Understanding The Most Common Cause of Hypothyroidism
Are you experiencing fatigue, digestive issues, hair loss, aching joints, or weight gain that can’t be explained? These and many other symptoms, which may sometimes seem unrelated, are all signs that you may have Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism.
Thyroid problems are so common that an estimated one in eight women will develop one at some point in her life. The real problem is that more than half of these women will never know what’s really going on. Many people who are living with this condition have never even heard of it!
In some cases, symptoms of low thyroid are dismissed because lab results show numbers within a range that is considered normal or borderline (practitioners do not agree across the board on what “normal” is when it comes to the thyroid).
In many other cases, individuals are told that they have hypothyroidism (low thyroid), and are given prescription medications that they will likely be taking or switching around for the rest of their lives without explanation, and often, without any real relief.
Why? Because they’re not getting to the root cause of the problem! Here’s the thing: up to 95% of hypothyroid cases are actually due to Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, an autoimmune condition.
Here’s why that’s such a big deal. If you have Hashimoto’s disease, your thyroid is not really the problem. Your immune system is the problem. Your symptoms are being caused by an autoimmune attack against your own thyroid gland.
To begin to truly heal and feel like yourself again, you need to address the underlying autoimmunity, not just boost levels of the thyroid hormone with medication.
What Is Hashimoto’s Hypothyroidism?
Let’s start with a basic overview of thyroid function. The thyroid gland, which is located in the front of the neck, is responsible for making hormones that get carried to virtually every part of the body. A properly functioning thyroid is necessary in order for a healthy metabolism, energy production, temperature regulation, and the proper function of the heart and brain. In other words, a healthy thyroid is essential for a healthy you!
The thyroid produces the hormones T4 and T3, but is reliant on the brain sensing that these hormones need to be made, and signaling for this to happen. The pituitary gland releases TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone) as an alert that thyroid hormone levels in the bloodstream are not balanced.
A number of things can go wrong within this system, resulting in hypothyroidism, or an underactive thyroid. Sometimes, the problem is improper or insufficient signaling from the brain to the pituitary gland; sometimes, the pituitary gland does not release enough TSH; sometimes, T4 is not effectively being converted to T3. With Hashimoto’s, antibodies are attacking thyroid gland proteins, and damaging the thyroid so that it cannot produce enough of the necessary hormones.
Hashimoto’s is the most common cause of hypothyroidism. The underactive thyroid is a symptom of the autoimmune reaction, and it is the autoimmune reaction that needs to be addressed.
This might be one of the most important takeaways: Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is an autoimmune disease, and autoimmunity does not limit itself to one part of the body.
When your immune system is forming antibodies against one of your organs or tissues, it is likely to find others to attack, too. This is why many people have multiple diagnoses of autoimmune conditions, including celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, or rheumatoid arthritis.
It might seem overwhelming to think that your immune system could be attacking not only your thyroid but your brain, joints, or other tissues. The key thing to remember is that any and all autoimmunity can and should be addressed as a whole. An effective treatment approach will target the underlying autoimmune response rather than trying to tackle the symptoms within different organs and systems separately.
Hashimoto’s Disease Symptoms
One of the reasons why this disease so frequently goes undiagnosed is that there are so many possible combinations of symptoms, and they can mimic the symptoms of other conditions.
Common symptoms can include:
–Unexplained weight gain
-Feeling cold more often than others do
-Hair loss or thinning
-Frequent colds or infections
-Stiffness or aching in joints
-Infertility; changes in menstrual cycle
Medications for hypothyroidism, including synthetic thyroid hormones, are often taken for life, or switched around because they aren’t really working. This is because they are not getting to the root cause of the problem.
There are a number of factors that can contribute to autoimmunity in general. Often, multiple factors play a role in the development of autoimmunity.
Underlying causes may include:
–Infections or viruses
-Exposure to environmental toxins
-Stress, both internal and external; adrenal fatigue
-Leaky gut, dysbiosis, and other gut issues
-Food sensitivities, especially to gluten or dairy
This is more common in women than in men, and is most common between the ages of 20 and 60. Family or personal history of autoimmune disease also increases risk.
Diagnose is based on an assessment of your symptoms, combined with the results of blood testing for TSH levels as well as thyroid antibodies (the latter is not always checked).
If you’re experiencing possible symptoms, even if your thyroid labs seem to normal, you might want to discuss antibody testing with your Naturopathic Doctor or integrative practitioner. Antibodies will show up early, and can allow you to tackle the problem before it progresses.
Healing can be managed with specific diet and lifestyle changes. All of these changes are aimed at healing and repairing the immune system, the gut, the thyroid, and your whole body.
Cut out inflammatory foods: Autoimmunity is often triggered by certain inflammatory dietary proteins, especially gluten and casein. Going gluten-free, and ideally casein-free, is critical for healing autoimmunity. Many people with Hashimoto’s have great results when they cut out all grains, not just gluten. It is also essential to eliminate fast food, and avoid sugar as much as possible. A food sensitivity test or elimination diet can help to determine which other foods might be problematic for you.
Eat to heal your gut: Easily digested, nutrient-rich foods are going to be your best bet. Eat lots of vegetables and some fruits, as well as organic meats and healing bone broth.
Check your vitamin D levels: Low levels of vitamin D have been linked to Hashimoto’s and autoimmunity. Talk to your practitioner about checking your levels, and supplementing if necessary.
Heal the gut: This condition and other autoimmune diseases can often be linked back to the gut. When the gut lining is damaged (leaky gut), particles that are not supposed to get through to the bloodstream (like gluten) can. This can lead to a reaction from the immune system and the formation of antibodies, which can eventually lead to hypersensitivity and autoimmunity.
Detoxify: As much as possible, you want to eliminate environmental toxins and triggers. These can include food allergens like gluten which we’ve already covered, chemicals, heavy metals, and environmental estrogens. Focus on reducing exposure to these triggers, and enhancing the body’s ability to detoxify by boosting levels of the antioxidant glutathione.
Address underlying infections: Viruses and infections are common contributors to Hashimoto’s and autoimmune disease. Work with your practitioner to identify and eradicate possible infections.
Reduce stress: High levels of stress often contribute to Hashimoto’s. Work to relieve stress naturally by spending time in nature, practicing yoga or meditation, taking bubble baths…
If you think that you may have Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, , or if you are currently taking medication for hypothyroidism and have not been told about the possibility of an autoimmune disease, schedule an initial (free!) consultation with me, and learn more about how we can work together to get to the root cause, and get you back to your life.
Thanks for reading and please share this with family and friends
Dr Chelsea Gronick
You can book your consultation onlinehttps://drchelseagronick.com or visit Thyroid Naturopathic Doctor