The symptoms and causes of Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis

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Hi, my name is Victoria Hamilton, and I am a Nutritional Therapist, and I specialise in autoimmune disorders. My clinic, The Autoimmunity Nutritionist, offers comprehensive health transformation packages to give you the best chance to recover from chronic illness.

I see clients with many different autoimmune disorders, but today, I would like to talk to you about Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, which I see more and more in the clinic. Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis is one of the most common autoimmune conditions, so if you or someone you know identifies with the symptoms below, you should get tested. The test results should indicate whether you are suffering from this condition. If you would like to get tested, you can go to your doctors or work with a Nutritional Therapist who will test for this privately.  

What is Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis?

Hashimoto's Thyroiditis (Hashimotos) is an autoimmune disease that affects that magnificent butterfly-shaped gland in the bottom of your neck, called your thyroid gland. Your thyroid gland’s health is of utmost importance. It is responsible for some pretty crucial process in your body, including your metabolism, body temperature, brain function, and the pace of your heartbeat.

An autoimmune disease is a condition where your immune system starts to attack its own tissue and organs. In the case of Hashimoto’s, it attacks the thyroid, causing damage that affects the thyroid gland’s function. In Hashimoto’s, this damage causes the thyroid gland’s functioning to become sluggish, meaning that the body processes that it controls do not operate properly, causing various unpleasant symptoms such as weight gain, cold hands and feet, and hair loss.

Hashimotos is most common in women between the ages of 40 and 60, but it may affect women of any age, as well as men. You may be at more risk of developing Hashimoto’s if you have just had a baby, have a close relative with the condition, or have another autoimmune disease such as coeliac disease psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis and alopecia.

What are the symptoms & risk of Hashimotos?

As the thyroid gland has many functions within your body, there are various symptoms that you may experience, but here are a few of the ones to watch for:

  • A lump in your neck near your thyroid, which may be a goitre
  • Horseness of your voice for no apparent reason
  • Thinning of hair across the scalp
  • Weight gain and difficulty losing weight
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Changes in your menstrual cycle - more extended, heavier periods

What causes Hashimoto’s?

As Hashimoto’s is an autoimmune disease, the cause of the condition is multifactorial, including a genetic predisposition, increased intestinal permeability (so-called leaky gut syndrome), and a trigger such as stress, infection, toxic burden, nutrient deficiency and/or reaction to food. However, the symptoms are usually due to the lower production of thyroid hormone in your body.  Thyroid hormones are vitally important, as they regulate the functioning of every cell in your body by increasing the cells oxygen availability, which generates energy and stimulates the production of proteins critical for metabolic function.

This lack of hormone is why when most people are diagnosed with Hashimoto’s, a medical doctor will prescribe thyroid medication to replace the missing thyroid hormone. The medicine acts as a band-aid to the problem, rather than fixing the underlying root cause, a dysfunctional immune system. Thyroid medications can be life-changing for those who have suffered from Hashimoto’s for a long time and caused irreversible damage to their thyroid. Still, the real healing comes from addressing the triggers that have fired up your immune system, and that is where diet and lifestyle changes can help.

Diet & lifestyle changes for Hashimoto’s

There is no cure for Hashimoto’s, although you can reverse and manage the condition’s symptoms by making changes to your diet and lifestyle. As with any autoimmune disease, addressing the underlying inflammation and root cause is key to healing, so eating a diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods, such as dark leafy greens, berries, and fatty fish, will be beneficial. As well as eating a diet low in sugar and refined carbohydrate, as sugar can fuel an already fired up immune system.

As gut health is typically impaired in someone with autoimmune disease, healing the gut is also essential to improve health. Foods rich in dietary fibre, such as root vegetables, ginger, turmeric and nuts and seeds, will support the digestive system. And bone broths and collagen will help mend the leaky barrier.

As stress and emotional burden can be a roadblock to recovery, even with dietary changes, self-exploration and stress management techniques such as journaling, walks in nature and doing more of what you love in life will open the barriers to better health. Once the floodgates are open, you will put yourself in the best position to reverse thyroid disease with the right foods and eating patterns.

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