What is Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis?
Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, also known as chronic lymphocytic thyroiditis was named after the Japanese physician, Hakaru Hashimoto (1881 – 1934), who first described the condition in 1912.
This disease causes inflammation of your thyroid (a small butterfly-shaped gland in your neck near your Adam’s apple). It is an auto-immune disease, which means it causes your body to attack its own tissue.
With Hashimoto’s thyroiditis the immune system mistakenly attacks the thyroid causing inflammation and tissue damage. Antibodies are made by white blood cells to fight germs and infections. But in Hashimoto’s, auto-antibodies (antibodies which attack normal tissue) are made by white blood cells and appear in the bloodstream.
The result is an infiltration of immune cells into your thyroid gland and damage to the thyroid tissue. As a result, your thyroid gland then reduces its production of hormones, which leads to an underactive thyroid gland (known as hypothyroidism).
Who Suffers from Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis?
This disease progresses slowly, and causes chronic thyroid damage. It is life-long, but with the correct treatment, healthy nutrition and exercise, it can be managed effectively.
Often, Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis is mild and can go undetected for a number of months or years. Hashimoto’s disease is the most common cause of primary hypothyroidism in the United States. Women are more commonly affected than men at a ratio of 8:1 and it is most prevalent in the 30-50 age group.
Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis affects approximately 15 million women in the United States, most presenting with Hashimoto’s in middle age. Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis is more common in those individuals with a history of thyroid disease, other autoimmune conditions or other endocrine disorders.
Diagnosing Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis
The diagnosis of Hashimoto’s disease is based on the following tests:
- Hormone test - This blood test is able to determine the amount of hormones produced by the thyroid and pituitary glands.
- Antibody test - This blood test is aimed at finding thyroid antibodies in the blood.
Recognizing the Symptoms of Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis
The onset of Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis is slow and insidious, with gradual progression over time. This means that many people with early Hashimoto’s are not even aware of the problem as they do not have any symptoms of hypothyroidism.
The symptoms of Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis are initially mild, sometimes barely noticeable, but as the disease progresses over a lengthy period more symptoms become apparent.
Some of the symptoms and signs of Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis include:
Hashimoto's normally involves a slow and steady destruction of the thyroid gland eventually resulting in the thyroid being unable to produce sufficient thyroid hormone. However, during this process there can be periods where the thyroid seems to come back to life, even causing temporary hyperthyroidism.
This cycling between hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism is one of the characteristics of Hashimoto's disease. During this cycling back and forth, symptoms will vary too with alternating periods of anxiety, insomnia, diarrhea and weight loss may be followed by periods of depression, fatigue, constipation and weight gain.
Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis in Children
Hashimoto's thyroiditis is the most common cause of thyroid diseases in children. It is also the most common cause of acquired hypothyroidism (with or without goiter). Symptoms resemble the ones seen in adults with fatigue, concentration problems and forgetfulness being the most prevalent along with headaches and cold intolerance.
What Causes Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis?
The actual cause of Hashimoto’s disease is unknown. Immune cells (lymphocytes) infiltrate the thyroid gland and affect thyroid functioning. A combination of factors such as heredity, gender and age can contribute to the development of this disease.
Help for Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis
While there is no definitive cure for Hashimoto’s disease, there are treatments available to help relieve symptoms. Conventional drug therapies include:
- Betablocker/Antithyroid medication
- Thyroid hormone replacement medication such as Levothyroxine
An individual with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis has to be aware that hormone replacement medication is a life-long treatment. Alternatively, there are natural and alternative therapies that have been proven to promote thyroid health – and best of all, unlike conventional drug therapies, Hashimoto's thyroiditis natural treatment options are side-effect free!
The type of treatment chosen should be customized to suit an individual needs. It might be a good idea to implement a broader treatment plan, and it is always best to first consult a health care professional about the available options.
Throughout the last few years, alternative therapy and natural remedies have become increasingly popular with an ever increasing number of people using this treatment method. The holistic approach to healing is to view symptoms as a reflection of a deeper, underlying cause rather than view the symptoms as the primary concern.
By restoring the physical, mental and emotional wellbeing of the individual, better health and quality of life is promoted.Remember that it is always important to consult your doctor or health care professional before making any changes to chronic prescription medication.
Natural therapies to alleviate symptoms include:
- Herbal Medicines (naturopathy)
A combination of herbal ingredients such as Equisetum arvense, oatstraw (Avena sativa), alfalfa (Medicago sativa), and gotu kola (Centella asiatica) can be used as Hashimoto's thyroiditis natural treatment options to promote a healthy thyroid. Herbal remedies may also be used alongside conventional thyroid treatment for hypothyroidism, but remember to discuss this with your doctor.
There are many Hashimoto's thyroiditis natural treatment options. Consult a homeopath or naturopath for guidance on the use of herbal or homeopathic treatment. It may be beneficial to adopt healthy eating habits as this can also improve thyroid function.
Tips for Coping with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis
Understandably, adjusting to life with hypothyroidism can be a difficult, testing time. Here are a few tips to help you manage the disease more effectively:
- Maintain a positive outlook – remember Hashimoto’s disease is treatable, and not fatal
- Co-manage your condition with your doctors, specialists, therapists, families, and friends
- Educate yourself about your condition
- Eat a healthy diet.
- Avoid cruciferous vegetables (cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli, brussels sprouts, kale) as these contain a natural thyroid blocker.
- Exercise regularly
- Be consistent with your chosen medication
- Monitor your hormone levels on a regular basis
Diet & Exercise for Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis
A balanced diet that includes high quality proteins such as fish and chicken cannot be emphasized enough when it comes to thyroid health. In the case of Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis and thyroid conditions in general, the better the quality of food the healthier the thyroid gland will be. Overly processed foods such as refined sugars and flour should be avoided as much as possible. Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and kale are said to slow down thyroid function; therefore it is a good idea to limit consumption of these foods.
Talk to your doctor about your nutritional needs and ask him to help you lay down a basic dietary foundation. A nutritionist can be also be helpful when it comes to developing a meal plan that works along with your treatment plan. Keep a food diary and record how certain foods make you feel. This will give you great insight as to how certain foods affect your thyroid health.
Getting plenty of exercise on a regular basis is another basic when it comes to promoting efficient metabolism and hormonal balance. Daily walks, riding bicycle and swimming are all good options. Yoga is also helpful for those suffering from thyroid conditions because it has specific postures that massage the thyroid and have the effect of helping promote optimal function.