by Kamila Fiore APRN-C
If you’re a woman, you’re six-times more likely to develop the autoimmune disorder known as Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, and outside of prescription thyroid replacement therapy there’s not much that conventional treatment offers for healing, reversing, or symptom relief.
Now, ‘thyroiditis’ is a blanket term that refers to an inflamed thyroid gland – and there are various disorders that could cause thyroiditis. The most common disorder, Hashimoto’s disease, occurs when your immune system has reached such a high level of stress that it begins to mistakenly attack your thyroid gland. This attack causes inflamed tissues and compromised hormone production…which slows down the entire metabolic highway in your body. What does this feel like? Well, maybe some of these symptoms sound familiar:
- Cold hands and feet (inability to get warm)
- Trouble swallowing
- Fatigue (with poor sleep quality)
- Dry skin & hair loss
- Brain fog
- Heart palpitations
- Nervousness or panic attacks
- Anxiety or depression
- Stubborn weight loss or weight gain
If the attack is slow it results in what we call, hypothyroidism (low thyroid hormone production and output). If the attack is aggressive and fast, it results in hyperthyroidism, (aka: Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis – high hormone production and output). Though because of recurring attacks on the thyroid gland, it is common for a mixture of hypothyroid and hyperthyroid symptoms occur in Hashimoto’s.
It’s important to note that Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis is frequently accompanied by other autoimmune diseases such as Lupus and Rheumatoid Arthritis, etc. Therefore, once a diagnosis is made, it’s a good idea to ask your practitioner to consider and possibly test for concurrent conditions.
Finding The Root Cause
But why has Hashimoto’s occurred? As with any disease, finding the root cause is key. With Thyroiditis there are many possible root causes, and often times it is a combination of several contributing factors that lead to the disease.
Some of the most common causes of Hashimoto’s include:
- Direct physical damage to the gland
- Radiation exposure
- Heavy metal toxicity
- Mold toxicity
- Fluoride excess
- Nutritional deficiencies (like iron deficiency anemia)
- Food allergies/sensitivities
- Untreated sleep apnea
- Hormone imbalances
- Genetic variables (check with your practitioner to identify if you’re susceptible)
Once you are able to pinpoint the primary causes you’re working with it’s easier to begin remedial therapy. Remember to be patient on the journey of treatment and recovery. You did not get sick overnight and the body does not rebalance overnight. This will take some time but your devotion to making the necessary changes can change your life, literally.
6 Ways To Reclaim Your Health
“Itis” in Thyroiditis means inflammation, or fire. Identifying the underlying trigger that’s causing inflammation in the first place is key to ‘putting the fire out’. Each person is different, but there are common diet and lifestyle choices that target and reduce inflammation for most people.
- Avoid foods that have been associated with thyroid inflammation. These include gluten, soy, and dairy. Often an elimination diet can be crucial in lowering one’s thyroid antibodies, inflammation, and symptoms. Delayed allergic reactions to certain foods can be tested for and treated accordingly.
- Avoid goitrogens: foods that suppress thyroid function. Broccoli and kale are two popular examples of these. Goitrogenic foods are most harmful to the thyroid when eaten raw, but when they’re cooked they lose their goitrogenic effects. So, steam or roast those veggies!
- Eat your building blocks! Essential nutrients such as: Iodine, Selenium, Zinc, Copper, Natural Vitamin E, Vitamin C, Iron, Tyrosine, Lithium, Magnesium, Vitamin D, Vitamin B1, and Vitamin B12 are essential for a healthy, balanced thyroid.
“Let thy food be your medicine and thy medicine be your food”. -Hippocrates
Many people already eat high quality balanced meals yet continue to deal with nutritional deficiencies. One reason for this could be something called leaky gut. This can be caused by toxins, infections, food allergies, blood sugar imbalances, or stress. Low stomach acid and/or not enough digestive enzymes is another possibility and this can often be corrected by supplementation with Apple Cider Vinegar, Betaine HCL, and/or digestive enzymes.
Heal The Gut
The gut, or our second brain, is where most of our immune system is and where our neurotransmitters, which are responsible for our moods and sleep, are made. It is also where our gut microbiome, a vast ecosystem of microbes that help regulate our health, is.
Our gut wall is also only one cell wall thick. This is to promote absorption of nutrients into our body from the food we eat. However, gut permeability, or “leaky gut”, is when holes develop in the lining of our gut, allowing microbes and food proteins to get through, causing inflammation, allergies, and autoimmunity. That is why healing the gut is so important in our overall body balance and recovery.
First, identify and treat infections and parasites through proper testing. Some common infections associated with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis include Epstein Barr Virus (also known as Mono), H.Pylori, Candida, and SIBO/SIFO (small intestine bacterial/fungal overgrowth).
Eliminating processed, inflammatory foods is also very important. Replace with whole foods, probiotic rich foods, and prebiotioc foods (like onions, garlic, and chicory) that will help feed the microbiome.
Supplementation with zinc, l-glutamine, collagen, probiotics, DGL (deglycyrrhizinated licorice), fiber, and aloe can also help.
This step is crucial as healing cannot proceed if you do not have enough healthy red blood cells. For women especially, iron deficiency anemia is very common and not always addressed. If you’re anemic, replacing your iron stores should be on the top of your list. As mentioned above, absorption issues can be the culprit of iron-deficient anemia.
Adding organic apple cider vinegar, 1-2 tsp diluted in water, 10 minutes before breakfast and meals, can help increase stomach acid and promote absorption of iron from food. Green leafy vegetables are a great source of iron, as well as red meat, which should be organic and grass-fed.
Iron supplements are also an option, but can be constipating….which causes other problems. If you need help restoring iron levels or finding supplementation that will work for you, ask about how our program model of healthcare can help.
Stress management is often easier said than done, but cortisol (our stress hormone), and blood sugar imbalances can be root causes of thyroiditis. In fact, they are closely related. Managing blood sugar is crucial! One way to do this is through diet choices where you balance carbohydrates with healthy fats, good quality protein, and fiber. If you’re already doing that, your healthcare practitioner may consider adding adaptogenic herbs, such as Holy Basil and Ashwagandha.
Some of my favorite stress management techniques include prayer, grounding (aka: earthing) and practicing an attitude of gratitude. We all have something to be grateful for, and when times get tough, it’s helpful to remind ourselves of what that is and what is going right.
There is also an emotional aspect to autoimmunity that creates a critical barrier to healing and is often ignored or missed. Negative self-talk is so prevalent, and what we don’t realize, is that our body is always listening. When we are hard on ourselves, the cells in our body mirror what they’re hearing (feeling) over time. It is crucial with any autoimmune disease to practice being kind to ourselves, loving ourselves, and honoring ourselves.
** Remember, there IS always hope. It took time for an autoimmune response to develop, and it will take time for it to heal. So persist in the path of reclaiming your health. You can do this!