Could Hashimoto’s disease secretly be causing hypothyroidism for you? And what does your thyroid do anyhow?
Let me tell you. It does a whole lot. And you need it to be healthy.
Understanding Hashimoto’s disease
The autoimmune disorder Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, also called lymphocytic thyroiditis or Hashimoto’s disease, occurs when antibodies working against your thyroid gland lead to inflammation.
The inflammation inhibits your thyroid’s ability to produce thyroid hormones and can cause slow, chronic cell damage.
The damage then surfaces as an enlarged thyroid gland or hypothyroidism (an under-performing thyroid).
Detecting Hashimoto’s disease
What’s the big deal about your thyroid health?
Your thyroid is like the motherboard of your body. Your pituitary gland controls your thyroid. And your thyroid controls just about everything else – your metabolic rate, energy, heart, digestion, muscles, brain development, bone maintenance and reproduction.
No symptoms are necessarily unique to Hashimoto’s disease. However, Hashimoto’s is the most common cause of hypothyroidism in the U.S. (http://thyroidbook.com), yet often goes undiagnosed. If you have hypothyroidism, you may suffer from:
- cold hands and feet
- dry skin
- irregular or heavy periods
- low sex drive
- muscle aches and lowered tolerance for exercise
Doctors will use a blood test to determine if you have hypothyroidism. Be sure he or she orders the full panel, and not just the basic test. The basic thyroid test provides 1 overall level or number, which is more likely to fall in the normal range, leaving you undiagnosed.
The full panel provides your levels of all 4 thyroid components – free T3 (triiodothyronine), free T4 (thyroxine), TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone) and reverse T3. If you have elevated TSH and low free T4 levels, these are indicators of Hashimoto’s.
Treating Hashimoto’s disease
Traditional doctors will start you on a thyroid medicine such as Synthroid, Armour or Cytomel to help normalize your TSH. You will probably be on the medication for life, having to adjust it occasionally. The medication may help you feel better, but it doesn’t address your immune system’s imbalance.
Read a more scientific explanation of this shortfall here. Basically, the medication increases the T4 in your body, but doesn’t help you convert T4 to T3 and doesn’t address the ongoing inflammation.
So guess what holistic doctors will tell you if you have Hashimoto’s disease?
Yes – change your diet!
In Dr. Datis Kharrazian’s book, he explains in detail about why he advises thyroid patients to immediately remove gluten from their diets. Or you can read a briefer explanation in my blog post “Getting to the root of your thyroid problem and how your diet can help”.
Some doctors will ask you to eliminate dairy and soy, too. Still others will suggest the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) diet, or another diet, to give your body a break from all potentially inflammatory foods.
You may resent the idea of having to give up some of your favorite foods, and simply want to take the medicine and move on. But then you are not really giving your body a chance to heal. In fact, if you’re eating foods your body doesn’t tolerate, you are keeping it in overdrive on an empty oil tank!
If you think you have Hashimoto’s disease or hypothyroidism, ask your doctor to order the full thyroid panel and give all thyroid components full attention. Cut gluten and dairy from your diet, and use an elimination diet to identify any other foods you should avoid.
It may be a temporary tweak, or a permanent lifestyle change. But your body has to last your entire lifetime, right? Feed it accordingly!
*This blog is intended for use as a source of information and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice.