Newly Diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis – The Ultimate Guide to What You Need To Know

Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis is an autoimmune condition where the immune system attacks the thyroid gland.  Over time, this leads to an underactive thyroid.  While this is an autoimmune condition and there is no cure (yet), there is a lot you can do to calm your immune system and even put this autoimmune condition into remission.  

This ultimate guide to Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis covers the most important information you need to know.  

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Table of Contents

Dealing with the diagnosis

Being diagnosed with an autoimmune condition can release a tsunami of emotions, including shock, anger, frustration, overwhelm, scared, frightened, loneliness, hopelessness, anxiety, disbelief, and relief.   

Most sufferers are only diagnosed after many years of struggling with debilitating symptoms.  But in receiving a diagnosis, there is power, as now you know that there is a name to this thing that has been taking away your energy and your life.  Also, now you can proactively take action to reclaim your life.

While Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis is an autoimmune condition, you can reduce the impact of the symptoms, and even put it into remission.  While you will now always have this condition, you CAN live symptom-free, with energy and vitality. You just need to know what to do. 

What is Hashimoto's Thyroiditis?

Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis is an autoimmune condition, one of over 80 autoimmune conditions.  An autoimmune condition is where the immune system of the body is activated and is attacking and, ultimately destroying, a part of the body.   

In the case of Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, the immune system is attacking and destroying the thyroid gland.   Over time, as the thyroid gland is destroyed, the thyroid gland becomes underactive (not producing enough thyroid hormones). 

What is important is to understand that there are two parts to having Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis:

First, as the thyroid gland becomes underactive over time, you will need to take thyroid hormones to replace the thyroid hormones that your thyroid gland cannot take anymore.  But remember, this is not a treatment.  This is REPLACING vital thyroid hormones.  Thyroid hormone pills are not a treatment for thyroid disease.    

Second, the immune system is on the attack, and you can help take action to calm the immune system, which then in turn will reduce or even stop the attack on the thyroid gland.  

Symptoms of Hashimoto's Thyroiditis

There are a wide range of symptoms that you may experience.  These symptoms vary from person to person, in the symptoms and the intensity of the symptoms.  There are both physiological symptoms (the body) and phycological symptoms (the mind).

Physiological symptoms:

  • Fatigue
  • Lethargy
  • Dry skin, mouth or scalp
  • Hair loss
  • Sensitivity to cold
  • muscle and joint aches and pains,
  • Constipation
  • Weight gain and/or a difficulty to lose weight
  • Slowed metabolism
  • Hoarseness or deepening of the voice
  • Strangling or tight sensation in the throat
  • Heavy or prolonged menstruation
  • Enlarged thyroid (also called goitre)
  • Problems with your appetite
  • Struggling to sleep
  • Episodes of excessive perspiring
  • Rapid heart rate and heart palpitations.

 

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Psychological symptoms:

  • Brain fog
  • Poor short-term memory
  • Loss of interest and ambition
  • Anxiety and tension
  • Emotional mood swings
  • Impatience and being irritable
  • Bouts of depression with sadness.
 

You can experience symptoms of both an underactive thyroid AND an overactive thyroid!  We’ll expand on that a bit later. 

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The 5 Stages of Hashimoto's Thyroiditis

Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis doesn’t develop overnight. It develops over time, often many years before you are (finally) diagnosed. Wiersinga and colleagues (2014) identified five stages of Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis:

Stage 1: Genetic predisposition

You have the genes that make you predisposed to Hashimoto’s. You are not experiencing any symptoms at this stage.

Stage 2: Immune cell infiltration of the thyroid gland

You start to develop the immune activity. The best current theory is that it happens in a case of mistaken identity – the immune system is attacking a pathogen and unfortunately, the thyroid gland cells look very similar in structure and the immune system attacks the thyroid gland as well (as it cannot distinguish it from the pathogen). You start to experience symptoms, which can be hyperthyroid symptoms (overactive) followed by hypothyroid symptoms (underactive). You likely experience some digestive issues, cold sensitivity, and fatigue. In this stage, your lab markers usually still show within the normal ranges.

Stage 3: Subclinical hypothyroidism

There is damage to the thyroid gland from the immune system attack. The thyroid gland cannot produce enough thyroid hormones, and it shows up in your blood test results. Usually, at this stage, doctors prescribe thyroid hormone medication to replace the thyroid hormones that your gland is not producing anymore.

Stage 4: Overt hypothyroidism

This is the stage where patients are usually diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. Lab markers are abnormal, and the thyroid gland is damaged by the immune system to the extent that the patient must take thyroid hormone medication to prevent serious health consequences.

Stage 5: Progression to other autoimmune conditions

When you have an autoimmune condition, you are at risk to develop other autoimmune conditions. Even if you are taking thyroid hormone medication and your thyroid lab markers are “normal”, you can still develop other autoimmune conditions as your immune system is still activated.

How did you get Hashimoto's Thyroiditis?

Why is it that some people develop an autoimmune condition and others do not?  There are 3 factors that determine your predisposition to develop Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis.

First is your genetic predisposition.  Your genes may make you more susceptible to developing an autoimmune condition.  What is important to know is that while you may have the genes for an autoimmune condition, you have to “switch the gene on”.  What can trigger that? 

There is an emerging science called “epigenetics”, which studies the phenomenon of how the environment impacts genes.  Certain things in your environment, such as the food you eat, where you live, how you exercise, and even your quality of sleep, can cause chemical changes in your DNA, which can turn those genes on or off.  

This is great news!  Because while you cannot do anything about your genes, you can change your environment!  This in turn, can influence your genes. 

The second thing is what the thyroid gland absorbs.  The thyroid gland is the only gland in the body that needs iodine (it needs iodine to make thyroid hormones).  Your thyroid gland gets iodine from food sources, as the body cannot make its own iodine.  

The problem is that there are many other substances that are similar in structure to iodine, and the thyroid gland absorbs these chemicals as well!.  Some examples of these chemicals are mercury (which is found in high fructose corn syrup and dental amalgam fillings), cadmium (from second-hand smoke), herbicides and pesticides (used on crops), and even particles from plastic homeware we use in our kitchens.

Researchers have identified more than 300 chemicals that the thyroid gland absorbs.  These chemicals build up in the thyroid gland, and can then lead to the immune system going into action.

Third, is the immune system.  Your immune system is the protection system of your body, and it works hard to remove and eliminate pathogens (such as bacteria, viruses, toxins, and parasites).  It works by either destroying these pathogens or by filtering the blood and removing toxins from the body. 

Currently, experts believe there are five underlying causes of autoimmunity – these are the things that trigger the immune system:

  1. Toxins. Remember in the second trigger we looked at the chemicals that the thyroid gland absorbs?  The thyroid gland now has “weird stuff” in it, and it can become inflamed.  The immune system starts to work to remove these chemicals – by creating antibodies.  The job of these antibodies is to remove and destroy pathogens. Unfortunately, healthy thyroid tissue becomes collateral damage.
  1. Leaky gut, also known as intestinal permeability. The food we eat ends up in our digestive tract, where it is broken down into nutrients to be absorbed into the bloodstream.  The wall of the gut, which is a single layer of cells, filters these nutrients and blocks larger particles such as toxins and pathogens from entering the blood stream.  With a leaky gut, these cells don’t close as they should, and these larger particles get through into the bloodstream.  The immune system now reacts to those particles and goes into action to attack and remove them from the bloodstream. 
  1. Gluten. Gluten is a group of proteins that is found in wheat, rye, triticale (a cross between wheat and rye), and barley.  Gluten causes a reaction in the gut by triggering the gaps in the intestinal wall to open up, causing a leaky gut.  Then, gluten filters into the bloodstream, and the immune system now kicks into action to remove it, leading to inflammation.  The biggest problem with gluten is that it looks very similar in structure to the thyroid gland cells.  So, as the immune system works to remove gluten from the bloodstream, it also, in a case of mistaken identity, attacks the thyroid gland cells. 
  1. Infections. Scientists suspect that infections from bacteria, viruses, and parasites can cause autoimmunity.  Infections can hide anywhere in your body, including your thyroid gland.  Several infections have been linked to autoimmunity, in being a trigger or worsening symptoms, such as Epstein Barr virus, Lyme disease, and SIBO, to name a few. 
  1. Stress. Stress has an impact on the immune system.  Regardless of whether you are stressed from an imminent lion attack, or stressed from a perceived threat at work, your immune system is on alert to the imminent injury or infection.  So, your immune system is activated!  The research is not strong that stress causes autoimmunity, but researchers have found a link between stress and autoimmunity, especially that stress is a huge contributor to flare-ups once you have an autoimmune condition. 

How your thyroid works

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The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped organ that is based in the lower part of your neck.  Its main function is to produce thyroid hormones.  These thyroid hormones play a critical part in multiple functions in your body, including metabolism, body temperature, blood pressure, heart rate, nerve function, growth, development, and clear thinking, to name a few. 

Thyroid hormones need to be finely balanced in the body.  Too many or too few thyroid hormones can be a problem, so there is a constant monitoring and feedback loop happening to keep the thyroid hormones in balance. 

Here’s how it works:

  • The hypothalamus in the brain does this important monitoring job. The hypothalamus sends TRH (TSH Releasing Hormone) to the pituitary gland.
  • Then, the pituitary gland sends TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone) to the thyroid gland, giving instructions on how many thyroid hormones to make.
 

So, when the thyroid hormones are too low in the body, the pituitary gland releases more TSH to instruct the thyroid gland to make more hormones. And when the thyroid hormones are too high in the bloodstream, the pituitary gland releases fewer TSH hormones so that the thyroid gland produced fewer thyroid hormones.

The two main thyroid hormones are T4 and T3 hormones. 

In short, the thyroid gland takes iodine from food, combine it with an amino acid called tyrosine (which is also produced by the thyroid gland) to make thyroid hormones.  T4 hormones (also known as thyroxine) has four iodine molecules, while T3 hormones (also known as triiodothyronine), has three iodine molecules.

However, these hormones are not made in equal quantities.  The thyroid gland makes mostly T4 hormones and very little T3 hormones.

There is another important point to know: T4 hormones are inactive, meaning that the body cannot use it.  The body first has to convert these hormones into the active T3 hormones. 

The conversion from T4 to T3 hormones happens in a few places in the body:  the liver, the gut, the heart, muscles and nerves.  Most of the conversion happens in the liver, estimated to be around 60%, while about 20% is converted in the gut. 

Why is your immune system attacking your thyroid?

Your immune system is your body’s protection system against pathogens.  Researchers do not yet understand the reason why the immune system attacks its own body.  The best theory currently is that it is a case of mistaken identity.

Here’s how it possibly works: something happens or something enters into the blood stream and the immune is activated.  As part of the immune system’s defence mechanism, it activates antibodies.  The job of the antibodies is to neutralize and destroy the pathogens. 

The problem is that these pathogens (including viruses, bacteria, fungi, parasites and toxins) look very similar in structure to the structure of the thyroid gland cells, and the antibodies cannot distinguish between what is a pathogen and what is the thyroid gland.  The antibodies work to neutralize and destroy the pathogens, and per accident, also neutralize and destroy the thyroid gland cells. 

What are thyroid antibodies?

There are two types of thyroid antibodies:

  1. TPO (thyroid peroxidase) antibodies. Thyroid peroxidase (TPO) is an enzyme found in the thyroid gland.  TPO uses iodine to make thyroid hormones.  When these antibodies are present, it stops the TPO from using iodine, and your thyroid doesn’t make enough hormones.  Antibodies cause inflammation in the thyroid gland, which can cause nodules or be the reason for the thyroid to become enlarged. 
  2. Tg (thyroglobulin) antibodies. Thyroglobulin is a protein made by the thyroid gland and used in the process of making thyroid hormones.  These antibodies attack the protein which then causes lower thyroid hormone levels. 

It is important to measure and monitor the antibody levels, as it is an indication of inflammation in your body and that the immune system is attacking your thyroid.   

Keep in mind that you may still have symptoms of Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis even if you have very low or normal levels of antibodies or have no symptoms while you may have high levels of antibodies. 

Working with your doctor

Finding the best doctor for you

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It is important that you find a doctor that listens to you and works with you.  Unfortunately, many allopathic (conventionally) trained doctors only focus on replacing the thyroid hormones that your thyroid cannot make anymore (thyroid hormone medication) while dismissing or ignoring the impact of the immune system and inflammation. 

Functional medicine doctors take a more holistic approach to your health.  Functional medicine doctors are medical professionals who specialize in finding the root cause(s) of disease.  The approach is to treat the individual rather than the disease.  Rather than just making a diagnosis and prescribing drugs or recommending surgery, functional medicine doctors work with you to find out why you have become ill in the first place and then address that.

If your doctor refuses to listen to you, treats you based on your lab results (“your results are normal, therefore there is nothing wrong with you”), or is not willing to consider T3 medication, testing for antibodies, or doing other tests (such as sex hormones, vitamin D and iron), you may need to consider searching for another doctor. 

Getting the full thyroid panel blood tests

The full thyroid panel blood tests include:

  • TSH
  • Total T4
  • Free T4
  • Total T3
  • Free T3
  • TPO antibodies
  • TG antibodies

 

Most allopathic doctors will only test for TSH and T4 levels, which is not enough to determine the full story of your thyroid gland.  Each test gives important information about the state of health of your thyroid gland. 

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Normal vs. optimal lab results

On your blood test results there will be “normal” reference ranges.  These reference ranges are based on the statistical average of the people who get those tests done at that particular lab. 

Now think about this for a moment.  The lab ranges are determined from the people who get tested.  But in general, healthy people don’t go for thyroid tests.  So, people who get thyroid tests done, are statistically not the healthiest segment of the population.  The “normal” ranges are based on people who get the tests done – people who are already dealing with thyroid problems. 

So what may happen?  Your doctor tells you that your results are “normal”, and therefore you should be ok.  The problem with this?  What is considered “normal”, is not “normal” for you.  You may still be experiencing the debilitating and frustrating symptoms. 

It is for this reason that I recommend that you work with a functional medicine doctor.  A functional medicine doctor looks at a narrower and more personalised  range – they look at what is “optimal” for you, not just want is normal compared to others. 

Thyroid Hormone Medication

As your thyroid gland becomes underactive over time, your doctor may prescribe thyroid hormones to replace the hormones that your thyroid gland cannot produce anymore.   

I have had many conversations with sufferers that refuse to take thyroid hormone medication, and who want to use natural or herbal remedies instead.  Be aware that there are no herbal remedies that can give you replacement hormones if your thyroid gland is damaged.  A damaged thyroid gland physically is not able to produce enough hormones, even if you support it with herbal remedies and supplements.  It all depends on the stage of your autoimmune condition and the level of damage to your thyroid gland (a sonar of your thyroid gland can show how much damage has been done already). 

There are different types of thyroid hormones available:

  • Synthetic T4 hormones, called levothyroxine.
  • Synthetic T3 hormones, called liothyronine.
  • Natural desiccated thyroid (NDT) hormones, which is derived from the dried thyroid glands of pigs or cows, and is a combination of T4 and T3 hormones.
 

The synthetic T4 medication, levothyroxine, is the most widely prescribed thyroid hormone medication.  Yet, I have read on different platforms, that many patients feel better and healthier on either a combination T4/T3 medication or even just T3 (either synthetic or NDT) medication as a stand-alone thyroid medication.   I have also read that many doctors are reluctant or even outright refuse to prescribe NDT to patients – due to lack of training on how to use it and other factors. 

Work with your doctor to determine which option or combination of thyroid hormones work best for you.  It is also for this reason that we recommend that you have a full thyroid panel blood test done so you can determine how effective your thyroid hormone medication is working for you.

Keep in mind that thyroid hormone medication only replaces the thyroid hormones that your thyroid cannot make anymore. Thyroid hormone medication does not treat the inflammation or address the immune system.

The role of other hormones and your thyroid

Thyroid hormones bind to a protein called TBG (thyroid binding globulin) in the blood as it is transported through your body.  While it is attached to TBG, it is not available to the cells to use. When TBG is too high or too low, can cause problems.

When TBG is too high, the thyroid hormones are being held, and the free levels of thyroid hormones will be low.  TBG can be too high when oestrogen levels are too high (often associated with birth control pills or oestrogen replacement).

TBG can be too low due to high testosterone levels.  In women it is commonly associated with PCOS and insulin resistance. With low levels of TBG, the number of free hormones will be high, which is also not good.  Too many free thyroid hormones may lead to resistance by the cells to use the thyroid hormones, which is also not healthy. 

Progesterone is also important for helping your cells assimilate (take in) the thyroid hormones.

This is why it is a good idea to check your sex hormones (oestrogen, testosterone and progesterone) in addition to your thyroid panel.

Taking action to improve your health

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With Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, it is important to ensure that your thyroid hormones are at the optimal level for your body, even if it means that you need to take thyroid hormone medication.  In addition, you can also take action to reduce inflammation and calm your immune system. 

These actions are in your control, and by making small changes regularly, you can reduce inflammation, reduce the symptoms and feel better.

Inflammatory foods to avoid

The food we eat has a huge impact on our health.  Changing what we eat is therefore the first step in the process of reducing inflammation. 

Let’s start with the foods that are known to be inflammatory.  Focus on eliminating these foods from your diet.

GLUTEN

Gluten is a group of proteins found in wheat, barley, rye and triticale (a cross between wheat and rye).  Gluten has an effect on the gut lining, leading to leaky gut, which can activate the immune system.    Many foods contain gluten, including bread, pasta, cakes, pastries, and even chocolates!  Most processed foods contain gluten, so it is important to start reading labels.  Or even better, avoid processed foods altogether. 

Be careful of gluten-free packaged food, as many of these contain other ingredients such as soy and added sugar.  It may be gluten-free, but loaded with other ingredients, often sugar.  

DAIRY

Dairy is inflammatory for a few reasons.  

Many people are lactose intolerant (react to the sugar in dairy), or sensitive to the casein and whey (the protein in dairy).  

Another problem in dairy is that the milk from animals is full of growth hormones, as it is intended to help calves grow quickly.  Dairy cows are also treated with antibiotics and hormones to help prevent disease and keep them lactating, and these chemicals come through in the milk as well.  

Lastly, an iodine solution is used to sterilize the milking equipment, and may also leak through to the milk.  Too much iodine is problematic, as it is like adding fuel to a burning fire, and it may cause worsening symptoms.  

SUGAR AND ARTIFICIAL SWEETENERS

Sugar is highly inflammatory.  I am not referring here to the natural sugar found in fruits and vegetables.  I am referring here to the processed sugar that many people use to sweeten their food with, as well as the processed sugar that is used in processed foods.  Many people consume sugar deliberately (adding sugar to their coffee or tea, and eating sweets and chocolates) and unknowingly (sugar is added to bread, yoghurt, carbonated drinks, tomato sauce, to name a few).  One of the biggest culprits is high fructose corn syrup – a sugar used in just about all processed foods to make it sweeter.  

Avoid artificial sweeteners as well. These are synthetic man-made sweeteners. Artificial sweeteners include acesulfame, aspartame, neotame, saccharin, and sucralose.  

SOY

Soy is a staple used in many pre-prepared meals, as it is a cheap source of protein.  Soy is inflammatory and it is also a goitrogen (which are substances that suppress the function of the thyroid gland).  Most of the soy grown is also GMO (genetically modified organism), so that the soy can tolerate the use of pesticides and herbicides.  Soy can also cross-react with gluten, as it is very similar in structure to gluten, and the body reacts the same way to soy as it does to gluten.

NIGHTSHADE VEGETABLES

Nightshade vegetables are a group of vegetables that belong to the Solanaceae family, and include regular white potatoes, eggplant, tomatoes, goji berries and peppers (bell peppers and hot chillies).  It also includes the spices made from these plants, which include paprika, red pepper flakes and cayenne pepper. 

Note that black pepper is NOT a nightshade vegetable, as it comes from a different plant.

ALCOHOL

The rules are not so clear when it comes to alcohol.  Researchers have found that frequent alcohol consumption increases the amount of gut toxins in the bloodstream, and high levels of these toxins are linked to chronic inflammation.  Other studies claim that moderate alcohol consumption, such as red wine as part of the Mediterranean diet, may protect against autoimmune diseases.  Another study by Cambridge claims it is difficult to identify the impact of alcohol on the body as there are too many factors to consider.

I recommend that you avoid alcohol until you feel much healthier: 

  • Limit your in-take of wine as the sugar can be high.
  • Check the ingredients. Some alcoholic beverages are grain-based (like beer), and may even have added dyes and artificial flavourings.
  • If you must have wine, keep it limited and keep to low-alcohol, low sugar wine.

COFFEE

Coffee beans are heavily treated with herbicides to protect crops.  Coffee beans can also be a source of mould in how it is stored.  Coffee can also deplete the body of minerals, such as magnesium and zinc, which are both important for a healthy thyroid. 

Another problem with coffee?  The milk and sugar we add to enjoy a good cup of coffee!  

UNHEALTHY FATS AND OILS

Research has shown that oils and fats that are high in omega-6 fatty acids are pro-inflammatory.  Avoid vegetable oils, including canola, sunflower, soybean, peanut and corn oil.   Many commercial mayonnaise and salad dressings are made from vegetable oils.  Avoid using margarine as well, as most margarines are made from inflammatory vegetable and seed oils.

Saturated fats are present in food such as hard cheese, cream, butter, the visible fat in red meat, coconut oil, palm oil and cacao butter.  By eliminating dairy, you avoid hard cheese, cream and butter from your diet already.  Reduce your intake of saturated fats from animal sources.  Coconut oil are a good option to use in cooking, as there are studies that suggest that coconut oil can have a positive impact on cholesterol levels.  Once you are feeling better, you can try to use ghee (clarified butter) and see if you are able to tolerate it.

Other saturated fats which we should avoid include trans fats and partially hydrogenated oils, which are used in many fast foods and manufactured baked goods.  Trans fats are chemically processed fats to enhance the shelf life of fats and make food taste better.  It is very unhealthy.  Avoid foods that has trans fats or partially hydrogenated oils in.

Add omega-3 fatty acids

Omega-3 essential fatty acids are very beneficial to your health.  It improves heart health, supports mental health, decreases fat in the liver, and is anti-inflammatory.  

Enjoy more oily fish (such as salmon, mackerel, sardines, and anchovies), chia seeds, walnuts, and flax seeds.  Avocado and avocado oil is also great to enjoy.  You can also use coconut oil (great for cooking at high temperatures), extra-virgin olive oil, walnut oil, and macadamia nut oil. 

Eat more fruits and vegetables

Enjoy more fruits and vegetables, and eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables.  Fruits and vegetables (excluding the nightshade veggies) are very healthy for you!  Fruits and vegetables are loaded with fiber, which is food for your gut bacteria and vital for gut health.  Fruits and vegetables are also your best source of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients. 

Aim for 8 to 10 portions of fruits and vegetables each day.  Enjoy what is in season, as it is often cheaper as well.  Aim to eat a few portions of green veggies every day, such as spinach, lettuce, broccoli, cucumber, asparagus, kale, chard, green beans, microgreens, artichoke, arugula, watercress, zucchini, pattypan squash, dandelion greens, cabbage, Brussel sprouts, bok choy, Swiss chard, celery, green onions, and even fresh herbs!

Enjoy fruit!  The sugar in fruit is not the same as processed artificial sugar, and it is not processed the same in your body.  Fruit also contains fiber, minerals, vitamins, and phytonutrients which are very beneficial to your health. 

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Is there a best diet for Hashimoto's?

I wish I can tell you there is one best diet for Hashimoto’s, but unfortunately, it is not that simple.

Every person is different in the symptoms they experience, the severity of the symptoms, other lifestyle factors, current health situation, beliefs, and financial ability.  

There are a few principles that I have adopted:

  1. Avoid inflammatory food – gluten, dairy, soy, and sugar are the main ones.
  2. Load up on fruits and vegetables. 
  3. Food must nourish your body and give joy to your soul!

 

Many Hashimoto’s patients prefer to follow a dietary approach.  I recommend that you work with a registered dietician or nutritionist to help you.

That said, many Hashimoto’s patients follow the Paleo diet, as it focuses on real, whole, and nutrient-dense foods while eliminating processed food and dairy. One of the concerns of the Paleo diet is when you reduce carbohydrates too much when you have thyroid problems, you can cause unnecessary stress to the body.

If you want to investigate if any specific food groups might be contributing to your symptoms (after you have already eliminated the inflammatory foods), doing the Autoimmune Paleo Diet can be your next step.  Follow this approach for a few weeks, and then start to reintroduce foods.  You will then be able to see which foods cause symptoms.  Then you will know to avoid those foods going forward. 

Detoxify your environment

Your body works hard to remove toxins from your body.  But with over 77,000 chemicals in thousands of products, the chemicals can overwhelm your body’s natural ability to detoxify.  We can help our bodies by reducing the chemical load our bodies have to deal with:

  • Wash your fruits and vegetables with a vegetable wash to remove as much herbicides and pesticides as possible.
  • Buy organic fruits and vegetables where possible, especially those produce which are highly sprayed with chemicals. Click here to view the latest EWC’s Dirty Dozen List® and Clean 15® List.
  • Filter your water.
  • Remove any and all signs of mould in your home.
  • Switch to natural or non-toxic skincare products.
  • Use non-toxic make-up
  • Replace plastic containers and cooking utensils in your kitchen with glass, ceramic, wood, bamboo and food-grade silicone cookware and utensils.
  • Replace Teflon-coated cookware with stainless steel, enamel-coated, cast iron, carbon steel, clay or glass cookware.
  • Avoid using plastic wrap and aluminium foil. Rather use beeswax strips and oven-safe cookware with lids.
  • Work with a biological dentist to remove mercury-loaded amalgam dental fillings.
  • Conventional cleaning products are loaded with toxic chemicals. Switch to non-toxic cleaning products, or even make your own cleaning products.
  • Replace synthetic air fresheners with air fresheners that are made from natural products.
  • Wash new clothes before wearing it. Clothing is often treated with chemicals to protect it during storage and transport.
  • If you are worried about heavy-metal toxicity, consult with your doctor to do a blood test for heavy metals, including arsenic, cadmium and lead.

Get sunshine on your skin

Research have found that vitamin D (which acts more like a hormone in your body) is vital for your health and immune system.  A deficiency in vitamin D is associated with increased autoimmunity as well as increased susceptibility to infection.

Direct sunshine on your skin is one of the best ways to help your body get vitamin D. Try to get 20 minutes of direct sunlight on as much open skin as possible, but please take care to avoid sunburn.  

I also believe that sunshine is a mood enhancer! 

If you live in a country where the sun is not shining every day, consider blue light therapy that mimics exposure to the sun, or consider supplementation with vitamin D.  

Remember that vitamin D is fat-soluble, meaning that your body will store any excess.  Before you start supplementing with vitamin D, please consult with your doctor. 

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Reduce the impact of stress on your body

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Stress impacts the entire body, including the immune system.

For most people, stress causes you to eat more, it shuts down maintenance and building projects in the body, it stops digestion processes, it releases sugar into the blood for energy, and it slows down thyroid hormones because you don’t need them while you are running away from that lion!  

Chronic stress is bad for us.  It places a huge burden on our bodies, and it adds to the problem of inflammation. 

So what can we do to reduce the impact of stress?

First, learn the tools to fight stress before it starts.  This may include better planning of your week, deciding what you can automate, delegate and even avoid.  What can you say “no” to?  Do a daily gratitude journal to focus on the positives of each day, and stop worrying about the stuff you cannot control.

Second, learn the tools to reduce stress when you are stressed.  This may include daily exercise, a short meditation or focused breathing, inhaling essential oils, walking barefoot on grass, going for an infrared sauna therapy, and taking time to be unbusy.

Find what works for you, and do that every day or as often as you need it.

Get quality sleep

Sleep is vital for our wellbeing: it helps with many aspects of our waking lives, it helps our ability to control weight and it bolsters our immune system.  

A Hashimoto’s flare-up can impact your sleep – feeling exhausted yet unable to sleep.  

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There are many things you can do to help you create the sleep you need.  Start with sleep hygiene – set bedtimes, a bedtime routine to encourage your body to slow down, a calm and relaxing bedroom, avoiding coffee and tea from 14h00 onwards, to having a banana and some walnuts before bedtime.  

If all else fails, check for underlying medical conditions that may impact your sleep, or consider going for formal sleep therapy at a sleep laboratory.  

Focus on gut health

Gut health has received a lot of attention in recent years, and for good reason.  Our gut microbiome (the bacteria that lives in our intestines) plays a huge role in our immunity, our overall health, and energy.

Having a healthy gut microbiome is more than taking a probiotic.  

In short, it is all about creating a diverse microbiome (many different species of bacteria), and feeding them the right food (both soluble and insoluble fiber) so that they can make the byproducts (called postbiotics) that our cells use for many biological processes.

How do we achieve this?  

By eating a diverse range of fruits, nuts, seeds and vegetables, avoiding inflammatory food (gluten, dairy, and sugar), drinking lots of water, avoiding the unnecessary use of antibiotics, and enjoying fermented foods.

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Supplements that can help

Targeted supplements are a great way to ensure you obtain the nutrients you need for your health.  Even despite a healthy diet, we may need to use supplements to help us.

Before taking supplements, remember that supplements are not medicine and therefore they are not regulated. Always do your research and make sure you understand what it is that you are putting into your body and why you are taking it. 

The following supplements may be helpful for people who have Hashimoto’s (listed in alphabetical order):

  • Betaine with pepsin
  • Ferritin
  • Magnesium
  • Omega-3 fatty acids
  • Selenium
  • Vitamin B1
  • Vitamin B12
  • Vitamin D
  • Vitamin E
  • Zinc

 

When you experience a flare-up of symptoms, the following supplements may be helpful in helping to calm the inflammation:

  • Bromelain
  • Curcumin
  • Glutathione or NAC
  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin C.

Herbal Remedies

Herbal remedies, used correctly, can help to calm inflammation and help with managing and reducing symptoms.  Keep in mind that if your thyroid is damaged and not producing enough thyroid hormones, you will need to take thyroid hormone medication.

Herbs that can help to reduce inflammation and modulate the immune system are calendula, ginger, and cinnamon.  Fresh chicory and dandelion leaves also support immune function.

Studies on people who have Hashimoto’s have shown that black cumin seeds have helped to lower TSH and to reduce thyroid antibodies. Bitter herbs, such as gentian, burdock root, chamomile, and goldenseal, help to support liver function.

Some herbs act like adaptogens, helping to resist the damaging effects of stress, bringing a sense of calm and balance through the body. Some examples are ashwagandha, Rhodiola, astragalus, and tulsi.  Keep in mind that these herbs help to lower cortisol levels, so if your cortisol levels are already low, you could make yourself feel worse. 

Herbs to avoid are lemon balm, motherwort, and cannabis, as these herbs inhibit the conversion of T4 to T3 hormones. 

I recommend you work with a herbalist, and always declare which herbs and other supplements you are using to your treating doctor. 

Use LDN to lower antibodies

Low dose naltrexone is a medication that has been beneficial more many Hashimoto’s patients to help modulate the immune system.  It is an off-label medication (meaning no pharmaceutical company can patent any medication) and research on LDN is limited.

Some patients have been able to use it with great success, reducing symptoms or even eliminating symptoms, while it didn’t work at all for others.  I have tried it and it didn’t work for me.  

Speak with your doctor about using LDN to help lower antibodies and reduce symptoms.  

Conclusion

Being diagnosed with an autoimmune condition is a scary and lonely experience.  Luckily there is a lot you can do to reduce the debilitating symptoms, calm your immune system and increase your health.

Start by educating yourself on the thyroid and your immune system.  Become a detective and figure out what is triggering your immune system. 

If your thyroid has been damaged so much that you need thyroid hormone medication, you may need to experiment with T4, T3 or a combination of T4 and T3 hormones to feel better.  

 

READ MORE: DON’T KNOW WHERE TO START? START HERE

 

In the end, you know how you feel and only you can figure out what works for you and what doesn’t.  Take ownership of your health, and find a doctor who understands Hashimoto’s and who is willing to work with you.

Adele du Rand
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