Smitha Nair M.D.

What Makes Hashimoto’s Disease Unique

If you have been diagnosed with hypothyroidism, you have a deficiency of thyroid hormone and if you are diagnosed with hyperthyroidism, you have an abundance of thyroid hormone. But when it comes to Hashimoto’s, individuals can fluctuate between hypothyroid and hyperthyroid symptoms. You can also experience symptoms of both conditions at the same time!

Hashimoto’s is the most common cause of hypothyroidism in the U.S. in people over 6 years of age. It is much more common in women than in men. The peak age of onset for women is between 30 and 50 years of age; most men who are affected typically develop the condition 10-15 years later.

Hashimoto’s is the most common autoimmune condition in the United States and worldwide, affecting anywhere from 13.4% to 38% of people. Conservative estimates state that one in five women will be affected with Hashimoto’s or another thyroid disorder at some point in their lives.

Let’s dig deeper into what make Hashimoto’s unique :

If you suffer from Hashimoto’s, your immune system has identified thyroid cells as foreign or harmful substances and has developed antibodies to attack these cells.

The attack of these cells will lead to inflammation and damage of the cells that produce your thyroid hormones eventually causing the cells to be released into circulation. This release will produce an excess level of thyroid hormones.

Eventually, the excess hormones are cleared out of your body and because your damaged thyroid gland cannot produce enough thyroid hormone, you become hypothyroid.

The signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism vary widely, depending on the severity of hormone deficiency. Some of the complaints experienced by those with hypothyroidism include:

  • Fatigue
  • Mental fogginess and forgetfulness
  • Feeling excessively cold
  • Constipation
  • Dry skin
  • Fluid retention
  • Non-specific aches and stiffness in muscles and joints
  • Excessive or prolonged menstrual bleeding (menorrhagia)
  • Depression
  • Weight gain
  • Puffiness in the face
  • Infertility (difficulty getting pregnant)
  • Thinning, brittle hair
  • Hair loss
  • Slow heart rate
  • Irregular menstrual periods
  • Decreased sweating (perspiration)
  • Thick or brittle nails
  • Decreased reflexes
  • Swollen hands and feet
  • Cold skin
  • Sleepiness

These signs and symptoms can increase in severity as the condition worsens.

If you are diagnosed with Hashimoto’s, your doctor may recommend a synthetic thyroid medication such as levothyroxine. This may give you some relief but generally doesn’t result in full recovery for most Hashimoto’s patients. Levothyroxine is not addressing the root causes of Hashimoto’s and may mask the underlying inflammation that will continue the immune system imbalance which can lead to other chronic conditions.

Three other keys to restoring thyroid health that you need to address include:

  1. Gut health – Your gut health controls your immune system and reestablishing your gut health is critical to recovery from many autoimmune diseases.
  2. Your liver and its ability to detoxify. Your liver is your body’s primary detoxification organ and if it is impaired, it may prevent you from feeling well.
  3. Stress – 69% of people diagnosed with Hashimoto’s reported having a traumatic event or a lot of stress in their lives just before they started feeling ill. This can lead to adrenal fatigue. Practicing stress-reduction techniques can help shift your body into a regenerative process so you can become stronger and more resilient.

If you are exhibiting any of the symptoms listed above, I would recommend that you contact a functional medicine practitioner to help address the root causes of Hashimoto’s.

To schedule your appointment with functional medicine practitioner Dr. Nair, MD, click here.