Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis – The Fastest Growing Autoimmune Disorder in America

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The numbers can be staggering. Per Dr Izabella Wentz, PharmD,  1 in 5 women in America have Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis….and many women have not been properly diagnosed. (Men can get Hashimoto’s too. However, the number is 10-15 times higher for women) 90% of thyroid disorders are Hashimoto’s, yet often times, if a diagnosis is given,  the disorder is diagnosed as ‘hypothyroidism’ and the treatment given may not give much relief.

When I was in private practice, I saw many women who had not been properly diagnosed with Hashimoto’s. In fact, many women, after seeking the care of their Primary Care Provider weren’t given a diagnosis at all. It wasn’t uncommon for these women to be told (in so many words) that they were fat, crazy and lazy, and given a prescription for anti-depressants or anti-anxiety medication. Needless to say, these women would become discouraged and feel defeated.

In addition to weight gain (fat) and fatigue (lazy), a common symptom of Hashimoto’s can be panic attacks (crazy). Thyroid hormones play a key role in brain health, but tend to get overlooked when women discuss panic attacks with their doctor.  So….if it’s easy to overlook a thyroid disorder like Hashimoto’s, how does it get diagnosed?

Testing for Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis

Conventional blood testing usually looks at Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) and sometimes Thyroxine (T4), too. Unfortunately, these blood tests don’t usually test ‘abnormal’ for 5-10 years after the onset of Hashimoto’s. (Wouldn’t you want to know sooner, rather than later, if you have the fastest growing autoimmune disorder in America?) When having blood tests done, insist on having Thyroid Peroxidase antibodies and Thyroglobulin antibodies tested in addition to TSH, T4 and T3. The positive findings of antibodies show up long before the other thyroid hormones are out of range. (It’s much easier to correct an autoimmune disorder when you catch it at its earliest stage.)

Don’t be surprised if you get some ‘push back’ when insisting on thyroid antibody testing. (It even happened to me when I requested my thyroid panel and I’m a doctor in the field of functional endocrinology!)

So, once you have the correct diagnosis treatment is easy, right? Well……not really. It will take a multi-faceted approach. In her work to overcome her own Hashimoto’s, Dr Wentz discovered that over 90% of women with Hashimoto’s also have intestinal permeability (leaky gut) problems.

Addressing the health of the digestive tract will be key in helping to heal the thyroid gland.

Nutritional Strategies

Nutrition will play a pivotal role in healing the thyroid. However, there is old information that tends to get recycled. And, sadly, this old information can actually do more harm than good.

 

‘Dr Google’ is replete with information touting the benefits of iodine supplementation and seaweed for virtually all thyroid woes, especially hypothyroidism.  However, in the case of Hashimoto’s, taking supplemental iodine and/or seaweed will likely cause more harm than good. In a world of iodized salt and processed foods (loaded with iodized salt), studies have shown that iodine excess plays a role in the development of Hashimoto’s. The excess iodine shuts down the normal TSH-T4 pathway, leading to hypothyroidism. Supplementing with iodine and seaweed only compounds this problem.

And then there’s the argument about consuming ‘goitergenic’ food. Yet again, ‘Dr Google’ tends to suggest eliminating foods such a broccoli, kale, and other cruciferous veggies.

However, the research doesn’t corroborate these suggestions. Cruciferous veggies can be problematic for people with ‘pathogenic’ thyroid disorders, yet the same doesn’t hold true for those with ‘autoimmune’ thyroid disorders.

Soy, on the other hand, can be problematic for anyone with thyroid dysfunction and should be used with caution.  Tempeh, miso and long-fermented natto (all in moderation) can typically be enjoyed on special occasions.

We’ve lightly touched on the foods that should and shouldn’t be eaten with Hashimoto’s.

Now it’s time to address the problem with intestinal permeability. As was mentioned earlier, 90+% of women with Hashimoto’s have digestive challenges. Gluten and dairy tend to be culprits adding to the inflammatory process that leads to leaky gut syndrome. While trying to heal from Hashimoto’s, it will be important to avoid those foods.

Key Points

Though there are many, many books dedicated solely to the treatment of Hashimoto’s, you and I only have a blog to cover the main points….and they include:

  1. Test….don’t guess.  And insist that your blood tests include TPOAb and TgAb (the antibody tests)
  2. Don’t supplement with iodine or seaweed if you do, indeed, have Hashimoto’s. It will make the condition worse.
  3. Enjoy cruciferous veggies.
  4. Be very cautious about eating soy….only fermented soy should be consumed.
  5. Eliminate gluten and dairy until the thyroid antibodies return to normal numbers.
  6. Check out the additional blog that I created with 2 recipes that will work well with Hashimoto’s. (also good for those without Hashimoto’s, as they are tasty and healthy)

There are other things you can also do to improve the health of your thyroid, however these key steps will start you on a path to enhanced health.

Coming Soon…

I will be addressing the fertility crisis that’s happening in the Western world.

Dr Rebecca Spacke, Certifications in Functional Endocrinology (University of Bridgeport), Lifestyle Medicine (Harvard Medical School), and Course Instructor at Nutrition Therapy Institute

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Sad Looking Woman by Bradley Gordon is licensed under CC BY 2.0

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