Surprising Truths About Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis
Modern medicine is having a hard time figuring out Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. It is defined as an autoimmune disease of the thyroid. Specifically, it develops when your own immune system attacks your thyroid. The lab test that confirms it measures antibodies against the thyroid enzyme, thyroid peroxidase (TPO).
TPO is a pretty important enzyme. It converts iodide ions into a usable form for making thyroid hormones. When TPO doesn’t work very well, hypothyroidism develops.
That’s the super-simple way to look at Hashimoto’s from the view of modern medicine.
Another, contrary view, offers some surprising truths that look at what Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis really is and what you can do about it.
Let’s take a look at these two contradictory perspectives so you can decide for yourself what to do about Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis.
Modern Medical View of Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis
The science behind Hashimoto’s is impressive. We know an incredible amount about all the molecular processes that characterize it. We know that initial symptoms are diagnosed as hypothyroidism – i.e., under-active thyroid.
One of the scariest details about Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis is that it now causes more than 90% of all cases of hypothyroidism in the U.S.
It is a huge health problem. Furthermore, it is getting worse over time.
What is the modern medical view of this health disaster?
Here’s a typical one, from the Mayo Clinic
Hashimoto’s disease is an autoimmune disorder in which your immune system creates antibodies that damage your thyroid gland. Doctors don’t know what causes your immune system to attack your thyroid gland. Some scientists think a virus or bacterium might trigger the response, while others believe a genetic flaw may be involved.
A combination of factors — including heredity, sex and age — may determine your likelihood of developing the disorder.
Doctors don’t know what causes it? Yup. That’s what they say.
Unfortunately, the suggested causes of Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis according to the Mayo Clinic (and all other mainstream medical sources) simply don’t pan out.
Viral or bacterial cause? Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis is not an infectious disease. At best, any infection associated with Hashimoto’s is just that – an association, not a cause.
Genetic flaw? Blaming it on a potentially ‘bad’ gene is pure intellectual laziness. The theoretical foundation behind that perspective (i.e., genetic determinism) is obsolete. Modern medicine has been extremely slow in grappling with that change is basic biological thinking.
Heredity? Teasing out hereditary vs. environmental causes for diseases is a fool’s game. Correlating the incidence of Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis in a family tree says nothing about what causes it. It is just another way to blame ‘bad’ genes.
Sex and age? We might be getting somewhere on this correlation. Women are 10-15 times more likely than men to develop Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. Its peak occurrence in women is between 30 and 60 years old. Average onset for men is about a decade older.
Lots of surveys attest to these patterns. Figuring out why women of a certain age group are most susceptible to Hashimoto’s should be a clue behind its cause. Yet we still have no good explanation for this alarming detail about who gets it.
Research scientists, like doctors, also seem to be clueless. The latest detailed scientific review on Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis starts out with this statement (2015):
The pathogenesis of Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis is still not fully comprehended.
That is just a jargon-laden way to say we don’t know what causes it.
Ignorance about why it develops limits treatment options. Typically, treatments focus on how to help an under-active thyroid. Treatments begin by replacing thyroid hormones with levothyroxine, triiodothyronine (T3), or desiccated thyroid extract. Additional therapy may include keeping thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) under control.
TSH is not a thyroid hormone. It is made in the pituitary gland. It stimulates the thyroid gland to produce thyroxine (T4), and then T3. Controlling TSH levels is a strategy for regulating thyroid hormone levels. It has nothing to do with the formation of TPO antibodies.
Treating symptoms of Hypothyroidism does absolutely nothing for addressing the underlying problem of autoimmunity. Ultimately, the thyroid will fail in spite of any kind of hormone replacement therapy.
What’s the Good News?
Let’s take a look at the bigger picture. Hashimoto’s is an autoimmune disorder. It often leads to other autoimmune disorders.
Any good news about Hashimoto’s, therefore, must involve understanding autoimmunity.
Two aspects of autoimmunity are good starting points. One is that in the past few decades the incidence of autoimmune diseases has been rising at an alarming rate (2015). The other is that women are far more susceptible to autoimmune diseases than men.
These are two critical observations for discovering whatever is causing autoimmunity. Let’s see what they can tell us about potential causes of autoimmunity.
- Explaining the Increasing Incidence of Autoimmune Diseases
The rapidly rising incidence in autoimmunity mimics several other aspects of modern living. The most influential of these on human health include industrial pollution, food additives, electronic technology, poor diets consisting mostly of processed foods, synthetic drugs, various nutritional deficiencies, circadian rhythm disturbances, and chronic stress.
The surprising commonality among these influences is that they all lead to gut dysfunction. Specifically, they cause gut leakiness. A leaky gut means that the intestinal lining fails to regulate what passes through it. Undigested food, microbes, and large molecules then pass through holes in the gut wall. Health havoc ensues once they escape into the bloodstream where they do not belong.
You may have heard of this condition as leaky gut syndrome. Modern medicine views it as a hypothetical, medically unrecognized condition behind a fad diagnosis.
Mainstream medicine instead describes increased intestinal permeability as the real culprit.
They are the same thing!
In fact, it doesn’t take too much searching in the medical literature to find research explaining how a leaky gut is behind autoimmune disorders in general. A limited review of this topic in 2011 couched an explanation linking them together in this bit of jargon [bolding added]:
Genetic predisposition, miscommunication between innate and adaptive immunity, exposure to environmental triggers, and loss of intestinal barrier function secondary to the activation of the zonulin pathway by food-derived environmental triggers or changes in gut microbiota all seem to be key ingredients involved in the pathogenesis of inflammation, autoimmunity, and cancer.
Now we are getting somewhere!
It has become abundantly clear that poor gut health is close to, if not at, the root cause of all autoimmune disorders – including Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.
This view of autoimmunity automatically opens up a crucial strategy for reversing all autoimmune disorders – i.e., repair the leaky gut!
We will get to that later.
Meanwhile, lets’ delve into the second factor behind autoimmunity: the greater susceptibility of women in a certain age group.
- Higher Incidence of Autoimmune Diseases in Women
This observation should scream estrogen’s every which way you look at it. Research linking estrogen and autoimmunity has been appearing in the scientific literature for more than a decade (2006).
Age-related estrogen imbalance underlies the greater incidence of autoimmunity among women in the 30-60-year-old age group.
Now we have a much better handle on the roles of leaky gut and estrogen imbalance in autoimmune diseases, including Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis.
This awareness points to how you can reverse Hashimoto’s, as follows.
Preventing and Reversing Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis
Actually, these strategies address ALL autoimmune disorders.
Two approaches will go a long way toward better health in the face of Hashimoto’s and the entire set of its autoimmune kin.
- Heal Your Leaky Gut
Everything that you can do in the way of diets for Hashimoto’s and other autoimmune disorders will entail consuming anti-inflammatory foods. Recommendations by Dr. Josh Axe are a good start (The Leaky Gut Diet and Treatment Plan, Including Top Gut Foods). Dr. Axe is one of the few physicians who understands that the dogmatic advice about anti-inflammatory foods is often just plain wrong. The most common error that he points out is the recommendation to eat legumes (beans, peas, soy) and whole grains (wheat, oats, rye, rice, etc.). Both are highly inflammatory.
Healing a leaky gut also rests on eliminating as many sources of gut inflammation as you can. The worst offenders include additives in most processed foods (7 Food Additives that Trigger Leaky Gut). In general, the best advice is simply to avoid all processed foods.
In addition, as Dr. Axe notes, ramping up your consumption of healing foods will improve gut health. The best such foods on his list are bone broth and healthy fats.
Although eating right is helpful, nothing you do will work for healing your leaky gut unless you also fix your microbiome. Your microbiome consists of the 40 trillion or so microbial cells that live in your GI tract. Your microbiome is the steward that takes care of your entire GI tract.
A poorly functioning microbiome makes your gut leakier. Keeping your friendly bacteria in balance with one another is crucial for good gut health. The simplest strategy for restoring your microbiome is supplementing with a good mixture of probiotic bacteria.
- Balance Your Hormones
Balancing estrogen’s with hormone replacement therapy has a long and complicated history. Doing so requires close work with an astute physician, not just someone who “tries” to get you back on track.
Ideally, your doctor should know that estrogen’s are part of a steroid hormone cascade that consists of more than 150 different substances. They are all synthesized from cholesterol. Synthesis of key sex steroids (estrogen’s, testosterone) competes for cholesterol with the synthesis of cortisol.
This means that successful hormone re-balancing must keep track of the precursors to estrogen’s, starting with cholesterol and also including pregnenolone and progesterone. Hormone re-balancing by their fates in the steroid cascade.
Cortisol is particularly crucial. It normally spikes up early in the morning, as a signal to get your day going. Then it subsides in the evening, giving way to an uptick in melatonin levels that you need for good sleep at night.
Modern lifestyles now completely destroy this pattern. Modern nighttime lighting from fluorescent bulbs, TVs, cell phones, laptops, etc., all drive up cortisol levels exactly when they should be dropping. They also destroy melatonin.
The result is a circadian rhythm mismatch – i.e., a disruption in the 24-hour day/night cycle that humans are adapted to.
Hormone re-balancing has no chance whatsoever when you live a non-circadian lifestyle. None.
It should be no great surprise, therefore, that a circadian mismatch leads to autoimmune disease. Research began to show this link more than a decade ago. In fact, a key study in 2006 showed that the incidence of autoimmune hypothyroidism is significantly higher in shift workers.
Nighttime lighting tells your body to make cortisol. Excess cortisol synthesis literally steals cholesterol, pregnenolone, and progesterone from making estrogens. Hypothyroidism is not the only outcome. Such “steroid theft” is behind a growing list of other autoimmune disorders caused by hormone imbalance (2010).
Now you know why, if you have one autoimmune disease, you likely have others at the same time. If you have not yet been diagnosed with another autoimmune problem to accompany your Hashimotos’ Thyroiditis, you will.
Living a circadian lifestyle is a crucial factor for preventing and reversing autoimmunity.
How to Live with Hashimoto’s
Advice about living with Hashimoto’s is, for the most part, superficial. You do not have to live with it. You can reverse it by making the right lifestyle choices.
One more thing to consider is common advice about what exercises are good for people with under-active thyroids. Exercise in general should be good for your health. However, since the majority of hypothyroid cases are due to autoimmunity, healing your leaky gut and re-balancing your hormones are vastly more valuable than working out.
Keep in mind that, regarding Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis – and autoimmunity in general – mainstream medicine doesn’t have a clue.
The information in this article, however brief, points you in the right direction.
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