Health and Wellness Center
Dr. Foley explains the difference between Hashimoto’s and Hypothyroidism and how to manage it.
Hashimoto’s disease is named after Hakaru Hashimoto, a Japanese physician who worked in Europe before World War I. He described the disease in a German publication in 1912. It was the first condition to be recognized as an autoimmune disease. Approximately one in five people suffer from some form of autoimmune disease. Some experts estimate that 75% of those affected – some 30 million people – are women. Thyroid autoimmune disease is the most common of all autoimmune disorders, affecting 7 – 8% of the U.S. population. In the United States, autoimmune disease accounts for approximately 90% of all hypothyroid, mostly due to Hashimoto’s autoimmune disease. Autoimmune means that the body is now attacking itself. In regards to the thyroid, the thyroid is being attacked by white blood cells. The body received misinformation and has gone haywire attacking the thyroid and destroying not only the thyroid but also brain tissue. Hashimoto’s autoimmune disease is not really a thyroid disease but an immune dysfunction. You could have Hashimoto’s if you are hypothyroid, have hypothyroidism (this is the most common form), hyperthyroid, or have what appears to be a normal thyroid. Perhaps no disease is more overlooked in the health care system than Hashimoto’s Autoimmune Thyroid. Although the disorder is the most common cause of hypothyroidism in the United States, many doctors don’t test for it since a diagnosis of Hashimoto’s autoimmune thyroid does not change the standard of treatment which is to prescribe thyroid hormone. Instead, because most doctors expect the thyroid to continually lose function, they just monitor blood levels and adjust medication accordingly. As other hypothyroidism symptoms pop up, the standard of care is to prescribe more and more powerful medications, such as Prozac for depression, even drugs to slow the heart or suppress the adrenal glands. Another approach is to remove the thyroid gland altogether. This approach doesn’t always work either, as some tissue is always left behind and still serves as a site for autoimmune attack.
If you have depression and a thyroid problem this could most likely not be a mental depression but a physical condition manifesting as mental depression. This condition should be treated physically not mentally. Most physical depression is being misdiagnosed as mental depression, when in reality it is coming from a physical or functional cause in the body. Please see my list of “59 Physical Reasons for Depression.” These 59 physical reasons for depression should be ruled out first before anyone is put on an antidepressant. At the top of the list for physical depression you will find nutritional deficiencies and hypothyroid, hyperthyroid problems.
What is going on?
Maybe, it’s not that the patient’s care that is being mismanaged or their condition misdiagnosed, it’s just that current conventional healthcare has no model to successfully manage Hashimoto’s. Typically the immune suppressant prednisone is a standard treatment for autoimmune disease, but it’s too aggressive for Hashimoto’s. Instead, some doctors wait for the thyroid to “burn out”, meaning to lose function due to excessive tissue death. Then they prescribe thyroid replacement hormone.
How do you know if you have Hashimoto’s disease?
Let’s say you have hypothyroid symptoms such as weakness, fatigue, general weight gain, sagging skin under the arms, chin or midsection or what appears to be depression, difficulty in making decisions, cold hands and/or feet, loss of libido – just to name a few or you been diagnosed with hypothyroidism but how do you know if it is due to Hashimoto’s disease? A positive serum antibody test (blood test) is the definitive test. But it’s good to be aware of some classic symptoms and scenarios that typically go along with the condition.
The most common is the person who is taking their thyroid replacement hormone on a regular basis has their thyroid condition monitored regularly, yet continues to still worsen, needing ever-increasing doses of thyroid hormone to function. In fact, this is a person who might even forget to take their medication, only to realize after the fact that she/he noticed no difference in her symptoms. What the heck is going on? In most cases of Hashimoto’s, it unfolds as a gradual attack of the immune system against the thyroid, with TSH levels and symptoms of hypothyroidism slowly escalating over time. In fact, the person may have normal TSH levels thanks to the thyroid hormone medication. The underlying problem of the immune dis-regulation goes untreated. One reason hypothyroidism often goes misdiagnosed is because a person with Hashimoto’s can have a “normal” TSH. As the autoimmune condition fluctuates, TSH levels vary wildly. Using standard lab ranges of 0.45 – 4.5, the person will fail to be diagnosed. In many cases these fluctuations are misdiagnosed as anxiety disorder. The person feels as though they are having an anxiety attack. But in reality, this could be a presentation of Hashimoto’s autoimmune disease. When the autoimmune flares-up it will destroy the thyroid tissue and the hormones stored in the gland, flow into the bloodstream. The bloodstream is now flooded with excessive thyroid hormones and the body’s metabolism speeds up, resulting in hyperthyroid symptoms such as a racing heart, heart palpitations, inward trembling, increased pulse rate-even at rest, feeling nervous and emotional, insomnia (unable to sleep at night), night sweats and as it gets worse, difficulty gaining weight.
Confirming Hashimoto’s Autoimmune Disease
Symptoms may give you the available information but a blood serum antibody test will confirm the condition. A test for thyroid peroxidase antibodies (TPO – Ab ) is the marker that can determine whether you have Hashimoto’s or not. Hashimoto’s most commonly occurs when the immune system attacks TPO-Ab, in the thyroid responsible for the thyroid hormone production. At times a thyroid thyroglobulin antibodies (TGB – Ab) test is necessary, since Hashimoto’s can follow a TGB attack. TGB is produced in the thyroid and is used by the gland to produce thyroid hormones. Both the TPO-Ab and the TGB – Ab need to be tested because the immune system fluctuates. It is possible for a person with Hashimoto’s to have a negative antibody test result. In other words, when the autoimmune condition is dormant and the immune system is not attacking the thyroid gland and antibody test will be negative. However, if there is a negative test result- yet a person’s symptoms and history strongly suggest Hashimoto’s and other test is in order. You may want to provoke the immune system and try to create a flare-up. This can be done by eating products that have gluten in them; gluten is a protein that is found in wheat, spelt, barley, and rye and in similar grains. There are numerous studies that link gluten to Hashimoto’s Autoimmune Disease. If you are already on a gluten-free diet, you can consume wheat for two weeks and then repeat the test. Providing gluten doesn’t cause other severe symptoms. When a positive antibody test confirms an autoimmune thyroid condition this indicates that the immune system, not the thyroid, should be the target for treatment.
Iodine is vital to thyroid function, as it is a major co-factor in simulator for enzymes TPO. A person with Hashimoto’s that is supplementing with iodine is like throwing gasoline onto the fire, in my opinion. Because iodine stimulates the production of TPO, this, in turn, increases the level of TPO antibodies, indicating an autoimmune flare-up. Some people will develop symptoms of overactive thyroid, hyperthyroid type symptoms. Others may have no symptoms despite tests showing an elevated level of TPO antibodies. People with the autoimmune condition should not be supplementing with iodine. You will need iodine but not in a supplement form. The iodine should be coming from your diet. There are many foods that carry iodine like seafood, deep green leafy vegetables, kale, kelp, even yogurt and cheeses will have iodine in them only because iodine is being fed to the cows. Just make sure you have a good supply of foods that have iodine in them and stay away from iodine supplementation.
This may seem like confusing advice to a person with hypothyroidism who is been told their condition is the result of an iodine deficiency area, although iodine deficiency is the most common cause of hypothyroidism. In the United States and other Western countries, Hashimoto’s accounts for the majority of cases of hypothyroidism. Iodine supplementation isn’t causing Hashimoto’s per se, but it does seem to be a triggering factor. If you are considering supplementing with iodine but your symptoms strongly suggest Hashimoto’s, get tested several times to rule out any autoimmune thyroid condition. An autoimmune condition can fluctuate and negative tests are not always definitive. Avoiding iodine supplements is also a strategy for preserving thyroid tissue.
Numerous studies from several countries show a strong link between gluten intolerance and Hashimoto’s disease. Because the molecular structure of gluten so closely resembles that of the thyroid gland, the problem may be one of mistaken identity. What is gluten? Gluten is a protein found in wheat rye and barley. Because of genetic engineering for the past 20 to 30 years, there is five times more gluten in wheat. We are not designed to consume that amount of gluten, our bodies do not break it down. In order to break down that much gluten, you would need three stomachs like a cow. Gluten will affect your digestive system and contribute to what is known as a leaky gut (intestinal permeability). Once gluten leaks through the intestinal tract and enters the blood system white blood cells look at it it as a foreign invader and start to attack it. As time goes on the body goes haywire and because the molecular structure of gluten so closely resembles that of the thyroid the body starts to attack the thyroid – case of mistaken identity. Once the attack is on, there’s no way to turn it off. A person with Hashimoto’s autoimmune thyroid must be on a gluten-free diet. If you digest gluten it can affect you for up to six months. Being on a gluten-free diet is another strategy to help protect thyroid tissue.
People with Hashimoto’s autoimmune thyroid have a hard time processing vitamin D. Modern diets are often lacking in vitamin D – rich foods – liver, organ meats, lard, many forms of seafood, butter, and egg yolks. Sun is an important source of vitamin D. Why is vitamin D so important? A vitamin D deficiency is associated with numerous autoimmune conditions including Hashimoto’s and autoimmune rates have been skyrocketing in recent years. Adequate vitamin D helps keep the immune system balanced so it does not swing out of control into autoimmune disease. When it comes to Hashimoto’s the problem of vitamin D deficiency is made worse by genetics. 90% of people with autoimmune thyroid have a genetic defect affecting their ability to process vitamin D. People with Hashimoto’s need higher amounts of vitamin D to maintain health even if the blood test shows that levels are sufficient. Therefore, the blood levels of vitamin D in a person with Hashimoto’s should be in a high – normal range. People with this disorder should be taking 5000 to 20,000 IU daily of emulsified vitamin D in addition to its cofactors. Other factors that contribute to vitamin D deficiency besides inadequate sunlight or a vitamin D – poor diet includes gut inflammation, adrenal stress, obesity, and aging.
When an autoimmune disease starts there is no shutting it off. Once you have a diagnosis for Hashimoto’s autoimmune disease you must manage the condition with nutrition to reduce and eliminate the symptoms. Unfortunately there is no medicine to fix this problem. Remember, this is an immune dysfunction. The white blood cells are attacking the thyroid. If someone was to develop a medication to handle this condition they would have to destroy your own immune system. No one is going to develop medication to destroy your immune system. Therefore, there are specially developed nutritional supplements that can be used to manage Hashimoto’s autoimmune thyroid. These supplements will damper down and help to control the attack on the thyroid. Symptoms will be reduced and can even be eliminated. Here, in my office in Nashville Tennessee I have helped many people manage and overcome the symptoms of Hashimoto’s. Unfortunately, in the medical profession, this condition is usually ignored or overlooked because even if you are diagnosed with Hashimoto’s it will not change the treatment protocol with your medical doctor. The safest and most effective approach to handling this condition is to protect the thyroid with specially designed nutrition.
For additional information on thyroid conditions, Hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s, please read Dr. Datis Kharrazian’s book, “Why do I still have thyroid symptoms? When my lab tests are normal”.
Hashimoto’s Thyroid Autoimmune PowerPoint Presentations
Welcome to my powerpoint presentation on Thyroid / Hashimoto’s. There are 3 power points, each one is about 10 minutes long. You will learn a lot of new “things” about the thyroid that you had not heard before. So let’s get started, click on the first link and I will meet you there.
Hashimoto’s Thyroid Part 1
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Hashimoto’s Thyroid Part 2
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Hashimoto’s Thyroid Part 3
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**This article originally featured on YourAlternativeDoctor.com**
About the Author
Dr. Brian Foley, I want to share with you and others why I am so excited about Nutritional Response Testing. I always felt the need to help people and in 1978, I developed a mid-back condition. The discomfort and pain became so bad that I was unable to sleep at night. After I told my father what was happening to me he suggested I go to his chiropractor for help. I asked him what the chiropractor could do for me and after waiting three months to get an appointment, I found the answer to my own question. During my first treatment with the chiropractor, I felt “instant relief.” I had never experienced anything that worked so fast or perfect and get the result I had. Learn more about Dr. Foley and hypothyroidism at his website, YourAlternativeDoctor.com. Be sure to follow him on Facebook and Twitter.
Questions or anything to ask Dr. Foley about Hypothyroidism or Hashimoto’s? We want your thoughts in the comments section–Please!
Are your treatments covered by medical insurance? (BCBS)
Thanks for your note, Dinorah. We don’t offer any treatments with our site. But, here is a list of Thyroid-Friendly Doctors that might be helpful to you…. https://thyroidnation.com/thyroid-friendly-doctors/ ~Danna 🙂
What do you recommend doing for depression if it is caused by physical symptoms of Hashimoto’s disease? Thank you!