I imagine you are feeling pretty lost right now. What in the world is Hashimoto’s and why the heck do I have it? Well if you know absolutely nothing about thyroid health I would start here.
Let’s be honest, you’ve won the reverse lottery. Your doctor probably gave you the briefest synopsis you’ve ever heard and handed you a prescription to the famous Levothyroxine. You were probably told that this medication will fix your thyroid and that there is simply nothing you can do about the autoimmune component. Most doctors will tell you that once your immune system starts attacking healthy tissues there is nothing anyone can do to stop it. So you left the office confused with a life-long prescription to a drug you know nothing about.
I don’t want to overwhelm you, but I also don’t want to leave you in the dark about this condition. I wish I had a "how-to" guide to read when I was diagnosed, maybe I could have prevented the challenges I experienced over the last several years. In the briefest, but most knowledgeable way I could possibly put it, here are the 5 things you need to know about your Hashimoto’s diagnosis.
1. Hashimoto’s Disease Is an Immune System Disorder That Causes Your Body to Attack Your Thyroid Gland.
As you may already know, your thyroid gland controls every cell in your body so when it isn’t functioning optimally you are going to suffer in a myriad of ways. Hashimoto’s is a disease in which your immune system creates antibodies to attack and destroy your thyroid gland, leading to a condition called Hypothyroidism. There are many factors that cause Hashimoto’s disease, some of which include:
- Repeated Exposure to Toxic Chemicals
- Food Sensitivities
- Leaky Gut Syndrome (intestinal permeability)
- Chronic Stress
- Gluten Sensitivity
- Viral or Fungal Bacterial Infections
There is always an underlying cause behind why your body creates antibodies and it is your job to figure that out. Unfortunately, conventional doctors do not typically look at root causes.
So, let’s say you have had an underlying gluten intolerance for years and didn’t know about it. gluten can damage the lining of your intestine causing what is called “leaky gut syndrome” or intestinal permeability. Studies have shown that leaky gut is present in all autoimmune conditions. You can decrease or eradicate antibodies just by eliminating a triggering food that’s causing harm to your gut health. Now, there is often several factors that lead to a Hashimoto’s diagnosis, but one step at a time, right?
Things you can do right now to reduce antibodies:
- Eliminate Gluten (wheat, barley and rye)
- Try an AIP or Paleo diet
- Reduce your stress load
- Heal your gut
- Reduce your toxic load
- Find a reputable supplement routine
2. There Is No One Size Fits All Treatment Plan
Levothyroxine is the most prescribed drug in the United States. Though some people feel fine on this medication it isn't right for everyone. Levothyroxine is a synthetic T4 only hormone. If you don't know about thyroid hormones you may want to read this blog post first. Your body is meant to metabolize the T4 and convert about 6% of it into the active form of T3. This may not seem like a significant amount but T3 is an essential hormone our body needs to function. The issue is, many thyroid patients suffer from hormonal, genetic, adrenal and gastrointestinal issues that inhibit the conversion of T4 into T3 in the body. In this case, Levothyroxine will not help with your thyroid symptoms regardless of what your TSH labs say. There are so many other medications that could be considered when finding the proper treatment for your health. I take Natural Desiccated Thyroid (NDT) which contains both T3 and T4. It has changed my life. There is also synthetic forms of T3 you can take. Finding what works for your body is an essential part of treating the thyroid gland.
Lab work is incredibly important as well, but it is not the whole picture. A full thyroid panel is required to have the most accurate diagnosis. A full panel includes, TSH, FT4, FT3, and TPO antibodies. A TSH test does not provide enough information and for this reason many people remain misdiagnosed. An optimal TSH does not reflect the health of the thyroid gland. If your doctor only tests for TSH, find a new doctor.
It is also worth noting that medication does not stop or prevent your immune system from attacking your thyroid gland. Medication simply replaces the hormones your thyroid fails to make on its own. Preventing or decreasing the attack on healthy tissues can only be done by making several lifestyle changes which you can read about here.
3. You've Got 99 Problems and They Are Probably All Related to Your Thyroid Health.
Patients often experience such a wide array of symptoms that they are misdiagnosed with other disorders in the process. Studies show that around 20% of those diagnosed with anxiety and depression also have Hypothyroidism or a sluggish thyroid gland. Patients with Hashimoto’s usually see several doctors before actually getting an accurate diagnosis. For example, you may see a dermatologist for skin issues, a gastroenterologist for gut issues, an allergist for food sensitivities, a gynecologist for fertility issues and a conventional doctor for the rest of your needs, when all along your thyroid could be the main culprit. The thyroid plays such a vital role in our health and can affect how we feel on a cellular level.
Here is just a short list of symptoms you may experience from Hashimoto’s Disease:
- Weight gain (sometimes weight loss)
- Fatigue and exhaustion
- Joint and muscle pain
- Gut health issues
- Cold intolerance (heat intolerance as well)
- Hormonal imbalance
- Dry skin (skin disorders)
- Sensitivity to several foods
- Feeling run down, depressed and anxious
- Hair loss
- Brittle nails
- Low libido
- Brain fog and memory loss
4. If You Don’t Educate Yourself, You Will Never Fully Heal.
This may seem like a huge task, you didn’t go to medical school for a reason, I get it. I know life is busy and in an ideal world our conventional doctors would have all the knowledge to help us, but this is not the case. There is a world of knowledge out there and you are about to learn a whole lot about yourself just by researching. Pick up a book, watch a YouTube video, read an article, or hey, read my blogs. Just make sure you find credible information and are able to work around anything that doesn’t apply to you. There are many components to Hashimoto’s and you won’t be able to learn it all in a day. Make a commitment to your health, dedicate your time to researching and understanding what your body is asking of you. knowing and understanding what is going on in your body is one of the most important things you can do for your health.
5. Hashimoto’s Doesn’t Have to Be a Life Sentence
Yeah okay, Hashimoto’s doesn’t go away, but you can live a quality, symptom-free life with it. Hashimoto’s doesn’t have to affect everything you do for the rest of your life, it doesn’t have to progress and lead to other autoimmune diseases. With proper care and lifestyle changes you can live a good life despite your diagnosis.
Whether you have just been diagnosed with Hashimoto's disease or are still trying to find the right balance of treatment and lifestyle changes, here is my advice to you. Find a doctor who listens and takes you seriously, whether it’s a conventional doctor, functional doctor, nurse practitioner, naturopathic doctor or holistic doctor. Find a diet that compliments your body, one that nourishes and heals your gut. Eliminate processed foods, gluten, and harsh chemicals. Reduce your stress load as much as you possibly can, there is a huge connection between stress and Hashimoto’s disease. Find support, whether it be from your family and friends or from the internet, you need people who listen and understand you. Hashimoto’s can make you feel very alone. I do my best to provide a positive atmosphere for my autoimmune, virtual family but it is okay to be upset. It is okay to break down and be angry at your luck. Just be sure to pick yourself up each day and keep moving forward. You can do this.
Everything that has happened in your life has led you to this moment, thank you for reading.
The Butterfly Effect Blog