What You Need to Know: Low Thyroid & Hashimoto’s
What You Need to Know: Low Thyroid & Hashimoto’s
The thyroid gland is a small butterfly shaped gland that sits in the front of your throat. The thyroid contributes to the healthy function of every cell in the body. Hashimoto’s disease is the most frequent cause of hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid), according to Medline Plus. When the thyroid is underactive, it does not produce enough thyroid hormone to sustain normal body functions. The thyroid produces hormones that help to regulate growth, metabolism, and how the body uses energy, among other processes. The main hormone produced by the thyroid is thyroxin (T4), the inactive form of thyroid hormone, but it also produces a small amount of T3 (the active form of thyroid hormone) and several other hormones. If it is not functioning properly, it can affect the body in many different ways.
Symptoms of Low Thyroid
Some of the most common signs of low thyroid include fatigue, thinning of hair, brain fog, constipation, temperature sensitivity, brittle nails, inability to loss weight despite sticking to a diet plan, depression, mood swings, joint aches and pains, elevated cholesterol and muscle aches and pains. These symptoms may appear gradually over time which can make getting a correct diagnosis challenging.
Hashimoto’s Disease Causes and Symptoms
Hashimoto’s disease, also called Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, is an autoimmune disease that occurs when the body attacks the thyroid as if it were a foreign tissue, resulting in inflammation. As a result of this attack many Hashimoto’s patients fluctuate between an underactive and over active thyroid function. The attacks on the thyroid continue over the years and the immune system slowly destroys the thyroid gland piece by piece. This is why the Hashimoto’s patient will eventually become hypothyroid due to this loss of thyroid gland and the inability to produce hormones.
Due to the fact that this is a problem with the immune system rather than the thyroid, medication is not an effective ‘sole’ treatment for Hashimoto’s disease. Medication may help to balance the TSH and provide needed thyroid hormone after the thyroid has become physically hypo-functioning, but it doesn’t treat the cause of the problem – the dis-regulated immune system. One has had Hashimoto’s likely for years before enough thyroid is destroyed to cause one to need hormone replacement. Sometimes found in adolescents and young adults, it is mostly diagnosed in middle-aged women, which could be partly due to the fact that many people who suffer from the condition show no symptoms for years. The first sign of the disease is often a goiter, an enlarged thyroid. This may cause a feeling a swelling within the throat or difficulty swallowing, but there is rarely any associated pain.
Often mild at first, there are many different symptoms associated with Hashimoto’s disease. Some of these include fatigue, mild to moderate weight gain, a pale or puffy face, intolerance to the cold, joint and muscle pain, constipation, dry, thinning hair, irregular periods, depression, a slowed heart rate, dry skin, troubles concentrating, leg swelling, and fertility issues. Though Hashimoto’s disease can be very serious, it is treatable.
There are estimates that show that almost 80% of all hypothyroidism may be caused by Hashimoto’s. Because there are so many undiagnosed cases of Hashimoto’s disease, there are many patients being treated for hypothyroidism and not finding any relief from their symptoms because the underlying immune issue is not being addressed…and this can lead to yet other auto-immune diseases in the body, such as Type 1 diabetes, Alzheimer’s dementia, rheumatoid arthritis, etc. very commonly, we find patients that have several at the same time.
Diagnosing Hashimoto’s Disease
Blood tests are done to help diagnose Hashimoto’s disease. The blood markers to confirm a diagnosis include TPO Ab (thyroid peroxidase antibodies) and TgAb ab (thyroglobulin antibodies). There are some symptoms that distinguish Hashimoto’s from hypothyroidism including mixed symptoms of hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism, lack of response to thyroid medications, elevated TSH plus a constant need to increase thyroid hormones to receive a response.
Since Hashimoto’s is an autoimmune disease, there is a genetic predisposition to the condition. Many different factors can trigger the expression of the genetics such as environmental factors, infections, food intolerances, nutritional deficiencies, gastrointestinal flora imbalances, major hormone swings such as those found in onset of menstruation, pregnancy and peri-menopause, as well as heavy metal exposures.
For people not finding adequate relief from hypothyroidism symptoms, even when TSH is normal and you are diligently taking your medication, it may be time to get tested for Hashimoto’s disease and for the triggers that flare up your disease. Once a proper diagnosis is achieved, then appropriate treatment can begin. Hashimoto’s treatment should focus on the immune system, and getting you into ‘remission’ since this is the cause of the problem. The approach should be tailored for the patient and customized to treat all of the functional imbalances in the body. This natural functional approach has proven successful in our office. So get tested, it could just change your life as it has with many of our patients!
We’d love to hear from you. Are you suffering from Hashimoto’s or thyroid related issues? Comment below and make sure to contact us for more info on becoming a patient.