Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, also known as Hashimoto’s disease is a common medical problem. It can affect any individual at any age, but typically it affects women at the age of of 20-40. Unfortunately, there are so many misconceptions about this disease.
Misconceptions about Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis
1. Hashimoto’s thyroiditis means you have hypothyroidism Not true!
It is only one of many causes of hypothyroidism.
2. Hashimoto’s disease is the most common cause of hypothyroidism in the U.S. Not true!
Stress, iodine deficiency and obesity are some other causes of hypothyroidism. And these conditions are much more common than Hashimoto’s disease.
3. TSH is the test to diagnose your Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. Not true!
It is a blood test to diagnose hypothyroidism, which can be due to a variety of causes.
4.There is no cure for Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. Not true!
Although there is no cure for Hashimoto’s thyroiditis in the traditional medicine, new holistic treatment may be able to cure Hashimoto’s disease.
5. Levothyroxine as well as dessicated Thyroid such as Armour Thyroid, Nature-Throid or NP Thyroid is the treatment for Hashimoto’s disease. Not true!
All these medications are replacement for low thyroid hormone when you have hypothyroidism. These medications do not treat Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.
An analogy would be like this:
A sniper – Hashimoto’s thyroiditis – gets inside a factory – your thyroid gland – and starts to kill the factory workers – your thyroid cells. Consequently, the factory gets low in its product – your own thyroid hormone. Replacing the lost product with borrowed product – Levothyroxine or dessicated Thyroid – may keep the factory running but it does not get rid of the sniper – Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.
What is Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis?
Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is an autoimmune disease. Named after a Japanese physician, Hakaru Hashimoto, it is an inflammation of the thyroid gland. In this disease, your immune cells – lymphocytes. infiltrate the thyroid gland. That’s why it’s also called chronic lymphocytic thyroiditis.
Basically, your immune cells start to attack and kill your own thyroid gland. Ultimately, your thyroid gland cannot produce enough thyroid hormone and you develop a state of low thyroid hormone, also known as hypothyroidism. However, you can stop the disease process, save your thyroid gland from becoming underactive and live a normal life, as you will learn in this article.
Difference Between Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis and Hypothyroidism
Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is a chronic inflammation of the thyroid gland due to malfunction of your immune system. Whereas hypothyroidism is a state of low thyroid hormone which develops gradually if Hashimoto’s disease is left untreated. In other words, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is the cause and hypothyroidism is the effect.
What Causes Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis?
- Genetic predisposition. Often there is a family history of an autoimmune disorder such as autoimmune thyroid disease, rheumatoid arthritis, asthma etc.
- Gender: It is much more common among females than males, a ratio of about 6:1.
- Stress: A history of physical as well as emotional stress is often present.
- Personality: People who worry a lot are more prone to develop Hashimoto’s diseaseas well as other autoimmune diseases. Many suffer from chronic anxiety, phobias, panic attacks.
- Vitamin D deficiency is strongly correlated with a high risk of developing Hashimoto’s disease as well as other autoimmune disorders.1
- Western diet – packed with processed foods, junk food, preservatives, commercial farming, GMO foods – is associated with high risk of autoimmune diseases.
- Infections, especially Epstein-Barr virus infection can trigger Hashimoto’s disease.2
- Vaccines in certain susceptible individuals – especially those with allergies and family of autoimmune diseases – may rarely trigger the development of autoimmune diseases. 3
In a genetically predisposed person, especially a female who is on a typical Western diet, worries a lot and is also low in vitamin D, a viral infection or a vaccination can trigger Hashimoto’s disease.
Hashimoto’s Disease and Coronavirus (COVID-19)
Patients with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis appear to be at an increased risk of severe illness from coronavirus. In a recent study, researchers analyzed the data of 2169 patients with COVID-19 . They concluded there was a significant correlation between thyroid disease and severe COVID-19 disease. 4
What is the mechanism?
There is an increase in the proinflammatory cytokines in Hashimoto’s disease. 5
Proinflammatory cytokines are basically molecules that helps in the communication between between your immune cells.
An increase in the proinflammatory cytokines causes Cytokine Storm – a major reason why coronavirus patients end up in the ICU – Intensive Care Unit – and are at risk of dying from coronavirus.6
Symptoms of Hashimoto’s Disease
Byy itself, Hashimotos’ diease does not cause any specific symptoms except for an enlargement of the thyroid gland in some – but not all – individuals. An enlarged thyroid gland is also called a goiter. However, it is only one of many causes of goiter.
Your thyroid gland can produce enough thyroid hormones in the early stages of this disease. Therefore, you do not experience any symptoms of underactive thyroid.
If the disease is not diagnosed and treated appropriately, as is often the case, the autoimmune process continues to worsen and kill your thyroid cells.
Once it has killed enough cells, your thyroid gland is unable to produce adequate amounts of thyroid hormone. At this stage, you start to develop symptoms of underactive thyroid – hypothyroidism, which include weight gain, severe fatigue, muscle and joint pain, depression, dizziness, forgetfulness, weak heart and even coma in severe cases.
Hashimoto’s thyroiditis may not cause any symptoms in its early stages. If left untreated, hypothyroidism develops which can affect every organ of the body.
What is a Hashimoto’s Flare up?
Hashimoto’s flare up is an exacerbation of your Hashimoto’s disease. It is also called Hashimoto’s attack. What triggers a Hashimoto’s flare up? Usually stress, vitamin D deficiency and an infection or vaccination can trigger a Hashimoto’s flare-up.
Symptoms of Hashimoto’s attack are basically worsening of the symptoms of hypothyroidism as well as those of the infection or stress. Usual symptoms include severe fatigue, muscle aches, joint pains, depressed mood and lack of motivation.
Blood Test to Diagnose Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis
There are two antibodies that get elevated in Hashimoto’s thyroiditis:
- TPO (Thyroid Peroxidase) antibodies
- TG (Thyroglobulin) antibodies
Some people have elevation of both antibodies, while others may have only one type elevated. Therefore, it is important to have a blood test for both anti-thyroid antibodies.
Physician typically also order a blood test for TSH, Free T4 (thyroxine) and Free T3 (triiodothyronine) to assess the status of your thyroid hormone production. But these tests – TSH, Free T4 (thyroxine) and Free T3 – do not diagnose Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.
New Treatment of Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis
You can stop Hashimoto’s thyroiditis from damaging your thyroid gland at any stage of the disease. The best time, of course is in the early stages of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis when your thyroid function is normal. If diagnosed and treated at this early stage, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis can be cured.
Unfortunately, most physicians including endocrinologists will advise you to wait until you become hypothyroid. It’s like watching a train wreck in slow motion. And then when you finally become hypothyroid, they start you on Levothyroxine.
They recommend this type of plan because there is no treatment of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis in regular medicine. As a traditional endocrinologist, I used to give the same advice to my patients with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.
But things changed! About twenty years ago, I developed a new treatment strategy to treat Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. It is based on scientific knowledge of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. I employed this new strategy in my patients and followed them closely with frequent testing for thyroid antibodies and thyroid function. The results have been amazing.
- We were able to stop Hashimoto’s thyroiditis as evidenced by the normalization of thyroid antibodies in the vast majority of my patients with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.
- Those who were in the early stages of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis were able to keep their thyroid function normal as evidenced by the blood tests – TSH, Free T4 (thyroxine) and Free T3 (triiodothyronine).
- Those whose thyroid gland was already damaged by Hashimoto’s thyroiditis – and were already on Thyroid hormone replacement (Levothyroxine, Armour thyroid, Nature-Throid) were able to gradually reduce the dose of their thyroid hormone pills.
Holistic modern treatment of Hashimoto’s Disease
My modern holistic approach to treat Hashimoto’s thyroiditis consists of three steps:
- Complete freedom from worrying, using my unique approach to stress management.
- Special diet, which is sensible and practical.
- Vitamin D supplements in high doses without causing any vitamin D toxicity.
Please refer to my book, “Hypothyroidism And Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis” for more details.
TSH may be a misleading test for thyroid function – This Why?