Treating Hashimoto’s disease should be done by an experienced healthcare provider that understands it is an immune reaction not just a thyroid disease.
Hashimoto’s disease is a form of autoimmune thyroid disease. This should not be confused with overt thyroid dysfunction. One can have an over active or underactive thyroid function as a result of a disease process, chemical or toxic exposure causing them to need some form of hormone support for the rest of their life. Hashimoto’s disease however, is an immune response it is important to treat the immune system not just the thyroid.
History of Hashimoto's Disease
Hashimoto’s disease was first published in 1912 in a German publication. Approximately one in five people suffer from some form of autoimmune disease. Some estimates say that 75 percent of those affected or about 30 million of those people are women. Autoimmune thyroid disease is the most common of all autoimmune disorders affecting 7-8 percent of the U.S. population. In the U.S. alone, autoimmune disease accounts for approximately 90 percent of adult hypothyroidism, mostly due to Hashimoto’s.
During this autoimmune response the body begins to attack the thyroid tissue as a foreign entity. This attack causes a person a variety of symptoms:
- Hair loss
- Weight gain
- Memory Loss
- High Cholesterol
- Heart Palpitations
- Weight Loss
- Night Sweats
- Internal Tremors
- Increased appetite
When someone experiences Hashimoto’s the symptoms can fluctuate between overactive and underactive. Which can make things very confusing to diagnose, treat and to live with.
Blood testing is needed to determine if the person has overt thyroid disease or if they are having an immune reaction. Common tests ordered to determine this condition are: TSH, T4, FT4, T3, FT3, TPO, and TGB.
When should you suspect autoimmune thyroid disease?
If you are someone who takes his or her thyroid hormone regularly and feels worse or needs continued adjusting of the thyroid medicine. A perfect scenario is someone who forgets their thyroid hormone only to realize they really do not feel any better without the medication.
Autoimmune disease can attack various tissues, organs, joints, hormones, or brain tissues. It’s not always possible to find the exact reason a gene turns on to attack the immune system. Alternative medicine practitioners suspect a weakening of the immune barrier in the lining of the intestinal tract known as “leaky gut”, respiratory tract, and the blood brain barrier. When these barriers are healthy and strong, intruders cannot pass through, so only the occasional emergency and maintenance work such as clearing out dead and dying cells musters the immune system. When health weakens from poor diet, unstable blood sugar, gut infections, chronic stress and adrenal disturbance these barriers weaken and become porous resulting in disease.
Once the gene for autoimmune disease has been turned on, it cannot be turned off. The only thing that works to treat the condition is to turn down the volume on the immune response by restoring balance. It is important to determine which side of the immune system is more active the natural killer and cytotoxic T-cells or the side that deploys B cell antibodies.
TH-1 and TH-2 cytokines affect thyroid function beyond driving Hashimoto’s disease: Elevated TH-1 or TH-2 cytokines also block thyroid receptor sites. This prevents thyroid hormone from getting into the cells, thus causing symptoms of low thyroid activity. It is important to balance the TH-1 and TH-2 system.
Using vitamin D is helpful and more than 90 percent of people with autoimmune thyroid disease have a genetic defect affecting their ability to process the nutrient.
Other herbs used to support the immune system and the thyroid are Glutathione, Astragalus, Echinacea, Maitake mushroom, Licorice, and lemon balm. Green tea extract, Grape seed extract, Pine bark ad willow bark. A knowledgeable practitioner should prescribe these so that they can be adjusted based on the cytokine response.