I just attended the annual meeting of the Institute of Function Medicine. An entire lecture was devoted to autoimmune thyroid conditions. One of the speakers asked the audience of almost 800 physician attendees, how many present had the condition of autoimmune thyroiditis themselves. Half of the participants raised their hands. Physicians with the condition attended so that they could further their education to treat themselves and patients in a functional manner, meaning treat as many of the causes and aggravating conditions of autoimmune thyroiditis and not just manage the symptoms while the inflammation continues.
Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is an autoimmune condition where the body attacks its own thyroid cells and it is the fasting growing autoimmune disease in the United States. This is a disease that affects both genders but women are more frequently by a ratio of five to one. It is the most common autoimmune condition and may affect 13.4% or more of the general population. Many who have Hashimoto’s thyroiditis do not know that they have it. They just do not feel well.
Many people with Hashimoto’s disease have no symptoms at first. A combination of genetic predisposition and several environmental triggers cause the immune system to view the cells of the thyroid as foreign and antibodies to the thyroid are made which attack the thyroid gland. As the disease slowly progresses, the thyroid may enlarge and cause the front of the neck to look swollen. The enlarged thyroid, called a goiter, may create a feeling of fullness in the throat and sometimes it could be mildly tender. After many years, or even decades, damage to the thyroid causes it to shrink and the goiter to disappear.
Many people with Hashimoto’s disease develop hypothyroidism. Early in the course, symptoms may be mild but with time, the symptoms can include fatigue, weight gain, cold intolerance, joint and muscle pain, constipation, hair loss, irregular menstrual cycles or infertility, palpitations, anxiety, depression, and memory issues or “brain fog.”
Many people who are diagnosed with thyroid disease or Hashimoto’s feel better when they are placed on thyroid replacement hormones. However, many continue to feel unwell despite the fact that their thyroid levels on blood test show up as being in the normal range. Significant symptoms can persist and patients feel frustrated.
People who develop Hashimoto’s thyroiditis have a genetic predisposition to the condition and then can have one or several environmental triggers that can contribute to its development. They can include infections, food sensitivities which create increased intestinal permeability or a “leaky gut”, an imbalance of bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract and chemical toxins. People who genetically have a reduced ability to detoxify the many daily chemicals and toxins encountered in our modern lives will be more susceptible to autoimmune conditions.
Many of our patients who are seen for weight management help have Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. Our care has involved the replacement of thyroid hormones to ideal levels and careful monitoring. It is not uncommon for thyroid levels to become too high or too low due to erratic surges in thyroid antibodies that make the thyroid act overactive or underactive.
For many years, we have worked with identifying and eliminating hidden food allergies and repairing the leaky gut for our patients who have had gastrointestinal symptoms like bloating, diarrhea, constipation or acid reflux. Many patients have shared
that removing healthy (but not healthy for them) foods, has allowed them to feel the best they have felt in years. This process does take work and dietary counselling but it is absolutely worth it. Most people with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis have some degree of gut imbalance, some have mild symptoms while others have severe issues. Healing the gut is one of the foundations for improving and reversing autoimmune thyroid disease.
Supporting the detoxification processes in the liver and supporting the adrenal glands are two other important foundations for healing with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. This can be accomplished through diet, lifestyle changes, improving sleep quality and rest, correcting nutritional deficiencies and the use of targeted supplements or medications. The use of systemic proteolytic enzyme therapy which helps bring the immune system back into balance also has been helpful to reduce levels of thyroid antibodies. A medical treatment called LDN or low dose naltrexone has also shown promise in this condition.
At Cederquist Medical Wellness Center, we bring our dietary and medical expertise into a targeted treatment plan for people with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and other autoimmune conditions and have created a Hashimoto’s Support and Recovery Program.
Cederquist Medical and Wellness Center