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5 Myths About Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis

There are many different myths when it comes to Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis.  So what I’ve decided to do is discuss five common myths about this condition.  Some of these myths also apply to those people with hypothyroidism who don’t have an autoimmune component.  And for those people with hyperthyroidism and Graves’ Disease, next week I’ll have a post about some of the common myths regarding hyperthyroid conditions as well.

Myth #1: Everyone with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis needs to be on thyroid hormone on a permanent basis

I’d like to begin by stating the obvious, which is that some people do need to take synthetic or natural thyroid hormone for the rest of their life.  However, when you really think about it, it’s crazy to tell someone to take thyroid hormone on a permanent basis based solely on a high TSH, low thyroid hormone levels, and/or high TPO antibodies.  While there are some great medical doctors in practice, the problem is that most doctors treat blood tests, and not the person.

Once again, I’m not suggesting that everyone reading this who is taking thyroid hormone should stop taking their medication.  But when someone has blood tests that are out of range, there is a cause behind this.  With Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, most endocrinologists will simply tell their patients that this is an incurable autoimmune thyroid condition, and the only “solution” is to take thyroid hormone on a permanent basis.  In “Myth #2” below I’ll talk more about the autoimmune response, and after reading this I’m hoping you’ll agree with me that in some cases it is possible for someone with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis to not be dependent on taking thyroid hormone for the rest of their life.

So when is it necessary to take thyroid hormone on a permanent basis?  Well, there are obvious situations, such as someone who has received a complete thyroidectomy.  Or perhaps someone who received radioactive iodine treatment.  Of course this doesn’t mean that these people don’t have other compromised areas of their body which shouldn’t be addressed, but even if this is the case they will most likely need to take thyroid hormone on a permanent basis.

But how about those people who haven’t received a thyroidectomy or RAI?  Well, if someone has Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis and there has been extensive damage done to their thyroid gland due to the thyroid antibodies, then they might need to take thyroid hormone for the rest of their life.  The problem is that it’s difficult to tell when someone has reached this point, and just because someone has had Hashimoto’s for many years doesn’t mean their thyroid gland has been damaged to the point where it can’t produce a sufficient amount of thyroid hormone on its own.

Myth #2: Nothing can be done for the autoimmune component of Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis

This is another myth, as it’s one thing to say that Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis can’t be cured, but to say that there isn’t anything that can be done to suppress the autoimmune response is not true.  And this isn’t just my opinion, and also isn’t just the opinion of chiropractors and naturopaths.  The Institute of Functional Medicine (IFM) is comprised of chiropractors, naturopaths, and medical doctors who actually try to address the underlying cause of certain conditions, including autoimmune conditions .  In fact, many medical doctors become exposed to holistic medicine through the IFM.

When it comes to autoimmune conditions, including Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, there are numerous factors which can trigger an autoimmune response.  These factors include stress, poor diet, gluten, heavy metals, H. Pylori, candida, and numerous other factors.  It admittedly can be a challenge to determine what the trigger is, but if the trigger is detected and then removed, and then the compromised areas of the body are addressed, then it is possible to improve the health of the immune system in people with autoimmune thyroid conditions.

This is the key in restoring the health of people with autoimmune conditions such as Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis.  Some people consider this condition to be due to genetics, and while it’s true that genetics usually play a role, it’s also a fact that lifestyle and environmental factors can influence the genetic markers.  So while we can’t change anyone’s genetic predisposition, most people with these conditions can be helped through diet, lifestyle, and environmental changes.

Myth #3: Everyone with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis needs to avoid gluten on a permanent basis

The key word here is “needs”, as while one could argue that everyone with Hashimoto’s “should” avoid gluten for the rest of their life, there is no proof that everyone with this condition “needs” to avoid gluten on a permanent basis.  In other words, it is possible for some people to restore their health while continuing to consume foods that have gluten in them.  With that being said, it is a good idea for most people avoid gluten when following a natural treatment protocol.  After all, it can be a challenge to tell if someone has a gluten sensitivity problem, as one can’t just go by symptoms alone, and accurate testing can be quite expensive.

Plus, when you think about it, nobody really needs to eat foods with gluten.  And one can make the argument that everyone would live a healthier life if they were gluten free.  However, not everyone is gluten sensitive, and so while everyone should at least consider going on a gluten free trial, and some people do need to avoid gluten for the rest of their life, I don’t think that everyone with an autoimmune thyroid condition needs to permanently avoid gluten.

For example, let’s look at the person who is not gluten sensitive, but then due to numerous factors they go on to develop a leaky gut.  This not only triggers the autoimmune response, but due to this the person develops a gluten sensitivity problem.  Once the leaky gut has been healed this person very well may be able to consume foods with gluten and not have a problem.  On the other hand, some will remain sensitive to gluten even after the leaky gut has been corrected.

Keep in mind that I’m not suggesting that eating foods with gluten on a regular basis is a good idea.  I’m just not convinced that completely avoiding gluten on a permanent basis is necessary for everyone with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis.  Of course if someone is sensitive to gluten then even a small amount of gluten can cause problems, and therefore shouldn’t be consumed.

Myth #4: People with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis should never take iodine

Iodine supplementation in people with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis is of course a very controversial topic.  And over the years I’ve been cautious about giving iodine to patients with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis.  Many people with this condition don’t understand what’s wrong with taking iodine, but they simply avoid it because they read somewhere that people with Hashimoto’s should avoid taking this mineral.  But what problem can iodine cause in people with this condition?

Let’s not forget that all of the minerals are important for optimal health, and iodine is necessary for the formation of thyroid hormone.  So for someone with an autoimmune hypothyroid condition it might be a good idea to make sure you’re not deficient in this mineral.  The problem is that iodine can potentially exacerbate the autoimmune response.  But why does this happen?  After all, Dr. David Brownstein (author of the book Iodine, Why You Need It, Why You Can’t Live Without It) gives iodine to most of his patients with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis and they seem to receive excellent results.  And he has been doing this for many years, along with numerous other doctors.

During the formation of thyroid hormone, there is an oxidative reaction that takes place.  Certain vitamins and minerals need to be present in order to prevent oxidative damage from occurring.  This oxidative damage can trigger an autoimmune response.  This is why Dr. Brownstein makes sure that all of his patients who take iodine also take selenium, along with vitamin C.  Magnesium isn’t an antioxidant, but it does help with the absorption of iodine and also should be taken.

Does this mean that everyone with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis should take iodine?  Absolutely not, as not everyone needs to take iodine.  Before anyone takes iodine it really is a good idea to get tested first.  And then if it is determined that they have an iodine deficiency, one should begin with small doses of iodine.

Myth #5: Cruciferous vegetables should be completely avoided in those with hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis

A few years ago when I began focusing on thyroid and autoimmune thyroid conditions, I would advise everyone with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis to avoid cruciferous vegetables, and other goitrogenic foods.  I have even written articles about this.  And the reason for this is because I was taught this by other natural healthcare professionals who had a great deal of experience dealing with these conditions.  While avoiding goitrogenic foods won’t cause any harm, doing so is unnecessary, and I’ve come to learn that there are no studies in humans which show evidence that eating goitrogenic foods in normal amounts will inhibit thyroid function.

There have been some studies conducted on animals which involved larger amounts of these foods.  But there is no evidence which shows that eating a few servings of raw cruciferous vegetables, or other goitrogenic foods (spinach, strawberries, etc.) will inhibit thyroid gland activity.  Remember that these are very healthy foods we’re talking about, and while I wouldn’t recommend eating large amounts of these foods on a daily basis, one or two servings per day shouldn’t be an issue with most people.

So these are five common myths regarding Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis.  I’m sure there will be people who read this and will disagree with me on numerous points.  Keep in mind that I’m not suggesting for people to stop taking thyroid hormone, to begin taking iodine, to consume gluten on a daily  basis, or to eat large amounts of goitrogenic foods.  Just try to keep an open mind, and I encourage you to look further into some of these topics I’ve discussed in this post.