• Understanding Hashimoto's Thyroiditis

    by Dr. Payal Bhandari
    on Sep 2nd, 2018

Have you found yourself feeling dull, fatigued, and unlike yourself lately? You could be suffering from Hashimoto's thyroiditis. This autoimmune disorder is far more prevalent than many people realize, and plenty of people who are living with it are unaware they have it. If these symptoms sound familiar or if you’ve recently found yourself diagnosed, here's all that you need to know about this condition, including: what causes it, what types of symptoms it produces, and how you can treat it naturally.


What Is Hashimoto's Thyroiditis?

Hashimoto's thyroiditis, also known as Hashimoto's disease, is an autoimmune condition. It causes the immune system to attack the thyroid, which is a butterfly-shaped gland that is located low on the front of the neck. Your thyroid produces many of the most important hormones that govern how your body functions, from your heart to your digestive system to your mood. If you have Hashimoto's disease, your immune system prevents your thyroid from making these necessary hormones. As a result, all of your body systems can get thrown out of whack.

Even if you haven't heard of Hashimoto's disease before, you might know that hypothyroidism is a condition that involves an underactive thyroid gland. It turns out that Hashimoto's is actually the number-one cause of hypothyroid symptoms, especially in women. In a case like this, Hashimoto's disease is the underlying cause of the problem, and the resulting hypothyroidism is only the effect. So if you suspect that your thyroid may not be working as well as it should, it's a good idea to ask your doctor to check you for Hashimoto's.

Hashimoto's disease is fairly common. It affects as many as one or two out of every one hundred people in the United States. Anyone can get Hashimoto's disease, but women are more likely to get it than men are. In fact, just one man has Hashimoto's for every seven women who have it.

Hashimoto's disease may remain fairly mild, or its symptoms may become bad enough to disrupt your daily life. If you have this condition, it's important to take it seriously, no matter how severe your symptoms are. People with Hashimoto's are more likely to develop a host of other autoimmune problems, such as rheumatoid arthritis, type 1 diabetes, and vitiligo. Paying attention to your overall well-being and visiting your doctor if something seems amiss will help you catch any new problems quickly and manage them appropriately.


Signs and Symptoms

Hashimoto's disease often starts slowly. Symptoms can be very mild for years — so mild that people with the condition don't always realize that anything is wrong. Over time, as the immune system damages the thyroid more severely, symptoms often increase in severity. If you have Hashimoto's, you might notice some of the following physical symptoms:

Hashimoto's disease can cause mental symptoms as well as physical ones. Mental symptoms of this condition may include:

If you have a few of these symptoms (or even a lot of them), it doesn't necessarily mean you have Hashimoto's disease. There are many different health problems that can cause the symptoms listed above. Regardless of the cause, though, it's always a good idea to see your doctor if you notice that something seems amiss.


Root Causes of Hashimoto's Disease

Hashimoto's disease — like other autoimmune diseases — remains something of a mystery to medical researchers. No one has been able to pin down an exact reason why it occurs. However, there are a few risk factors that are known to increase a person's odds of developing this condition.

This disease is believed to be partly genetic in 10 to 15% of cases. If you have a family member with an autoimmune disorder, whether Hashimoto's or something else, you may be at increased risk for experiencing autoimmune thyroid problems. Environmental factors play a large role as well especially the tie between diet and thyroid health.  The absorption and activation of many essential nutrients, minerals, and vitamins within the gut is directly tied to the vitality of the thyroid.

When the digestive system is unable to properly digest food and/or effectively absorb nutrients, the gut eventually breaks down and has problems.  Diseases such as leaky gut syndrome or unhealthy microbiome can cause the immune system to go haywire. Autoimmune disorders like Hashimoto’s are more likely to occur.   

Some people are more prone to gut problems than others. The good news is that lifestyle factors like diet can go a long way towards a healthier gut environment no matter your risk profile.  Strengthening the gut is one of the most effective ways to treat Hashimoto’s.


Treatment for Hashimoto's Disease

Traditional Western medicine recommends that patients with Hashimoto's disease take a daily dose of the thyroid medication Levothyroxine. This is a synthetic hormone that replaces the hormone that the thyroid cannot sufficient make. Levothyroxine is effective and safe for only short-term use. Because the underlying cause of the thyroid disease is not address when one takes Levothyroxine, these patients’ thyroid completely burns out and these patients must take the medication every day for the rest of their lives.  The other challenge these patients face with taking thyroid medication is that if the inflammation within their body is extremely high, the medication is rejected by the patient’s cells and hence, no clinical improvement in symptoms occur.

An integrative functional medicine experts prefer to address the root cause of Hashimoto's disease instead of relying on a medication that only treats the symptoms and may possibly aggravate the underlying problem. Healing the gut is a frequently-recommended first step. This involves eating an unprocessed, anti-inflammatory diet, treating any existing digestive problems or infections, and repopulating the gut with friendly bacteria instead of harmful ones. When the gut heals, the immune system often does too, reducing or even eliminating the symptoms of Hashimoto's disease.


Book an Appointment with Dr. Payal Bhandari M.D. at Advanced Health

Hashimoto's disease is a common autoimmune issue that can be caused by a variety of things, including a damaged gut. Once you are diagnosed with Hashimoto's disease, you have a variety of effective treatment options available, from medications to alternative remedies. Dr. Payal Bhandari M.D. at Advanced Health specializes in autoimmune disorders tied to the gut and thyroid.  She will help you create a plan that is perfectly suited to your symptoms and needs. Contact us today to book an appointment.

Author Dr. Payal Bhandari Dr. Payal Bhandari M.D. is a leading practitioner of integrative and functional medicine in San Francisco.

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