Hashimoto's Thyroid and Hypothyroidism

Tess Thompson

Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is commonly referred to as Hashimoto’s thyroid or simply Hashimoto’s. It is named after the Japanese physician Hashimoto Hakaru who was the first to identify that one of the thyroid conditions, hypothyroidism, could also be caused by autoimmunity.

Autoimmunity is the production of antibodies against tissues of your own body. This phenomenon leads to an autoimmune disease or hypersensitivity reactions. The strengthening of the immune system works on low level immunity. Whenever a foreign pathogen invades the body for the first time, the immune system tries to develop immunity against it for later. Depending upon various other factors, the next time the same pathogen invades the body, the immune system is able to recognize it and resist infection from it.

If the health of the immune system is compromised, for example, by reckless use of medications, it starts to attack the body’s organs, in this case the thyroid. The thyroid, whose primary function is to produce thyroid hormones, is responsible for regulating all internal metabolic processes and the reproductive and digestive systems. As an endocrine gland, it releases hormones directly into the blood to be used by every single cell in the body. In people suffering from Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, the thyroid battles to perform its primary function but is unable to produce hormones. This leads to a thyroid condition known as hypothyroidism.

Hypothyroidism is a thyroid problem where the thyroid is unable to produce enough thyroid hormones. Such a situation could arise due to iodine deficiency, pregnancy, viral infections or reckless medications. The pituitary gland in the brain produces a thyroid stimulating hormone (TRH) that stimulates the thyroid to release its own hormones. Problems with the pituitary gland may reduce the production of TRH. This can also have an adverse affect on the thyroid and lead to decreased levels of thyroid hormones. Hypothyroidism can also, therefore be caused due to Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.

The list of symptoms of Hashimoto’s is long. The symptoms are vague and the ones that manifest may differ among different individuals. It requires a skilled physician to recognize symptoms like fatigue, dry skin, thinning hair, muscle weakness, weight gain and increased sensitivity to cold and associate them with hypothyroidism. Identification of Hashimoto’s comes after the condition has been confirmed by blood tests estimating the levels of different hormones associated with the pituitary and thyroid gland.

Depending upon the cause, hypothyroidism may be temporary or permanent. Hashimoto’s is usually a lifelong disorder necessitating regular treatment with supplemental exogenous hormones. Some herbs for thyroid have anti-inflammatory properties, which may help in certain cases of Hashimoto’s.


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