You may already know that an autoimmune disease is a condition where your immune system recognises certain tissues and organs as foreign and produces antibodies to attack them. I see clients with many different autoimmune disorders at my clinic, however, one disorder that I have been seeing more and more of is Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis.
This article will help you understand what Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis is and the functional medicine approach to symptom-free living.
What is Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis?
Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis is an autoimmune disease that causes chronic inflammation and swelling of the thyroid gland resulting in the production of low levels of thyroid hormones.
The thyroid gland is situated at the bottom of the neck and produces vital hormones that regulate the body’s metabolism, including heart rate, body temperature and converting food into energy.
With insufficient production of thyroid hormones as seen with Hashimoto’s, the body can not operate normally and its functions begin to slow down.
What are the symptoms of Hashimoto’s?
There are various symptoms that are associated with an underactive thyroid gland and Hashimoto’s, here are a few to watch out for:
- Weight gain
- Sensitivity to the cold
- Joint and muscle pain
- Enlarged thyroid gland (a lump known as a goitre)
- Heavy menstrual flow
- Dry and thinning hair
If left untreated, Hashimoto’s can also lead to more severe complications which include:
- Heart problems
- Mental health issues including depression
- Myxedema coma
And even more concerning is the effect the condition may have on fertility and pregnancy, which can lead to pregnancy complications such as miscarriage and birth defects.
So if you are experiencing symptoms it is worth being proactive and working with a doctor and health practitioner, like me, to make sure that you start addressing the underlying root cause of your symptoms.
What causes Hashimoto’s?
Like any autoimmune disease, it is generally a combination of many factors which contribute to the development of Hashimoto’s.
There are certain specific risk factors, including:
- Age (30-50)
- Gender (female)
- Family history
- Pre-existing autoimmune disease (gluten sensitivity, Type 1 diabetes, Lupus and Rheumatoid arthritis)
. In addition to conventional factors which worsen autoimmune diseases, including:
- Intestinal permeability (leaky gut syndrome)
- Nutrient deficiency
If you or someone you know identifies with theses symptoms, it is worth getting tested for Hashimoto’s. The test results will provide clarity over whether you are suffering from this autoimmune disease and the next steps you should take to relieve the symptoms.
Such tests include measuring levels of thyroid hormones including Free T4 and T3 hormone levels, as well as measuring Thyroid Peroxidase and Thyroglobulin antibodies.
The Functional Medicine approach
Functional medicine is an approach that focuses on identifying and addressing an individual’s personal root cause of disease so a custom protocol can be developed.
There is no cure for Hashimoto’s, however certain treatments are available to relieve the symptoms.
Levothyroxine is a form of synthetic thyroid hormone which can be taken to replace the lack of natural production and allows the body to continue functioning normally.
There are also natural dessicated thyroid medications made from the dried thyroid glands of animals for those who do not perform well on Levothyroxine. Like any medication there are benefits and drawbacks of this treatment and so should be discussed with a doctor or a registered nutritional therapist (like me).
Diet & lifestyle management
As always, maintaining a healthy lifestyle by exercising, sleeping, and eating well can help your immune system.
In particular, eating a diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods such as dark leafy greens, berries, fatty fish, and reducing consumption of sugar and refined carbohydrates.
Gut health is also important for individuals suffering from autoimmune diseases. Foods rich in fiber, such as fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds and wholegrains, as well as fermented foods like sauerkraut, will support digestion and the GI tract.
Supplements can also help the absorption of medication, including iron and calcium, while Vitamin D can modulate inflammation.
Furthermore, controlling stress is highly beneficial for managing autoimmune diseases. Self exploration, journaling, walks in nature, meditation and doing what you love will help relieve symptoms and improve quality of life. Seeking professional counseling/therapy may also help to empower you and identify any underlying triggering trauma.
- Hashimoto’s is an autoimmune disease
- There are certain risk factors for the development of Hashimoto’s including gender, age, pre-existing autoimmune diseases and a genetic predisposition.
- Insufficient production of the thyroid gland can result in disruptive symptoms.
- There are a variety of methods to help manage these symptoms which is vital to prevent further complications.
- Testing for Hashimoto’s may give you some clarity if you are suffering from similar symptoms.
- It is important to be aware and educate yourself on any autoimmune diseases you are suffering from to strengthen your quality of life.
Did you find this helpful?
The Autoimmunity Nutritionist clinic offers comprehensive health transformation packages to give you the best chance to recover from chronic illness, including Hashimoto’s. If you would like to find out more about my nutritional therapy services, let’s talk. You can book in for your free health consultation here.
Also, be sure to join my free Facebook group, The Autoimmunity Community, to be supported by a network of strong-willed women living with autoimmune disease and chronic illness.
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