Many people know someone that takes medicine for low thyroid (hypothyroidism). Have you heard of Hashimoto’s autoimmune thyroid disease? In developed countries, Hashimoto’s disease is the most common cause of hypothyroidism.
Yet, most individuals are unaware of this disorder. Keep reading to learn about Hashimoto’s disease, available testing, and treatment options.
What Is Hashimoto’s Autoimmune Thyroid Disease
The thyroid is a small gland located in your neck just below the Adam’s apple. It’s part of the endocrine system and makes hormones that coordinate many body functions.
Hashimoto’s disease causes the immune system to attack and destroy thyroid cells. Thus, is categorized as an autoimmune disease because the body is damaging itself. The destruction of these tissues causes them to harden (fibrosis) and impairs function.
This disorder causes swelling in the thyroid gland called Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. As more cells lose function, the thyroid gland produces less hormone. This leads to low thyroid levels known as hypothyroidism.
Men, women, and children of any age can develop Hashimoto’s disease. The disorder tends to occur in family lines, but there’s no specific genetic trait known.
Symptoms of Hashimoto’s Disease
In some cases, one of the first signs of Hashimoto’s is a swelling in the thyroid gland. This is often referred to as a goiter. The disease may progress slowly for many years.
Some individuals’ thyroid gland is attacked by antibodies. This causes Hashitoxicosis which means the thyroid makes too much hormone. In this instance, they may experience:
- Intolerance of heat
- Fast heartbeat
- Weight loss
More often, the damage to the thyroid leads to a decrease in hormone production. Common symptoms of hypothyroidism include:
- A puffy face
- Brittle nails
- Hair thinning and loss
- High cholesterol
- Itchy, pale, dry skin
- Low tolerance for cold
- Memory problems
- Muscle tenderness, stiffness, aches, and weakness
- Prolonged or excessive menstrual bleeding
- Sluggishness and fatigue
- Swelling, stiffness, or joint pain
- Tongue enlargement
- Voice hoarseness for unknown reasons
- Weight gain
If you or someone you know suffers from some of these symptoms, it’s important to seek treatment. Since Hashimoto’s disease is an autoimmune disorder, the immune system keeps attacking. This means the damage will continue to increase without treatment.
Testing For Hashimoto’s Disease
There are several options for Hashimoto’s disease testing. The healthcare provider will ask about symptoms and complete a physical exam. If they find signs suggesting thyroid problems, they will order blood tests.
Common lab tests and results that point to this disease include:
- Above normal thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH)
- Below normal free thyroxine (Free T4)
- Above normal antithyroid peroxidase (TPO) antibodies
Some people have the symptoms of hypothyroidism but their TSH level is within normal. In this case, your healthcare provider may order a Free T3 and Reverse T3 as well.
Low thyroid levels can also lead to decreased adrenal gland function. A saliva adrenal cortisol level test helps to detect problems with the adrenal gland.
People with a strong family history of thyroid disease may benefit from a TPO antibody test. A high TPO antibody level can provide an early diagnosis. These individuals often have normal or only mildly elevated TSH levels and no symptoms.
How to Treat Hashimoto’s Disease
It’s key to understand that currently there’s no cure for Hashimoto’s disease. Treatment involves regulating your hormone levels to reestablish normal metabolism. The following describes the various aspects of the treatment plan.
One of the first steps in restoring normal hormone levels is to focus on diet changes. Dairy and wheat products have a link to low thyroid function. Focus on foods rich in selenium and iron.
Good selenium sources include seafood, Brazil nuts, organ and muscle meats, cereals, and grains. Most American’s selenium-rich foods include grains, meat, poultry, fish, bread, and eggs.
Many of these foods are also good options to get the needed iron. These include beef, poultry, seafood, fortified cereals, organ meats, and enriched bread.
It’s beneficial to eat canned sardines and light tuna, beans, lentils, and seeds. Also include spinach, nuts, seeds, and even dark chocolate (at least 45 percent).
Both psychological and physiological stress alters immune system function. The body produces more thyroid hormone during normal stress. At other times it will slow this hormone release to conserve energy.
Research suggests that environmental stress levels may trigger Hashimoto’s disease. Since this is an autoimmune disorder, persistent stress can exacerbate this illness.
Developing routines to manage stress can help normalize the body’s responses. This can reduce the symptoms of thyroiditis.
Medication treatment requires an individualized plan of care. Many practitioners begin with natural desiccated thyroid extract (DTE). This comes from animal thyroids and replaces triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4).
DTE, also called thyroid USP, was the first treatment for hypothyroidism. It dates back almost 100 years.
Synthroid and levothyroxine only replace T4. Combination therapy has proven effective in helping patients feel better. In fact, some patients reported a “night and day” change in symptoms.
Are You Looking for Naturopathic Services to Help You Feel Better?
Hashimoto’s autoimmune thyroid disease significantly impacts your physical and mental health. Early intervention reduces thyroid gland damage. Desert Wellness Center offers naturopathic and integrative Medicine in the Tempe, AZ area.
Our holistic approaches focus on natural therapies as much as possible. If needed, we integrate medication into the treatment plan. We strive to heal the body from the inside out.
Our physicians work with you to develop your plan of care. They’ll explain their findings and offer a variety of quality treatment choices. Contact our patient care coordinator today to start finding answers for better health.