Hashimoto thyroiditis is the most common cause of hypothyroidism in the United States. Autoimmune antibodies destroy thyroid cells and after many years, the thyroid is no longer able to produce an adequate amount of thyroid hormone. You can have symptoms long before your lab values confirm that your thyroid is not functioning at an optimum level. In fact, the level that is accepted as truly hypothyroid is much lower than when symptoms occur. Meaning, that when you are in the “low normal range” you are defined as being normal, but you may feel like and have many of the characteristics of someone who is hypothyroid.
This can be frustrating because the traditional medical establishment has to use the lab reference ranges and insurance also only recognizes the established ranges. What is normal is not necessarily optimal.
Most Common Symptoms
The most common symptoms of low thyroid hormones are:
- Dry Skin
- Weight Gain
Cold intolerance, join and muscle pain, hair loss, menstrual irregularities, infertility, depression, poor memory, decreased sweating, slow movement, and slow thinking and speaking, as well as hoarseness, headaches, brittle nails, fluid retention, low body temperature, coarse dry hair, carpal tunnel syndrome, sleep apnea, high cholesterol, paresthesia ( strange feelings in nerves such as numbness, tingling, creepy crawly sensations), loss of the ends of the eyebrows, fat pads above the clavicles, loss of eyelashes, increased ear wax, dry and scaly ear canal, tinnitus, miscarriages, anemia, high blood pressure, elevation of liver enzymes, dizziness or vertigo, heart rhythm disturbances are some of the many symptoms of low thyroid hormone.
Factors that May Cause Hashimoto’s
- Environmental Exposure -Chemicals such as perchlorate, fluoride, lithium, mercury, bisphenol A and Teflon can set the stage for the development of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis
- Excessive Iodine – too much or too little iodine can negatively affect thyroid function since iodine is essential to thyroid hormone production. However, if you subscribe to the theory that everyone needs iodine, and you take high doses without measuring you may trigger hypothyroidism or Hashimoto’s thyroiditis if you are susceptible
- Pregnancy and hormonal changes can trigger thyroid dysfunction and about 20% of women who have thyroid issues during pregnancy may develop Hashimotos’s.
- Radiation Exposure: exposure to large amounts of radiation can trigger an autoimmune thyroid disorder.
- Genetics can play a role. If anyone in your family has a history of autoimmune thyroid disease, you may be susceptible as well if you have an exposure that triggers it’s development. Also, if you have one autoimmune disorder you may also have others and autoimmune prone genes combined with environmental factors can initiate the development of Hashimoto’s.
Many people develop autoimmune disorders when they have stress, trauma, infections and/or hormonal changes. They may have a genetic predisposition, but environmental factors enable those genes to express themselves to trigger an autoimmune condition.
- High TSH above normal
- Low free T4 (thyroxine) and possibly low free T3 (triiodothyronine)
- Anti-thyroid Antibodies such as antithyroglobulin antibodies and anti thyroperoxidase antibody (anti TPO)
- NOTE: Normal is not necessarily optimal and a functional medicine approach is to assure optimal levels.
- Autoimmune diet which is an extension of the Paleo diet consisting of lean protein, vegetable, fruits, nuts and seeds and is free of foods that cause inflammation and sensitivities that stimulate the immune system.
- Detoxification– remove toxins that can trigger this disorder such as PCB’s, dioxin, DDT, HCB (hexachlorobenzene), phthalates and heavy metals such as lead, arsenic and mercury
- Nutrition that supplies an adequate amount of vitamins, minerals, protein, carbohydrates and fats in their proper ratios that supply optimal levels. Check iodine levels as well as selenium, other nutrients, hormones and gut health.
- Thyroid hormone tailored to your specific needs to supply adequate T3 and T4 if necessary.
Understand that it takes years for antibodies to destroy the thyroid and if caught early, many people with Hashimoto’s may not need thyroid medication. Most traditional healthcare practitioners do not measure antibodies.
A functional medicine doctor will not only measure antibodies to the thyroid and its proteins, but they will also measure the free hormone levels of free T4 and the conversion of T4 to the more active hormone that gets into the cell nucleus, free T3. Knowing these levels as well as the presence of thyroid antibodies can allow them to adjust your diet to decrease antibody production and tailor the dose of T3 and T4 hormone if needed.
The immune response can be modulated to spare your thyroid and possibly the development of other autoimmune disorders as well as the symptoms of hypothyroidism. If you are interested in a functional medicine approach to thyroid disorders, listen to the webinar The 6 Overlooked Causes of Hashimoto’s & Thyroid Symptoms and How to Treat Them Naturally Using Functional Medicine, and sign up for a free, no obligation clarity call to see if functional medicine is right for you. It’s up to you to take the next step. There is help and hope.