Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis is a Common Autoimmune Disease

In case it looks a little confusing, let’s start by breaking down the pronunciation. It sounds like this: ha-shee-moe-toes thigh-royd-I-tis. It was named after a Japanese physician who first described it in 1912. Before you roll your eyes about some other condition to worry about, just know this: 14 million Americans alone have this autoimmune disease. That also makes Hashimoto’s the most common thyroid disorder in the U.S. And here’s the kicker: one of the main risk factors for developing it is having a pre-existing autoimmune condition, like rheumatoid arthritis or possibly even fibromyalgia. It doesn’t stop there, either. If you happen to start out with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, you’re at a much greater risk for developing other autoimmune diseases too. So, basically, if you have one of these conditions, there’s a good chance you’ll develop others like them.

The American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists says that Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is about seven times more common in women than men. There could be many reasons for this, ranging from hormonal differences to cultural expectations when it comes to visiting healthcare practitioners. Regardless, it’s obviously something that women need to pay attention to. But what exactly is this condition? How do you know if you have it? And what can be done about it?

Just What Is Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis?

Let’s just make this easy and say that Hashimoto’s is an autoimmune disease. Hopefully you remember from middle school science that the body’s immune system is in place to protect your body from infections, disease, and the like. But in the case of an autoimmune disease, rather than defending your body, your immune system turns against the healthy cells. With many autoimmune conditions, the targeted healthy cells are rather specific. For example, with rheumatoid arthritis, the joints become the target. While Celiac’s disease, on the other hand, causes serious damage to the gastrointestinal region.

Of course, autoimmune diseases tend to leave a wake of destruction beyond the immediate targets. And Hashimoto’s is no exception. In this case, the target under direct attack by the immune system is the thyroid. Since the thyroid is responsible for key body functions like metabolism, heart rate, and temperature, an under- or overactive thyroid can cause serious side effects.

Hashimoto’s Symptoms

You’ll find two very interesting things when you start digging around for Hashimoto’s symptoms. First, it looks very similar to other known or suspected autoimmune conditions, such as fibromyalgia. Second, you may find different symptoms depending on what website you’re looking at. That’s because Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is typically a slowly developing condition. As Dr. Isabella Wentz, a Hashimoto’s thyroiditis expert and sufferer herself explains, “It takes an average of 10 years to be diagnosed with Hashimoto’s between the start of the autoimmune attack on the thyroid gland and when the person is diagnosed” [emphasis added].

The U.S. National Library of Medicine offers some initial symptoms to look for:

  • Hot flashes, sweating
  • Trembling
  • Weight loss
  • Diarrhea
  • Hair loss
  • Nervousness, hyperactivity
  • Emotional instability and irritability or fatigue
  • Insomnia and restlessness
  • Potency problems
  • Racing heart

Recognizing the slow development process of the disease, they offer other possible symptoms that may come up over time:

  • General loss of energy and power
  • Slowed metabolism
  • Being overweight
  • Tiredness
  • Difficulties concentrating or mental slowness
  • Constipation
  • Sensitivity to cold
  • Slow pulse
  • Waxy skin thickening and swelling (myxedema)
  • Dry skin
  • Deep, hoarse voice
  • Brittle, dry hair
  • Loss of sexual desire or potency problems
  • Sometimes even depression

Can Hashimoto’s be Cured?

There are currently no actual cures for Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. That’s the case with all autoimmune diseases so far. Or at least…that’s what we’re told. Depending on the severity of your condition, you could be looking at something as simple as a dietary change. Others further on down the road may require a regular prescription of hormones. And other still who have reached some of the final stages of progression will need to have their thyroid removed completely.

However, there are some alternative options. I’m definitely a fan of Chinese medicine because it looks at all systems in the body, rather than simply addressing specific symptoms. So, when I came across two different resources which seek to treat Hashimoto’s thyroiditis by cleaning up the liver, adrenals, and gut, it definitely got my attention. Earlier I referenced Dr. Wentz. She authored “Hashimoto’s Protocol: A 90-Day Plan for Reversing Thyroid Symptoms and Getting Your Life Back.” You can view a lot of the book on Amazon for free. She has some articles available on this topic as well, including one that lays out the five stages of Hashimoto’s. One of the things I really appreciate about her approach is referring to “remission” as an easier to attain goal than a “cure.”

The other promising resource I found is “The Thyroid Cure – The Functional Mind-Body Approach to Reversing Your Autoimmune Condition and Reclaiming Your Health!” Both resources end up addressing the underlying causes of autoimmune diseases. They also both provide lists of foods to cut out and introduce. Do you have any experience with these approaches to either Hashimoto’s thyroiditis or autoimmune conditions in general? Please share your stories here.