What is Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis?
Your thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland at the base of your neck. It produces hormones and is essential for metabolism, body temperature, heart rate, regulating blood calcium and your immune system.
Hashimoto’s is an autoimmune condition where the body is attacking itself, in this case, the thyroid. Antibodies react with proteins in the thyroid gland, causing damage and eventual destruction.
Hypothyroidism, or underactive thyroid, is commonly caused by Hashimoto’s. Hashimoto’s is often not picked up during medical visits until quite progressed, as requires blood tests for elevated antibodies, in addition to the more typical TSH and T4 tests. Also, the ‘normal’ TSH range is skewed because thyroid conditions are becoming more and more common – especially given it is those who are feeling unwell who are requesting the tests in the first place. So people with ‘normal’ TSH are often told they are perfectly fine.
Common symptoms of Hashimoto’s include fatigue, depression, weight gain/loss, lack of focus, constipation, cold hands/feet, slow reflexes, poor memory – and can lead to pain in muscles and joints, depression, enlarged thyroid gland, high cholesterol, prolonged menstrual cycle, heart disease, osteoporosis and infertility.
What causes Hashimoto’s?
Dr Alessio Fasano describes autoimmunity as requiring all of three things – genetic predisposition, exposure to a trigger such as infection, and intestinal permeability. The trigger and intestinal permeability you can influence, for example with diet and lifestyle, so the genes no longer have an environment to express themselves.
Dr Izabella Wentz, author of Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis: Lifestyle Interventions for Finding and Treating the Root Cause, suggests six potential root causes of intestinal permeability:
- Gluten sensitivity
- Gluten sensitivity and cross reaction proteins
- Glutamine/zinc depletion
- Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO)
- Fungal infections
I recommend her book for further reading. Fellow Health Coaches have also recommended Stop the Thyroid Madness and Thyroid for Dummies.
For many people with Hashimoto’s, removing gluten, dairy and soy from the diet is sufficient to improve symptoms and in some cases, the critical numbers – blood test results, weight and medication needs. Personally, once I did this, the fog lifted.
Removing these inflammatory foods is not easy – but very achievable. There are many alternatives available, keeping in mind some may not be nutrient-dense choices – but excellent to make the first few months less daunting. Over time, the cravings reduce, as does the desire to eat foods that cause such damage.
The autoimmune paleo diet is an approach working for many with an autoimmune condition. Think of all the combinations you can make with vegetables, fruits, meat, fish, herbs, spices and healthy fats! Takings out grains, beans/legumes, eggs, nightshades, seeds, nuts, dairy and alcohol might be tough initially, but if you were to feel vital and healthy again, wouldn’t that be worth it? You may also find you can reintroduce some of these foods once your body is stronger. More information about the autoimmune paleo approach can be found here.
Some experts also recommend you limit goitrogenic foods if you have hypothyroidism, as they can suppress thyroid hormone production. These include broccoli, cabbage, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, kale, spinach, peanuts, linseed, pine nuts, peaches and strawberries. Cooking these foods slightly decreases their effects on the thyroid. However, Dr Wentz considers most people with Hashimoto’s do not have iodine deficiency so do not need to be concerned – to see which tack you should take, read more here.
Increasing intake of foods containing selenium, zinc and omega-3 fats is beneficial, such as wild fish, Brazil nuts, beef and seaweeds. Add in probiotics and fermented foods. Plus lots of vegetables, smoothies and green juices. Professionally-subscribed vitamins/supplement may offer further support.
However, if you don’t see considerable improvement in your condition within 3-6 months, Dr Izabella Wentz says – while changing your diet is a really important first step, it may be just the beginning of your health journey – you need to find the root cause.
Other changes you can make to help heal Hashimoto’s
I love this short article from Andrea Beaman, Health Coach.
She asks “With hypothyroid, we need to start asking why would the body reduce or limit production of thyroid hormone and intentionally try to slow its own functioning down? …. The body may be literally telling us that it needs a break.”
Ringing any bells? Are you suffering ‘rushing woman’s syndrome’.
- deal with your stress
- take up yoga / meditation / breathing
- chew your food well
- get 8-10 hours of sleep a night
And of course for general good health also reduce chemicals in your home environment, your body and hair products, and in what you eat and drink.
I’d love to hear your experience with Hashimoto’s or any autoimmune condition. Together let’s inform, inspire and support others facing health challenges! Comment below, and share with others who could benefit too.
While not a medical practitioner and therefore able to diagnose or prescribe, as a Health Coach I am able to support you make the dietary and lifestyle changes you know would be beneficial to your health, or as recommended by a health professional.
My training as a health coach, plus my personal experience with health challenges, combined with insights gained from a wide spectrum of clients, ensures you benefit from a holistic approach which perfectly complements that of specialists in one field.
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