Failing to manage your Hashimoto's hypothyroidism condition could lead to future autoimmune diseases. A recent study revealed that roughly one in six patients with Hashimoto's has another autoimmune disease, most commonly:
- atrophic gastritis, a condition in which the lining of the stomach is constantly inflamed
- celiac disease
- antiphospholipids syndrome, which may cause blood clots, miscarriages, or stillbirths, and
- multiple sclerosis.
Hashimoto's is an autoimmune disease that attacks and damages the thyroid gland, causing symptoms of hypothyroidism that include weight gain, cold hands and feet, depression, fatigue, and hair loss. In the United States, about 90 percent of hypothyroidism cases are due to Hashimoto's.
Of the more than 1,500 patients with autoimmune thyroiditis (Hashimoto's) who were included in the study, 16 percent were found to have an additional autoimmune disease. These patients also exhibited poor absorption of T4, chronic unexplained anemia, and recurring pregnancy losses. Thyroid hormone medication, which is the conventional treatment, may compensate for a damaged thyroid, but it does not address the underlying autoimmune condition.
Managing your Hashimoto's hypothyroidism can prevent other autoimmune diseases
Hashimoto's is more an autoimmune condition than a thyroid condition and must be managed accordingly. Autoimmune diseases such as Hashimoto's hypothyroidism are evidence of an immune system that has become so imbalanced it attacks the very tissue it was designed to protect. Fortunately, research in recent years has provided us with tools we can use clinically to help restore balance and thus tame the autoimmune attacks.
Ditch the gluten
The first and perhaps most important step is removing gluten from the diet. Gluten causes a strong immune reaction in many people, and studies show a link between gluten and numerous autoimmune diseases, including Hashimoto's. When someone with an undiagnosed gluten intolerance eats gluten regularly, it puts the immune system on constant red alert. This causes chronic inflammation and can trigger the onset of an autoimmune disease.
The autoimmune diet
Most people with an active autoimmune disease also suffer from intestinal permeability, or leaky gut, a condition in which the gut walls become damaged and overly porous. This allows undigested foods, bacteria, and other pathogens into the bloodstream, where they trigger more inflammation.
Managing an inflamed and leaky gut is foundational to taming an autoimmune disease. One of the first steps to repairing leaky gut is to temporarily follow an autoimmune diet, which eliminates foods that commonly provoke an immune reaction. Many people with Hashimoto's hypothyroidism find they must also eliminate other foods, such as dairy or corn, in addition to gluten. In my office, we supplement this diet with select nutritional and herbal compounds that help restore the gut lining.
Sometimes these tools alone are enough to substantially reduce autoimmune flare-ups.
Going beyond the autoimmune diet may be necessary
Other times, more intensive therapy is required. This can include unwinding long-established cycles of inflammation, restoring immune balance, and/or determining whether a bacterial or viral infection, an environmental toxin, or something else is provoking the autoimmune attacks.
If you would like help addressing Hashimoto's hypothyroidism and preventing future autoimmune diseases, please contact my office.