The thyroid has become a hot topic recently. Problems with thyroid function are common, especially Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. With symptoms like fatigue, constipation, and weight gain, it can be easy to conclude you have it. In many cases, your endocrinologist may agree. But the fact that Hashimoto’s is common doesn’t mean it’s normal, and most thyroid testing gives an incomplete picture. What’s really going on with Hashimoto’s, and how do you relieve the pain and frustration it can cause?
What is Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis?
If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, you might have thought, “What a weird name! What is thyroiditis, and who was Hashimoto?” Let’s first address the “thyroiditis” part. If something ends with the suffix -itis, it tells you there’s inflammation. Thyroiditis, then, refers to inflammation of the thyroid gland. Hashimoto was the last name of the Japanese physician who first described this autoimmune disease in 1912. Hashimoto’s disease often results in hypothyroidism due to the gradual destruction of the thyroid gland. It’s the most common cause of hypothyroidism, affecting about 5% of Americans. Mayo Clinic notes that Hashimoto’s is also called chronic lymphocytic thyroiditis. (1, 2)
Hypothyroidism, or “low thyroid,” occurs when your body isn’t producing adequate thyroid hormone. It can develop for a few reasons:
- 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 necessarily 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 disease and some level of toxicity.
Symptoms of Hashimoto’s
As a hypothyroid autoimmune disease, Hashimoto’s has many symptoms associated with generalized hypothyroidism. Mayo Clinic tells us Hashimoto’s disease progresses slowly over the years. So, while symptoms may show something is off, the disease process likely isn’t new. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) website shares symptoms of Hashimoto’s disease, listed below. (1, 2)
- Weight gain
- Joint pain
- Muscle pain
- Trouble tolerating cold temperatures
- Dry skin
- Dry hair or hair loss
- Slowed heart rate
- Fertility problems
- Heavy or irregular periods
- Goiter (enlarged thyroid)
- Mental health problems
- High cholesterol
Heart failure, heart disease, and myxedema can occur in severe cases, and Hashimoto’s also increases the risk of developing thyroid cancer.
What is the Relationship to Graves’ Disease?
While Hashimoto’s is an autoimmune disorder that leads to hypothyroidism, Graves’ disease is the opposite. Graves leads to an overactive thyroid, referred to as hyperthyroidism. So, “hypothyroid” means your thyroid isn’t making enough thyroid hormone, and “hyperthyroid” means it’s making too much. These disorders can exist apart from autoimmunity, but both Hashimoto’s and Graves’ are autoimmune conditions.
Who Gets Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis?
Mayo Clinic gives some common “risk factors” for Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. A few examples are:
- Female sex (women are far more likely to get Hashimoto’s disease than men)
- Family history
- Other autoimmune disorders
- Radiation exposure
- Excessive iodine intake
Some of these go together. If you’re pregnant, your sex and age align with these risk factors. Your family history (genetics) may set you up for Hashimoto’s and other autoimmune disorders. 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 Does Mainstream Healthcare Address Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis?
There are a few different approaches to various conditions and symptoms. One of our favorite illustrations to show the differences is the fireman and carpenter approach. Learn more by watching this video:
What happens when your regular healthcare provider suspects Hashimoto’s? Mayo Clinic explains that they usually go through a few tests to diagnose Hashimoto’s. These tests include a physical exam and blood tests for TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone) and thyroxine (T4).
Elevated levels of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) and low T4 indicate an underactive thyroid. Your doctor may also test for anti-thyroid antibodies. If positive, this test confirms that the problem stems from an autoimmune issue.
Mainstream medicine says this is all you need. 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.
Common Medications For Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis
The most common medical treatment is thyroid hormone replacement (3, 4, 5). Levothyroxine, a synthetic T4 replacement, is the main drug used, but Mayo Clinic mentions that T3 hormone replacement may also be necessary. Here are some of the most common medications prescribed for Hashimoto’s thyroiditis:
- Synthetic T4 replacement drugs like levothyroxine (Levoxyl, Synthroid, and others)
- Synthetic T3 replacement drugs like liothyronine (Cytomel)
If your doctor puts you on a thyroid hormone replacement medication, he or she usually expects you to stay on it your entire life. That’s not health—it’s symptom management.
Your Body Doesn’t Make Mistakes
When the term “autoimmune disease” comes up, most of us picture 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 tissue. The body is working as it’s supposed to, given its environment. This adapted environment occurs with exposure to traumas, toxins, and (stressful) thoughts. Even if you have a different autoimmune condition like type 1 diabetes, which attacks the pancreatic tissue, this is still true. An autoimmune reaction doesn’t mean your body is malfunctioning; it’s the body letting you know your immune system is stressed.
The Wellness Way Approach to Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis
At The Wellness Way, we think differently. When we think of the contributing factors leading to Hashimoto’s, we always go back to physical, chemical, and emotional stressors, which we categorize as trauma, toxins, and thoughts (the 3 T’s). Our daily accumulation of stressors “pulls the trigger,” creating dysfunction and disease.
So, what causes Hashimoto’s thyroiditis? As mentioned above, this thyroid disorder is an autoimmune situation. Because it’s autoimmune, we need to look at what’s triggering the immune system and causing destruction. You may also need to address production, conversion, or interference, but if you have an autoimmune disorder, something is stressing the immune system. Your goal should be to take the best care of your immune system possible, regardless of your autoimmune disease (celiac disease, rheumatoid arthritis, Hashimoto’s, etc.).
What stresses out the immune system? Traumas, toxins, and thoughts.
- Traumas and Hashimoto’s Disease: Trauma doesn’t have to come from a catastrophic physical or emotional event. It can be a case of crossing your legs daily, poor posture, or stubbing a toe. These physical stresses affect the body and immune system like a car crash does. Constant or chronic physical stressors lead to metabolic stress, increasing inflammation and altering the immune response.
- Toxins and Hashimoto’s Disease: The thyroid gland is highly vascularized, meaning a large amount of blood circulates through it daily. Toxins or chemicals in the bloodstream that aren’t supposed to be there will eventually pass through the thyroid. These toxins cause inflammation in the gland, triggering an immune response there, as you’d expect. After all, the immune system is there to protect us. Toxins can be allergies, heavy metals, chemicals, and more.
- Thoughts and Hashimoto’s Disease: The “Thoughts” category of the 3 T’s refers to unhealthy thinking patterns, including worry, anger, and sadness. These can cause hormonal imbalances in the body and lead to dis-ease. Stressed thoughts can result from a notable change in your life—even if it’s a good thing. Moving, getting married, or having a baby can also introduce stress. While it can be hard to keep emotional stresses to a minimum, your thoughts and mental outlook affect your health.
Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is a 3 T’s (trauma, toxins, or thoughts) problem, so it’s not solely a thyroid issue. That’s why lowering your overall stress is the way to start if you want to reduce the strain on your thyroid.
Important Tests For Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis
Is it a matter of production, conversion, destruction, or interference? The Wellness Way’s full 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:
- Food Allergy Test: Immuno Food Allergy Test The Wellness Way Store
- Thyroid Panels: Access Custom Thyroid Panel or Thyroid with Hormones Panel
- Antibody Test: Aurora Life Sciences – Autoimmune 30+
- Gut Health Test: Genova GI Effects with Parasitology The Wellness Way Store
Just because a food is healthy in general doesn’t mean it’s healthy for you. A food allergy test can tell you which toxic foods to avoid. Getting a complete thyroid panel done can give you a better idea of where the issue is. Of course, these tests are dependent on which ones your Wellness Way practitioner considers most important for your situation.
Dietary Changes For Thyroid Conditions
- Cut sugar from your diet – Excess sugar contributes to inflammation. It also tends to feed infections and otherimbalances.
- Personalized Nutrition, based on your food allergy test results
- Organic, whole foods
- Organ meats, sauerkraut, microgreens for added nutrition.
Supplementation for Thyroid Conditions
Common supplements used at The Wellness Way for Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis include the following:
Your test results will dictate which supplements are best for you.
Lifestyle Modifications for Thyroid Conditions
Start somewhere! Begin to eliminate toxic household and personal care items.
- Natural household cleaning products
- Natural personal care products
- Natural makeup
- Check for toxins in your drinking water
- Check your indoor air quality
The thyroid gland is particularly sensitive to toxins. Support your thyroid by lowering your toxic burden. Your immune system is also sensitive to added toxins. Gradually lowering the toxins your immune system has to deal with will support balance. Don’t forget to check your spine. Getting adjusted improves your immune system and releases physical stress on the body.
There’s no single solution to every problem, and this is especially true when discussing the thyroid. That’s why Wellness Way practitioners don’t use a one-size-fits-all approach to the thyroid. We don’t guess; we test! We find out where the problem is: production, conversion, destruction, or interference. Then we take steps to support the body in resolving the issue. When we remove the stressors and support the thyroid, it can return to balanced, normal function.
Educational Resources for Thyroid Conditions
Videos & Webinars for Hashimoto’s
- Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) | The Wellness Way Lab Series
- Thyroid Issues | A Different Perspective | Episode 111
- There’s No Such Thing as a Thyroid Problem! | A Different Perspective | Episode 91
Articles to Support Thyroid Conditions
- Thyroid Conditions: How Do You know if You’re Low or High, and What Can You Do?
- Graves’ Disease: This Eerie-Sounding Thyroid Disease Isn’t as Deadly as it Sounds
- Levothyroxine and CBD: Which One? When? Or Both?
- What Your MD Isn’t Telling You About Your Thyroid Medication
Events to Support Thyroid Conditions
- Inflammation Talk
- Hope for Hormones
These events are offered at your local Wellness Way clinic and may also be accessible online.
Connect with Us!
We invite you to connect with us! Find an event at a clinic near you! Follow us on social media. Tune in to A Different Perspective each Saturday morning LIVE to get cutting-edge training directly from Dr. Patrick Flynn. Set up a no-obligation health consult with one of our doctors today. The best is yet to come! Think differently – and THRIVE. Reach out to a Wellness Way clinic today to get thorough testing and start on your health journey. We are here to help! Contact a Wellness Way clinic today and set yourself firmly on the path to wellness!