The True Approach to Treating Hashimoto’s Disease
Hypothyroidism is a condition describing a set of symptoms that can have multiple causes. Too many patients have been prescribed hormone medication as the solution to low thyroid production when they should be diagnosed with Hashimoto’s disease instead. A common treatment for Hashimoto’s disease is to assess and heal the immune system.
If you’ve been prescribed hormone medication and you feel it isn’t working, it may be time to contact a functional medicine doctor at True Life Medicine.
What is Hashimoto’s Disease?
Mayo Clinic explains that Hashimoto’s disease is when your immune system attacks your thyroid. The thyroid, a small endocrine gland at the base of your neck, produces hormones that regulate all your body’s functions. When the thyroid is inflamed from Hashimoto’s it leads to an underactive thyroid gland. An underactive thyroid produces lower levels of hormones than you need to function.
What Hashimoto’s Disease Feels Like:
When your body isn’t producing enough hormones, you will slowly notice common symptoms of hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid). Common complaints include exhaustion, weight gain, and sensitivity to the cold. A complete list includes:
- Dry skin
- Hair thinning or hair loss
- Heart rate slowing
- High cholesterol
- Hoarseness – from a goiter or nodule affecting your vocal cord nerves
- Increased sensitivity to cold
- Joint pain, swelling, or stiffness
- Memory loss or impairment
- Menstrual cycle irregularities or heavier than usual periods
- Muscle weakness, aches, or stiffness
- Weight gain or a swollen face
Hashimoto’s is an Autoimmune Disease
A properly working immune system fights against organisms that are foreign and harmful to the human body. Autoimmune diseases occur when the immune system turns against your own body. Therefore, Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism causes the immune system to mistakenly identify the thyroid as an enemy, attacking it and causing the above thyroid symptoms.
What Hashimoto’s Isn’t
Hashimoto’s disease is not a thyroid disease. A person with Hashimoto’s disease has a properly functioning thyroid except for the attacks by the immune system. After noting your symptoms, a doctor may test your thyroid levels to determine if you have thyroiditis. Even after complaining about your symptoms, if they determine that your levels are normal, they likely will do nothing or try to treat a disease you don’t have. If your thyroid hormone levels are low, you can expect them to prescribe a hormone treatment. Hashimoto’s disease is not the same as hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism, postpartum thyroiditis, or iodine deficiency.
Conventional Medicine’s Failure to Treat Hashimoto’s
Unfortunately for many patients, conventional doctors most often treat Hashimoto’s as a thyroid issue (not an autoimmune disease). The remedy prescribed is hormone medication to increase the thyroid’s hormone production. The issue is that while thyroid hormone medication can re-establish proper thyroid levels, it does not stop your immune system from attacking your thyroid and you still have inflammation and ongoing symptoms.
Functional Medicine’s True Treatment of Hashimoto’s Disease
Functional medicine’s goal is to address the root of your health issues instead of managing surface symptoms. The root of Hashimoto’s is known! You don’t have to wonder or wait for new medical research. An effective Hashimoto’s treatment is entirely possible. While the Cleveland Clinic says that most people take thyroid supplements and do quite well on them, the patient is left taking increased doses of medication for the rest of their life. Instead, the immune system needs to be corrected so that it fights actual diseases and finally stops hurting the healthy parts of your own body.
Environmental, dietary, and physiological triggers all prompt the immune system to fight against invaders. Some autoimmune triggers include:
- Heavy metals and toxic plastics
- Viral infections
- Insufficient sleep or poor quality of sleep
While you can’t cure an autoimmune disease entirely once it has started, you can make changes to your diet and lifestyle which will reduce symptoms and keep the disease from getting worse. Pay attention to when you feel ill and tired and make a list of common patterns.
Improve Your Diet
The immune system must constantly evaluate what is coming into your body through your digestive tract. You can treat Hashimoto’s by giving your body a break from potentially harmful substances. The Autoimmune Protocol Diet (AIP) can help heal your immune system.
For example, gluten has been known to irritate the small intestine, causing leaky gut. When the gut “leaks” or is weak, toxins (normally digested) escape from the gut into the bloodstream. The immune system then fights against the body including the thyroid.
Increasingly, research indicates that exposure to environmental toxins is detrimental to the immune system and has harmful effects on the thyroid. Our functional medicine team at True Life will help you understand and avoid the four principal disruptors: industrial chemicals, pesticides and herbicides on foods, toxins in household products, and environmental heavy metals. Some initial suggestions from the Kesser Institute include filtering your water, eating organic foods, increasing iodine and selenium intake, no longer cooking food in non-stick pans or storing food or drink in plastic containers. While this may feel like an alarming list, small changes can be done immediately and go a long way to advancing your Hashimoto’s disease treatment.
Reduce Your Stress
When you are stressed, whether physically taxed or mentally overworked, your adrenal glands produce cortisol. Cortisol affects your thyroid’s hormone production. High stress means more work for the thyroid. And stress causes autoimmune diseases, which creates more stress through discomfort and anxiety about treatment. Paloma says: “Managing stress is essential to protect or calm your body from an autoimmune flare-up.” Stojanovich, MD, PhD wrote that stress management should be included in Hashimoto’s treatment as well as other autoimmune diseases to prevent stress-related immune imbalance.
Proactively Avoid Viruses:
Viruses weaken your immune system. If you are experiencing a flare-up from Hashimoto’s, it is best to do all you can to avoid getting sick. Common preventative measures include wearing a face mask when in close proximity to others, disinfecting high-traffic surfaces, and washing your hands regularly.
Treat your Hashimoto’s Today
If you are ready for true Hashimoto’s treatment and not just thyroid medicine, today is a great day to get started at True Life Medicine. We are here to listen, find answers, and work with you for as long as it takes for you to start feeling your best.