Last summer I wrote about my humble slump in my health. In short, for the first 6 months of 2014 I was feeling very tired, lousy, unmotivated, and flat. When I realized this was more than lack of motivation and “just in my head,” I learned that my vitamin D levels were low and my thyroid was sluggish. While I was humbled, I know that I am not immune to the common ailments that plague our modern society. I started some supplements (vitamin D and thyroid support), changed my diet to include foods that are supportive, and began managing stress and quickly felt better, mostly.
One evening in May my hubs was working out of town and after picking up my son from school I dragged him to my office to finish up some work. Afterwards, we agreed to go to a trendy little pizza joint that just opened up. We each ate our personal pan pizza and the next day I felt like I had been hit by a truck. I was achy, tired, my body felt heavy, I could not focus on anything, and my thinking was unproductive. Needless to say I was unable to get much done that day, or for the following 3 days (I don’t know if it was the pizza but this was not the first time I felt this way after eating pizza). I knew what was going on. During my upcoming annual doctor’s visit I requested to have a full thyroid panel run again, including thyroid antibodies. My suspicion was right. I have Hashimoto’s thyroiditis with subclinical hypothyroid hormones and elevated TPO and thyroglobulin antibodies. This is something that I’ve studied for a long time, and worked with several clients on it, so it was not foreign to me.
What is Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis?
Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is an autoimmune disorder (click here to read about autoimmune disorders) in which the immune system is attacking and trying to destroy the thyroid. The immune system is confused, thinking that the proteins of the thyroid gland are something that shouldn’t be there. This can prevent the thyroid from adequately producing hormones and doing it’s job-regulate metabolism, heart and digestive function, muscle control, brain development and maintain bone structure. While the thyroid gland is small and frequently glazed over, it is one of the hormone regulators. If it’s not working properly it can affect every cell of the body. While it may present as hypothyroidism (often diagnosed as elevated TSH) it is estimated that up to 90% of people diagnosed with hypothyroidism actually have Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.
How is it Treated?
Since an autoimmune disease is more than just the thyroid not quite producing enough hormone there are essentially three different branches of treatment.
First is to change your diet
It has been shown that a gluten-free diet is necessary for Hashimoto’s. You see, the protein structure of the gluten protein molecule and the protein structure of the thyroid are similar. When you eat something with gluten if the gluten molecule gets through the digestive tract (which happens because of intestinal permeability, or leaky gut which I will write about later) it triggers the immune system. The immune system starts to attack the gluten, then they thyroid. Avoiding gluten is the first dietary change that is necessary. In addition,the proteins found in dairy, soy, and eggs are commonly problematic with Hashimoto’s, along with potentially many other individualized food sensitivities.
Also, providing the nutrients needed to support the thyroid is crucial. These include vitamin B complex found in a variety of raw fruits and vegetables (raw because heat will destroy vitamin B6), zinc found in a variety of red meats (beef, lamb, venison, etc), and selenium found in Brazil nuts, and sesame and pumpkin seeds.
Second is to heal the gut
According to Alessio Fassano, a leading researcher in the autoimmune condition celiac disease, in any autoimmune disease intestinal permeability, AKA leaky gut, is involved. This means removing food sensitivities, balancing the good microbes in the gut, and sealing the “leaks.” This is a process that can take some time and I will write more about it later.
Third is to regulate the thyroid hormone
Depending on the severity of the hormonal dysfunction medications may be necessary. There are multiple medications available and the specific med you need will depend on which thyroid hormone you are deficient in (T3 or T4). This part can get a little tricky and it may take working with your physician to find the right medication and dose for you.
While this takes some effort, it is certainly attainable. As for me, currently I am 100% gluten free, determining my other food sensitivities, increasing nutrients through supplements and foods and working to heal the gut through fermented foods, probiotics, glutamine, and consuming broth regularly. We will re-evaluate in 3 months and see where we go from there. While I am not happy about this diagnosis, I now know the reason behind my symptoms and that is comforting.