Hashimoto’s Disease is common, often missed in diagnosis, and can significantly impact your health. Hashimoto’s Disease is an autoimmune dysfunction that causes your immune system to attack healthy thyroid tissue. This not only is a key factor in thyroid imbalances but also may offer valuable insight in immune system dysfunction. Yet, most conventional doctors do not order the tests to diagnose Hashimoto’s Disease. Find out why…
Hashimoto’s disease is an autoimmune disorder (a condition in which your immune system mistakenly attacks your body) that can cause a dysregulation in the thyroid causing it to become over or underactive. Hashimoto’s is a very common cause of hypothyroidism, also known as an underactive thyroid.
With Hashimoto’s, your immune system starts to attack the thyroid, a small butterfly-shaped gland at the base of your neck. The thyroid becomes damaged and can no longer maintain adequate thyroid hormone levels to regulate your body properly. The symptoms of Hashimoto’s typically progress slowly over many years, but at times, the symptoms can also be acute and sudden.
The hormones that your thyroid makes affect every cell and organ in the body. They control how your body uses energy, regulates the rate at which calories are burned, which will affect weight loss or weight gain, controls your heartbeat by slowing it down or speeding it up, raises or lowers body temperature, impacts muscle contraction and controls the rate at which dying cells are replaced.
Hashimoto’s is more common in women than men. If you have a family member with the disease, your chances increase for developing Hashimoto’s. It can occur at any age, but commonly occurs in middle age. You are also at an increased risk if you have other autoimmune disorders such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis or type 1 diabetes.
Hashimoto’s often leads to an underactive thyroid function or hypothyroidism. These symptoms may include the following:
· Hair loss
· Tiredness and fatigue
· Brittle nails
· Decreased sex drive
· Sensitivity to cold
· Pale, dry, scaly skin
· Excessive menstrual bleeding
· Unexplained weight gain
· Muscle aches and cramps
· Enlargement of the tongue
· Elevated blood cholesterol levels
· Decreased heart rate
· Impaired memory
So yeah, a properly functioning thyroid is kind of important.
How is Hashimoto’s Disease diagnosed?
Hashimoto’s can be diagnosed by testing antibodies specific to your thyroid tissue. However, these lab values (and many other important values that offer a better understanding of the functionality of the thyroid) are rarely tested in conventional medicine.
Why hasn’t my doctor tested my thyroid antibodies?
Great question! In my totally unbiased opinion as a natural health practitioner (wink!), often conventional care is only focused on the management of a problem, not the solution. If your thyroid is off, you are given medications to regulate it. Unfortunately, the question, “Why is your thyroid off?” is not asked. You are just given meds.
We see this ideology all too often in conventional care. No question “Why?”, just “Take this.”
And does it matter?
Absolutely! A properly functioning thyroid is critical to all aspects of health…. And so is a properly functioning immune system.
If the thyroid function is influenced by the autoimmune process of Hashimoto’s Disease, you are dealing with an imbalance that is much bigger than just the thyroid. With any autoimmune disease, your immune system is overacting and attacking your own tissue. In the case of Hashimoto’s Disease, the overactive immune system is targeting the thyroid. Often one autoimmune disease leads to another.
If an autoimmune issue remains unchecked and not addressed, often the immune system continues over-working and begins to target additional tissue or organs in the body creating additional autoimmune diseases.
With Hashimoto’s Disease and all other autoimmune issues, it is essential to alleviate all unnecessary burdens from the immune system. Adverse factors impacting your immune system must be detected and eliminated for the overacting immune system to settle down, stop over-working, and cease attacking the healthy cells of the body.
Understanding if your over or underactive thyroid is due to Hashimoto’s Disease offers insight not only in regulating your thyroid, but also in the regulation of your entire immune system.
What should I do if I have Hashimoto’s Disease?
To me, one of the first and most important steps in health and healing to decrease/eliminate the factors within your control which are adversely impacting your immune system.
This is important always… and double, triple super important in all autoimmune factors. Again, in autoimmunity, your system is revved up and overworking because it thinks it is helping you. If the immune system is feeling threatened and can become hyper-vigilant, attacking any perceived threats… including the body’s own healthy tissues. Stopping this process requires alleviating perceived threats to your immune system.
So, what should you do if you have Hashimoto’s Disease? Now more than ever, take exquisite care of your health. Eliminate foods you know adversely influence your body. Consider a reduction/elimination in gluten. Decrease stress levels. Get adequate sleep. Seek out the support of holistic practitioners with experience regulating the thyroid and autoimmunity who can partner with you to offer guidance.
In my clinic, we approach you and all aspects of your health holistically. After all, you are a whole person. We must look at all the factors that make you who you are and understand how these influence your immune system. With this understanding, we can create a personalized treatment plan, diet, lifestyle suggestions, and nutritional supplement program to accurately address your specific needs.
Hashimoto’s Disease is a frequent underlying cause of thyroid issues. Proper diagnosis of Hashimoto’s Disease not only offers insight into how to support your thyroid, it also offers an awareness of possible immune system dysfunction which may lead to additional autoimmune imbalances.
While simple testing can rule out or confirm Hashimoto’s Disease, typically this information is simply omitted from conventional blood chemistry.
We encourage you to be your own advocate and request that your provider adds this test with your next blood work. Even better, enroll the support of a holistic medicine practitioner who can detect this imbalance and partner with you to support your thyroid and immune system naturally.
About The Author
Quinn Akira Takei is licensed as a Doctor of Oriental Medicine and Licensed Acupuncturist with advanced training in thyroid imbalances. His holistic approach to client care blends the best of modern advances of Functional Medicine with the ancient wisdom of Eastern Medicine. For more information, please visit www.thecenternhs.com.