Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is an autoimmune thyroid condition which involves destruction of the thyroid cells by the immune system. Hashimoto’s is typically diagnosed by the presence of an elevated thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) and elevated thyroid peroxidase and/or thyroglobulin antibodies. Sometimes the thyroid hormone levels will be low or depressed, although this isn’t always the case, as many cases of Hashimoto’s are subclinical, which can make the condition more challenging to diagnose. Women are affected with Hashimoto’s more frequently than men, and most women are diagnosed between the ages of 30 to 50 years old, although I have worked with patients younger and older than this age range.
The goal of this blog post is to discuss 7 things people with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis should know about treating their condition naturally. Some of these I’ve discussed in greater detail in other articles and blog posts, but I figured I’d put together an updated post which included some of the main things you should know about Hashimoto’s. I’ve also included links to some blog posts I’ve written in the past which go into greater details.
1. Finding the autoimmune triggers of Hashimoto’s can be challenging. In order to reverse the autoimmune component of Hashimoto’s (or any other autoimmune condition) it is necessary to find and remove the autoimmune triggers. There are many different factors that can trigger an autoimmune response, including food allergens (i.e. gluten, dairy), stress, infections, and chemicals. The two main ways I look for triggers in my patients with autoimmune thyroid conditions are through a thorough health history and by ordering certain tests (i.e. blood tests, adrenal saliva test, comprehensive stool panel). Not everyone will need to order the same tests, as while some functional medicine practitioners require all of their patients to order the same tests, I determine which tests someone needs based on the person’s health history.
As many reading this already know, I’ve written a book called “Hashimoto’s Triggers”, which is the most comprehensive book on finding and removing the triggers associated with Hashimoto’s. Of course I’m a tad biased since I’m the one who wrote the book, but I think after reading it you’ll agree that it’s quite comprehensive. I do need to warn you that it’s a very thick book (over 500 pages), but you don’t need to read the entire book to benefit from it, as I designed it so you can easily pick and choose to read the chapters that are of interest to you. As of writing this blog post the Kindle version of the book is only $3.99 (it’s also available in paperback).
2. Diet alone usually isn’t the solution. I mentioned that food allergens such as gluten and dairy can be triggers, and while eating a healthy diet consisting of whole foods is important for anyone looking to restore their health, eating well alone usually won’t be sufficient to reverse the autoimmune component of Hashimoto’s. So just to clarify, if you eat a lot of inflammatory foods then it will be difficult, if not impossible for you to achieve a state of optimal health. However, you probably will need to do more than eat well to restore your health.
For example, a small percentage of people with Hashimoto’s are able to achieve a state of remission by avoiding gluten alone, while many others who follow a strict autoimmune Paleo (AIP) diet don’t notice much of an improvement in their symptoms and lab results. This doesn’t mean that an AIP diet can’t be beneficial in some people with Hashimoto’s, as even if food isn’t a trigger, an AIP diet is anti-inflammatory and can aid in gut healing. So by all means make sure you avoid common food allergens and eat well overall, but if doing this doesn’t help much with your hypothyroid symptoms or test results please don’t get discouraged, as this probably means that you have other triggers that need to be detected and removed.
3. Don’t overlook the impact of infections and chemicals. Many people with Hashimoto’s focus on avoiding potential food triggers such as gluten, dairy, and corn. Although this is a wise thing to do, as I mentioned earlier, changing one’s diet alone usually isn’t sufficient to reverse the autoimmune component. While food can be a trigger, please don’t overlook the impact that infections and chemicals can have on your immune system.
We live in a toxic world, and all of the chemicals we’re exposed to are a big reason for the increased prevalence of autoimmunity. Obviously you won’t be able to completely eliminate your exposure to environmental chemicals, and so the next best thing is to do everything you can to reduce your exposure to them. This includes purchasing organic food, drinking purified water, using natural household products, consider purchasing an air purification system, etc. It’s also important to do things to help with the elimination of toxins from your body, including eating plenty of vegetables, consider using an infrared sauna to sweat out the chemicals from your body, and perhaps even incorporating enemas and colonics.
As for infections, these include bacteria such as H. pylori, viruses such as Epstein-Barr, and parasites such as Blastocystis Hominus. Just as is the case with environmental chemicals, we’re all exposed to bacteria, viruses, and parasites. While I do recommend natural antimicrobial agents at times to my patients to help combat infections, the best thing you can do to minimize the negative impact of certain pathogens is to always work on improving the health of your immune system.
4. A healthy gut is necessary for optimal immune system health. According to the triad of autoimmunity, in order for an autoimmune condition to develop one needs 1) a genetic predisposition, 2) exposure to an environmental trigger, and 3) an increase in intestinal permeability (a leaky gut). Since most of the immune cells are located in the gut, it makes sense that having a healthy gut is a requirement for a healthy immune system. So what can you do to optimize the health of your gut? I discuss this in great detail in my book, but one of the main things you can do right away is read my blog post entitled “What Is The 5-R Protocol?” As I discussed in this post, you need to remove the factor that is causing the leaky gut, followed by replacing certain factors (i.e. digestive enzymes, dietary fiber), reinoculate with prebiotics and probiotics, repair the gut, and rebalance your body.
5. Some people with Hashimoto’s need to take thyroid hormone replacement. I realize that this doesn’t relate to treating Hashimoto’s naturally, but I thought it was important to bring up. Many people reading this are already taking thyroid hormone replacement such as levothyroxine, or natural desiccated thyroid hormone (i.e. Armour, Nature-Throid). On the other hand, there are some people with Hashimoto’s who don’t need to take thyroid hormone replacement. That being said, there are also people who should be taking thyroid hormone replacement but refuse to do so.
When I was dealing with Graves’ disease I chose not to take antithyroid medication, which is commonly recommended by endocrinologists to manage hyperthyroidism. I took an antithyroid herb called bugleweed, but unfortunately there is no herbal replacement for thyroid hormone. Once again, I’m not suggesting that everyone with Hashimoto’s needs to take thyroid hormone replacement, but you need to understand that having sufficient levels of thyroid hormone is very important. Thyroid hormone affects every cell and tissue in the body, and as a result, it can be harmful if someone has depressed thyroid hormone levels, especially for a prolonged period of time.
6. Numerous factors can be responsible for the fatigue people with Hashimoto’s commonly experience. One of the most common symptoms people with Hashimoto’s experience is fatigue. Many times this is due to low or depressed thyroid hormone levels. However, there can be other factors responsible for the fatigue. This includes compromised adrenals, certain infections, and even nutrient deficiencies. So if you balance your thyroid hormone levels and yet are still experiencing fatigue, then this is a clear sign that something else is responsible for your low energy levels. As a result you might need to focus on improving the health of your adrenals, or perhaps there is an underlying infection such as Epstein-Barr, or a deficient nutrient (i.e. iron, vitamin B12) that is causing your fatigue.
7. Some people with Hashimoto’s initially present with hyperthyroidism. Although most people with Hashimoto’s will eventually experience overt or subclinical hypothyroidism, initially hyperthyroidism is common due to the destruction of the thyroid follicles, which causes the release of thyroid hormones into the bloodstream. This transient state of hyperthyroidism can be mistaken for Graves’ disease, as the person’s thyroid panel might also be consistent with a hyperthyroid pattern (depressed TSH and elevated thyroid hormone levels). This is referred to as Hashitoxicosis, where the person has Hashimoto’s antibodies, tests negative for thyroid stimulating immunoglobulins (the antibodies associated with Graves’ disease) but presents with hyperthyroidism.
What Have You Done To Treat Naturally Treat Your Hashimoto’s Condition?
Hopefully you found the information in this blog post to be helpful. I’d like to know what you have specifically done from a natural standpoint for your Hashimoto’s condition, and so please feel free to share your experience in the comments section below. Have you tried finding your autoimmune triggers? Did doing so help with symptoms such as fatigue and brain fog? What have you done for gut healing? Thank you for sharing your experience with everyone!