05 May Hashimoto’s 101
Do you have any of these symptoms of Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis?
- Cold hands and feet
- Low or inconsistent energy
- Variable mood, anxiety or depression
- Hair loss
- Weak nails
- Recurring constipation or diarrhea
If you answered yes to any of the above, read on to learn if your symptoms might be related to Hashimoto’s!
Hashimoto’s is one of the most common autoimmune disorders today, affecting over 14 million people in the U.S. alone. Personally and professionally, I’ve experienced the impacts of a Hashimoto’s diagnosis. Unfortunately and fortunately, my Hashimoto’s discovery was a complete fluke. After years of struggling with common symptoms of Hashimoto’s, I was finally diagnosed by a simple blood test and my life was forever changed.
Little did I know, my mother had been struggling with the same misdiagnosis for over 30 years. Having struggled for so long, I felt like the medical system had failed us. It wasn’t just my mom and I. I quickly realized how many women were affected by Hashimoto’s, and often unknowingly. In fact, women are 7 times more likely than men to develop Hashimoto’s. Eventually, this is what fueled my passion for Functional Medicine and MindBody Medicine.
Through my own healing journey, I acquired priceless skills and experiences to manage autoimmunity naturally and holistically
What is Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis
In simple terms, Hashimoto’s is an autoimmune disorder that occurs when the body’s immune system accidentally attacks its own thyroid gland. Notably, Hashimoto’s is not the same diagnosis as hypothyroidism, although hypothyroidism is a major side effect of this autoimmune process.
An overwhelming amount of Hashimoto’s cases are left undiagnosed or even misdiagnosed. As a matter of fact, about 90% of hypothyroid cases are misdiagnosed as primary hypothyroidism when they are in fact Hashimoto’s autoimmune thyroid (very different management between these two!). Meaning, most cases of Hashimoto’s fly under the radar.
Today, as a Functional Medicine Practitioner, I’ve worked with countless patients who have similar stories as mine. Ironically (or not), the majority of my patients struggle with Hashimoto’s for years before finally discovering their autoimmune disorder.
If you suspect a Hashimoto’s diagnosis, know this: it is not a life sentence, nor is it hopeless. As a Functional Medicine Practitioner, I’ve experienced and witnessed both the improvement, reversal, and remission of Hashimoto’s symptoms and ultimately, long-term healing.
How Hashimoto’s Differs From Hypothyroidism
Although often confused, hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s are not the same.
Primary hypothyroidism is a problem with thyroid function itself. On the other hand, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is a problem with the immune system that ultimately affects thyroid function. Essentially, the body’s immune system “tags” the thyroid as non-self which leads to “friendly fire” or self-destructive autoimmune attacks that damage the thyroid tissue over time.
Because of these glaring differences, effective diagnosis and treatment differs, too. Simply taking thyroid hormone replacement therapy may be sufficient for primary hypothyroidism, but for Hashimoto’s, without addressing the root cause of the immune system dysfunction, the problem will continue to get worse.
This is why people with Hashimoto’s (or undiagnosed Hashimoto’s) often need to keep changing or increasing their thyroid hormone dosage. The medicine was just a bandaid and the root of the problem was never addressed!
Causes of Hashimoto’s
You may have heard the phrase: genes load the gun, but lifestyle pulls the trigger. Meaning, genes can play a role in Hashimoto’s, but so do lifestyle choices.
According to one study, “About 20-30% of patients suffer from [Hashimotos], whose cause is thought to be a combination of genetic susceptibility and environmental factors that causes the loss of immunological tolerance, with a consequent autoimmune attack to the thyroid tissue and appearance of the disease.”
These are some of the most common causes of Hashimoto’s:
- Nutrient deficiencies
- Chronic stress (physical, mental, emotional)
- Latent or chronic infections
- Gut imbalance
- “Leaky gut” or Intestinal permeability
- Food or environmental sensitivities
- Chronic inflammation
- Other autoimmune conditions
Given my professional background in bodywork, functional medicine, energy medicine and trauma healing, I know Hashimoto’s can be a multifaceted issue. More often than not, there’s not solely one cause, but multiple.
Common Symptoms of Hashimoto’s
In the case of Hashimoto’s, the thyroid is attacked by the immune system. As a result, hormone production and function is negatively affected, leading you feeling less than optimal. Common symptoms of Hashimoto’s include:
- Extreme fatigue
- Inconsistent energy levels
- Hair loss
- Depression and anxiety
- Cold hands and feet
- Constipation and/or diarrhea
- Irregular periods
- Low libido
- Brain fog
As The Sensitive Doctor, it’s also worth noting that many who are struggling with Hashimoto’s also tend to experience extreme sensitivity – mentally, physically, and emotionally.
Extreme sensitivity might look like:
- Hyper awareness of bodily sensations, touch and textures
- Heightened reaction to smells/sounds/lights
- Intense mental stress
- Overwhelming emotional responses, and more.
Although the symptoms of Hashimoto’s can often be debilitating, there is good news. A thoughtful and holistic care plan can be life-changing. It’s even possible to reverse autoimmune reactivity!
How to Diagnose Hashimoto’s
To accurately identify Hashimoto’s, it’s necessary to work with a skilled and trusted practitioner. As previously mentioned, Hashimoto’s is often confused with or misdiagnosed as hypothyroidism. Although these conditions are fundamentally different, they both affect the function of the thyroid.
Sometimes the symptoms overlap, making it difficult to discern which is the culprit. This is where functional testing comes into play.
As a Functional Medicine Practitioner, I utilize a variety of conventional and functional lab tests to diagnose Hashimoto’s. To start, it’s essential to look at a comprehensive thyroid panel, which includes:
- T3, free
- T3, total
- T4, free
- T4, total
- Reverse T3
- T3 Uptake
- Anti-TG Antibodies
- TPO Antibodies
This comprehensive blood panel, including antibody biomarkers, helps determine the presence of hypothyroidism versus Hashimoto’s.
In some cases, it’s worth considering further testing, like: comprehensive stool testing, urinanalysis, food sensitivities, hidden infections, total toxicity burden, sex and adrenal hormones, nutrient levels, and more.
A Conventional vs Holistic Approach to Hashimoto’s
In general, a conventional approach to health will greatly differ from a holistic and functional perspective. In the case of Hashimoto’s, conventional medicine focuses on suppressing symptoms through the use of hormone replacement, corticosteroids and immunosuppressive drugs. Within holistic and functional medicine, the approach focuses on treating the root cause case of autoimmunity. Often, holistic protocols will include a combination of diet, supplements and lifestyle changes, as well as mental, emotional, and energetic factors.
When working with Hashimoto’s patients, I look at the big picture. My goal is to address the root cause of the imbalance and support healing from the inside-out. More often than not, I rely on a multi-method approach, including functional lab testing, the mind-body connection, emotional and trauma healing, stress management, hormone balancing, immune optimization, and more. With that in mind, the following recommendations are typically fundamental to healing and reversing Hashimoto’s:
- Reducing Overall Stress- All chronic illness, including autoimmunity, is a result of stress in the body (physical, mental, and emotional). This is why stress management is always the first step. Learning how to effectively manage and reduce stress sets the stage for healing to take place, which naturally explains the importance of the mind-body connection.
- Introducing a Whole Food Diet- I believe that food truly is medicine. In a world full of processed, packaged, refined foods, transitioning to a whole food diet is a non-negotiable.
- Eliminate Toxins- Unfortunately, toxins flood our body every single day. Everyday toxins are found in: refined foods, pesticides, MSGs, OTC drugs, prescription drugs, alcohol, caffeine, perfumes, other fragrances, detergents, cleaning supplies, plastic, drinking water, indoor and outdoor air quality, furniture, and so much more. Little by little, you can begin removing these toxins from your home and day-to-day life.
- MindBody Medicine- Stay tuned for an upcoming article that takes a deep dive into MindBody factors that impact Hashimoto’s healing.
Next Steps if You Have Hashimoto’s
The journey with Hashimoto’s can be overwhelming and confusing. However, once a diagnosis is confirmed, the road to healing can begin! Working with a trusted practitioner, who can guide you through the appropriate protocol, Hashimoto’s can be managed and, in some cases, reversed. Healing is possible!
If you’re looking for expert guidance and empathic support in your Hashimoto’s journey, visit the “Work with Me” application. I work one-on-one with those confused by years of mystery symptoms, suspecting a Hashimoto’s diagnosis or after a diagnosis has been confirmed. Together, we can support your body as a whole and restore your thyroid to optimal function!
We’re in this together!
Dr. Natasha F