What is Hashimoto's?
The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland that is found in the middle of your neck. It is a vital hormonal gland that plays a major role in body temperature, growth, heart rate, blood pressure, and metabolism. It also plays a part in regulating mood and behavior. The thyroid affects nearly every organ in the body and the way that the body uses energy. So basically, if your thyroid isn’t working properly, then neither are you!
WHAT IS HASHIMOTO’S THYROIDITIS?
Hashimoto’s Disease (AKA Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis or Autoimmune Thyroiditis) is an autoimmune disease whereby the body’s immune system attacks the thyroid gland. The reason why the body's immune system attacks the thyroid gland is due to a particularly pesky Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV) virus. EBV transmitted by saliva resulting in mononucleosis (“mono”) also known as “the kissing disease.” EBV can also be transmitted through their first kiss, during sexual intercourse, by blood or blood transfusion or if they exposed to another infected person’s saliva on a shared drinking glass. EBV eventually takes up residence within our thyroid gland where it can live and be inflammatory to our immune system. Eventually, the immune system sees the virus in our thyroid as an invader thus, attacking the virus along with the thyroid gland.
In Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, your immune system produces antibodies that mount an attack that starts to destroy thyroid cells which have been plagued by EBV. This attack causes inflammation which interferes with the thyroid’s ability to produce thyroid hormones. Eventually, this destruction results in an inability for the gland to produce adequate thyroid hormone and which causes thyroid function to become inadequate.
Autoimmune thyroid disease is the most common cause of thyroid dysfunction in Australia, with some 10–15% of the population having positive thyroid antibodies. It affects both men and women but is much more common in women.
12 COMMON UNDERACTIVE THYROID SYMPTOMS
Fatigue even after sleeping 8+ hours *
Feeling a lack of energy/lethargy *
Feeling cold – particularly cold hands and feet *
Dry skin and/or brittle nails*
Hair loss (including eyebrows)*
Mood swings, anxiety and/or depression*
Swelling of the throat and/or hoarse throat *
Muscle weakness, joint pain and/or cramps *
Weight gain or difficulty losing weight
Hormone imbalances, such as PMS, infertility and/or irregular cycles *
Brain fog, poor concentration and/or memory *
*These are the symptoms that I personally faced over my years with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis
You’ll not always display all of these symptoms all of the time. Symptoms can also come and go and vary from person to person. Due to the wide range of symptoms, Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis can often be misdiagnosed or go undiagnosed for many years.
In Hashimoto’s the autoimmune thyroid attack can cause a huge spectrum of symptom swings back and forth from hyperthyroid (overactive – too much thyroid hormone is produced) to hypothyroid (underactive – too little thyroid hormone is released) as the thyroid deteriorates. If this destruction continues, the thyroid will eventually become deficient and unable to produce adequate thyroid hormone. It is at this point, that thyroid replacement medication will be the only option.
I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s in 2015 in my mid-twenties. My diagnosis came after I went to see a psychiatrist regarding medication that I was taking regarding mental health concerns. He questioned what was going on with my immune system, ran some tests and my results came back with thyroid antibodies at 701 IU/ml (normal is under 35!)
I don’t know how long my Hashimoto’s had been active but I’d suffered from long-term fatigue since my younger, formative years. I was a large child growing up and had trouble with managing my weight, I was told that I would eventually grow out of it. And, apparently, there were a lot of growing pains since I could easily sleep 12 hours a night and still wake up feeling tired. Sometimes I would fall asleep during class and had countless teacher meetings regarding what was going on. I also started suffered symptoms of constant brain fog and aching joints. My memory has always been super sharp as a young child but I started forgetting the names of basic things and had a very difficult time learning. Teachers were concerned and labeled me as someone with ADHD or ADD.
My worst moment of brain-fog happened when I was answering a question in class and mid-sentence, I literally forgot what we were talking about for a few moments. Amongst these symptoms, I’d also wake up in the morning with aching, stiff joints and I felt like I was aging before my time. I never participated in athletes or never thought I would ever be athletic. I was always the last in Physical Education.
During those formative years, several traumatic experiences happened which caused a large amount of distress and eventually, I developed severe depression, anxiety, mood swings, and a slight case of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). I began to mold into this rather eccentric "difficult" human being that my parents, sit in parents, my grandma along with my siblings could not stand. It actually felt really scary and I wondered all the time whether I was losing my mind. This was apart of me and I needed to find a way to manage it.
So, I took a lot of pills to treat whatever these doctors told me. Though, if it weren't for that one psychiatrist to ask me to dive and check my thyroid out. I wouldn't be where I am today. All this time when I thought that I was crazy and I was failing myself, I was really sick due to other circumstances beyond traumatic experiences that happened to me.
I didn’t make the link straight away that these were symptoms of Hashimoto’s. I’d also seen doctors about these symptoms in the past and they’d never been linked. I was put on different medications to mask these "issues" that I was having so I’d naively assumed that I was fine.
Little did I know at the time – was that even though I was finally put on the medication was balancing my thyroid function, my antibodies were still high – so the autoimmune attack and therefore inflammation was still going on in my body.
Lifestyle modifications greatly helped me on my healing journey to greatly reduce my thyroid antibodies and eventually remove symptoms.
There is a genetic predisposition to developing Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis and it often seems to run in families. Twin studies have shown, however, that genes alone are not the only contributing factor. Environmental triggers are also recognized as a factor in developing the autoimmune disease.
Whenever you are diagnosed with one autoimmune disease you are automatically at a greater risk of developing other autoimmune conditions. This could be autoimmune conditions like Type 1 Diabetes, Lupus, Rheumatoid arthritis, Celiac Disease or Multiple Sclerosis. This was a reality that I didn’t want to face, or at least wanted to try and halt – and was definitely a huge factor in my commitment to balancing my immune system.
The funny thing is that my parents have hyperthyroidism and I managed to get Hashimoto's. I also have specializations that people tend to develop autoimmune conditions such as mine due to the exposure of the American food industry.
THE FOOD INDUSTRY
The world’s most widely produced herbicide, Glyphosate (found in Roundup®) is used extensively in agriculture and is also found in garden products in many countries. Glyphosate may the culprit of the increasing cases of autoimmune diseases, autism, depression, infertility and even, cancers. Little do we know that what is sprayed onto our crops, is toxic to our beneficial gut microbiomes (the kind that fights off disease). Glyphosate may preferentially kill off species, like lactobacillus while leaving potential pathogens, like clostridia to run wild. Glyphosate also chelates essential minerals, such as manganese, iron, cobalt, molybdenum, and copper so that the gut microbes do not have access to them. This leads to chronic inflammatory states in the gut as well as increased intestinal permeability, a mechanism at the core of many chronic illnesses, including inflammatory bowel disease, depression, and autoimmunity.
We should reconsider the safety of glyphosate residues in foods.
Pregnancy is a known trigger of Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. In 80% of cases, the condition will resolve itself within 12-18 months, however, in 20% of cases, it will develop into Hashimoto’s (specifically those who have positive thyroid antibodies prior to pregnancy).
Thyroid hormone plays such a critical role in pregnancy!
I think it’s really important to also note here that – a diagnosis of a thyroid condition prior to pregnancy really is important.
Incorrect TSH levels can have serious implications on a baby’s IQ, miscarriage, preterm delivery and even the ability to fall pregnant. There is also an association between increased risk of miscarriage and preterm delivery in those displaying thyroid antibodies.
Current 2017 American Thyroid Association Guidelines for pregnancy can be found here. The ‘Australian Thyroid Association” recommends that if you are planning to conceive ensure that your TSH is not over 2.5 IU/mL and that you are monitored throughout your pregnancy if you have Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis.