Hashimoto’s Disease is an autoimmune disease where the immune system attacks the thyroid gland usually resulting in long-term hypothyroidism. It is the leading cause of hypothyroidism. This damage eventually leads to swelling of the thyroid gland, inadequate thyroid hormone production, or hypothyroidism.
The thyroid hormones ‘talk’ to all the other hormones, and activate energy inside every cell. When these hormones are too high or too low, it causes immediate symptoms. Over time, these symptoms build up to a pre-disease picture, and eventually if not treated, can turn into more serious medical diagnoses that require medication or surgical intervention.
Antibodies are created by our immune system to attack any foreign substances that are dangerous to the body, such as viruses and bacteria. There may also be a genetic link. When the autoimmune cells get confused and start to attack the body’s own tissues causing damage – this is called an auto-immune response. Sometimes this can be transient, as in the case of an acute viral infection, but most often it continues for life.
In the case of Hashimoto’s, Dr Hashimoto (yes it was named after him!) discovered the antibody was also attacking Thyroid Peroxidase (TBOab), an enzyme responsible for the regulation of thyroid hormones. This is why we use this as one of the major tests for Hashimoto’s today.
Due to the large amount of inflammation caused by an autoimmune disease, the rest of your hormones will also be affected.
When an autoimmune disease is active, there is always compromise to the gut wall. Both need to be addressed to allow the immune system to normalise again, alongside correct diet, and beneficial herbs and nutrients.
At the beginning of the disease, the attacking auto-immune response can overstimulate the thyroid gland causing it to produce excess hormones. This can cause a short period of HYPERthyroid symptoms. Many patients do not experience this and skip straight to the Hypothyroid symptoms outlined below.
Once the thyroid is inflamed, thyroid function diminishes and the following HYPOthyroid symptoms result.
The standard way to assess thyroid hormone levels is with a blood test. Your general practitioner or endocrinologist will test TSH first and sometimes the level of the thyroid hormone thyroxine (T4). Your doctor will likely check TSH first and follow with a thyroid hormone test only if the TSH is out of normal range.
However, the standard testing for thyroid disease in Australia and America misses many thyroid imbalances, as it is designed to only pick up thyroid disease states. Some people can have test results close to the edge of the normal range and not have any symptoms, but many people will be living with rather strong symptoms affecting their life quality, such as persistent fatigue, stubborn weight, low mood, hair loss, brain fog, and declining libido.
From a Functional Health perspective, we are not trying to diagnose a disease but to understand how and why a thyroid is not functioning optimally and the autoimmune response has been activated. Therefore, further testing is used to understand the complete picture behind the symptoms. Our objective is to treat the root cause, and stop the progression of the disease, not just alleviate the symptoms.
This panel tests 8 markers which are essential to understanding the function of your thyroid hormone production and conversion, and to assessing autoimmune thyroid marker levels. This test is critical for Hashimoto’s patients and is recommended every 3 – 6 months.
Whilst information is divided, iodine deficiency is a crucial root cause of Hashimoto’s disease. This is the gold standard test to assess iodine status and toxic bromide levels to guide the correct dosage to improve your thyroid function.
People with lower thyroid hormones have extra stress on the adrenal hormone system to accommodate energy requirements. This leads to cortisol imbalances, and testing your cortisol at 3 points throughout the day is the recommended screening.
Due to the drop in energy production with Hashimoto’s, patients will generally experience sugar cravings, weight gain around the middle, and brain fog, and this can lead to type-2 diabetes. Assessing sugar and fat storage is an important test if weight and energy are of concern for you.
Hashimoto’s disease impacts the body’s ability to naturally detoxify by slowing down production of key enzymes. This leads to toxin and hormone accumulation and impacts all-over health and wellness. This profile asseses your liver function, allowing us to properly support better toxin clearance from your body.
Some key hormones impacted by Hashimoto’s disease are Estrogen, Progesterone, and Testosterone. Estrogen tends to accumulate leading to estrogen dominance, impacting menstrual cycles and fertility, perimenopause and menopause symtpoms, weight, and moods. Screening levels is recommended.
Cardiovascular health is greatly impacted by Hashimoto’s, often accompanied by tachycardia (fast heartbeat) and palpitations (irregular heartbeat). Screening can pick up earlier signs of cardiovascular disease risk.
Testing aims to pick up excesses and deficiencies that point to an issue with your metabolism. Hashimoto’s slows down the metabolic pathways early, leading to weight gain, poor detoxification capacity, and slow metabolism.
Low thyroid levels affect cell repair in the gut, leading to intestinal permeability (a.k.a. “leaky gut”). Therefore, patients with Hashimoto’s and hypothyroidism develop food intolerances to even everyday healthy foods. A simple blood test will identify what is triggering you and what is safe to eat.
Most people will have had a thyroid condition for years, if not decades, before being put on thyroid medication, with the exception of cases such as damage from trauma, or medical interventions such as radiation and chemotherapy, which can damage the thyroid gland.
This is the most commonly prescribed medication for hypothyroidism.
Other names/brands for thyroxine include:
Up to 20% of people taking T4 thyroid medications may still experience the symptoms of hypothyroidism. This is usually due to an issue in the body converting the medication into its active form – free T3.
Other names for this medication include:
Some functional doctors can compound a combination of T4 and T3 for more individualised medication.
NDT is made from dried and powdered thyroid from pigs (porcine) or cows (bovine), whereas the previously mentioned medications are synthetic.
Not TGA approved for sale without a doctor’s script in Australia.
Some brands include;
Accessing natural thyroid extract can be very challenging. Practitioners at The Lucy Rose Clinic can help refer you to a doctor to access better medication where needed.
Whether you are on medication or not, integrative treatment can greatly enhance your health, and therefore, your quality of life.
Common deficiencies that contribute to hypothyroidism include iodine, zinc, selenium, magnesium, vitamin D3, magnesium, B12, and active folate (L-Methylfolate). A functional health practitioner can test for vitamin and mineral deficiencies so these can be adequately treated.
Nutritional medicine can reverse early hypothyroidism, or if you are already on medication, help you get better results from it. This is due to the replacement of essential nutrients that may not be adequate in the diet which play roles in thyroid hormone production, conversion, and clearance.
A gluten and dairy-free diet can help reduce inflammation and aid in reducing autoimmune antibodies. It is also useful to avoid any foods that specifically cause inflammation in your body (which can be detected by doing a food intolerance test).
Botanical medicines assist in supporting the organs and systems in the body. Often many systems are out of balance with Hashimoto’s due to often fluctuating thyroid levels – digestion (constipation), circulation (hair loss, feeling cold), blood sugars (sugar cravings, “hangry”), mood (depression, low motivation).
Natural medicine offers an additional corrective approach that medical intervention doesn’t factor in. That is immune system support.
Hashimoto’s is an immune system disorder, and a natural health practitioner will work to address the driving factor causing the elevated thyroid antibodies. By bringing the antibody levels down to a safe range, the disease is put into ‘remission’ and the thyroid damage ceases. In some cases, the thyroid may even heal and regain better to full function, with this scenario occurring when the disease is picked up early.
Generally, this will include herbal medicine and probiotic therapy with gut healing and microbial rebalancing incorporated as indicated.
Adrenal support is essential to treat in every hypothyroid case, as these two hormone systems rely heavily on each other each day. When one is out of balance, the other will be as well. We run 3-point saliva testing to assess adrenal hormone function, and sleep/insomnia.
Book a free 15 minute consult with one of our practitioners and we’ll get you on the path to greater health and vitality.