic
  7. The Relationship between Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus and Related Thyroid Diseases | PMC (nih.gov)
  8. Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis (Lymphocytic Thyroiditis) | American Thyroid Association 
  9. Impact of smoking on thyroid gland: dose-related effect of urinary cotinine levels on thyroid function and thyroid autoimmunity | PubMed (nih.gov)
  10. Influence of smoking on thyroid activity  | PubMed (nih.gov)
  11. Food intolerance in patients with manifest autoimmunity. Observational study | PubMed (nih.gov)
  12. Thyroid disruptors and their possible clinical implications | PMC (nih.gov)
  13. Chronic Thyroiditis (Hashimoto Disease) | Health Library: Endocrinology | Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
  14. Celiac Disease in North Italian Patients with Autoimmune Thyroid Diseases | PubMed (nih.gov)
  15. In vitro Evaluation of Immunomodulatory Activities of Goat Milk Extracellular Vesicles (mEVs) in a Model of Gut Inflammation | PubMed (nih.gov)
  16. The Importance of the Ratio of Omega-6/Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids | PubMed (nih.gov)
  17. Alcohol and Gut-Derived Inflammation | PMC (nih.gov)
  18. Nutritional Management of Thyroiditis of Hashimoto | International Journal of Molecular Sciences | PubMed (nih.gov).
  19. Omega-3 Fatty Acids And Inflammation: You Are What You Eat! | PubMed (nih.gov)
  20. The Immunomodulatory and Anti-Inflammatory Role of Polyphenols | PubMed (nih.gov)
  21. The effects of polyphenols and other bioactives on human health | PubMed (nih.gov)
  22. Anti-inflammatory activity of Albizia lebbeck Benth., an ethnomedicinal plant, in acute and chronic animal models of inflammation – PubMed (nih.gov)
  23. Possible Role of Vitamin D in Celiac Disease Onset – PubMed (nih.gov)
  24. Assessment of the Effect of Selenium Supplementation on Production of Selected Cytokines in Women with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis | PubMed (nih.gov).
  25. Metabolic Characteristics of Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis Patients and the Role of Microelements and Diet in the Disease Management – An Overview | International Journal of Molecular Sciences | PubMed (nih.gov).
  26. Mapping the Path Towards Novel Treatment Strategies: A Bibliometric Analysis of Hashimoto’s Thyroitis Research from 1990 to 2023 | Frontiers in Endocrinology | PMC (nih.gov). 
  27. Reflex Effects of Subluxation: The Autonomic Nervous System | PubMed (nih.gov)

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Disclaimer: This content is for educational purposes only. It’s not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your Wellness Way clinic or personal physician, especially if currently taking prescription or over-the-counter medications. Pregnant women, in particular, should seek the advice of a physician before trying any herb or supplement listed on this website. Always speak with your individual clinic before adding any medication, herb, or nutritional supplement to your health protocol. Information and statements regarding dietary supplements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

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