The most common cause of thyroid dysfunction is Hashimoto’s, an autoimmune thyroid disease. However, there is not one easy fix to successfully managing Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism and is why so many women and men continue to suffer with symptoms despite lab testing and medication.
As many people have learned the hard way, using thyroid hormones to get TSH within lab ranges doesn’t necessarily mean that their health improves and their symptoms disappear. In fact, one of the most prevalent complaints I hear from my patients is “Why do I continue to feel bad even though my hormone levels are normal?”
Hashimoto’s is a multifaceted autoimmune condition that involves many mechanisms. To truly manage your autoimmune Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, it’s important to understand the factors that contribute to it.
10. Immune Reacting Fillers in Thyroid Hormone Replacement
Many thyroid supplements use corn starch or modified food starch that contains gluten. You need to make sure your thyroid hormones are gluten-free and free of corn starch if you react to corn.
If your medication is in capsules make sure the capsules are gluten-free. Otherwise you could be taking hormones every day with dietary proteins that stimulate your autoimmunity.
9. Taking Immune Enhancing Supplements
Nutritional supplements can either help or flare up your autoimmunity based on an individual’s T-helper dominance (whether you have a TH-1 or TH-2 dominance). Supplements such as echinacea, green tea, acai, astragalus, licorice, and a variety others can either help or aggravate autoimmunity depending on your dominance.
8. Fixating their focus on thyroid hormone replacement only
Many thyroid patients believe that if they could only figure out the perfect version of thyroid hormones (natural versus bio-identical or T3 versus T4) they can correct all of their symptoms. Unfortunately, Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism is a complex autoimmune disorder and thyroid hormone replacement is only one part of a large puzzle.
7. Increasing Stress
Emotional stress activates pathways involving the inflammatory immune messengers IL-6 and TH-17. This activity creates an autoimmune flare-up. Unhealthy relationships with your spouse, co-workers, or friends can promote autoimmune flare-ups, as can a bad work environment, or other significant and chronic lifestyle stressors.
If you have Hashimoto’s you need to create a healthy emotional environment for yourself. Bad personal relationships or poor work environments can be detrimental to Hashimoto’s patients.
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6. Not Strictly Gluten-Free
You are either 100 percent gluten-free or you’re not gluten-free. Choosing to eat gluten-free only when it is convenient is not a gluten-free diet. Just like you are either pregnant or you are not, there is no kinda, sorta, or sometimes.
If you are not strict about your food being 100 percent gluten-free when you eat out and you continue to consume condiments that have gluten, regular beer, and foods fried in fryers that use the same oil for breaded foods, then you are still being exposed to gluten.
Gluten is a major trigger for most Hashimoto’s patients and many cannot improve until they are 100 percent gluten-free.
5. Not avoiding gluten cross-reactive foods
Although a strict gluten-free diet is a great place to start, if you are still eating foods that cross-react with gluten you may not recover well. Cross-reactive foods have proteins similar in structure to gluten and can trigger the same immune response as if you were eating gluten.
The most commonly ignored cross-reactive food is milk (casein), followed by rice, corn, sesame, and gluten-free oats. In fact, it is best to avoid all grains and adopt a diet such as a Paleo diet when you have Hashimoto’s.
4. Ignoring their brain health
The most common form of collateral damage in chronic Hashimoto’s patients is accelerated brain degeneration. Brain degeneration leads to identical symptoms of hypothyroidism, including fatigue and depression.
I find that many of my patients must work on there brain health in order to experience full health. Often, supplementation for neurotransmitters must be considered, as well as, addressing any inflammation in the brain.
3. Ignoring insulin sugar spikes
Surges of insulin that follow eating or drinking something sugary or starchy (sweet coffee drinks, desserts, bowls of pasta or rice, bread, etc.) trigger the inflammatory TH-17 activity, which promotes autoimmune flare-ups.
Eating sweets throughout the day or overeating promotes insulin surges, which can be identified by symptoms of fatigue or sugar cravings immediately after eating. If you have those symptoms after eating it means you are not managing your insulin levels and your Hashimoto’s autoimmune response will be hard to tame.
2. Missing meals
When blood sugar gets too low it raises the inflammatory messenger IL-6 and promotes autoimmune flare-ups. Symptoms of low blood sugar are most noticeable between meals or if you skip meals and include shakiness, blurred vision, crankiness and irritability, and loss of function.
If you feel a jump in your function and energy after eating it confirms your blood sugar was low—when your blood sugar is stable the only thing you should feel after eating is not hungry. Constantly skipping breakfast and missing meals will aggravate your autoimmune response and promote autoimmune flare-ups.
1. Passive attitude
The passive patient does not question or challenge her doctor. If you are a passive Hashimoto’s patient and you do not take your health into your own hands you may not fare as well as the person who educates herself.
The conventional model is based only on lowering your TSH with whatever thyroid medication your insurance plan or doctor prefers. Once TSH is within lab ranges, this model has nothing more to offer except to check your TSH once a year.
It takes time and effort, but the thyroid patient who wants to feel better needs to roll up her sleeves and master the various mechanisms of Hashimoto’s. The more you understand Hashimoto’s the more likely you are successfully manage your health.
One of the best books on this subject is written by Dr. Datis Kharrazian titled “Why do I still have thyroid symptoms? when my lab tests are normal”. If you suffer with thyroid related issues I highly recommend you check it out for a complete explanation of what you can do to improve your thyroid health.
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