Hashimoto’s Disease is an autoimmune disorder that affects your thyroid,
a small gland at the base of your throat. It was first described by Dr.
Hakaru Hashimoto in 1912 and the first disease to be recognized as an
autoimmune disease. What makes Hashimoto’s disease unique is that
typically the sufferer experiences hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism.
Hashimoto’s is the #1 cause of hypothyroidism in the U.S.
How Can You Tell If You Have Hashimoto’s Disease?
If you are experiencing the symptoms and signs of hypothyroidism, you may be wondering if it is actually Hashimoto’s disease. There are blood tests that can confirm this diagnosis but let’s review the typical presentation of this increasingly common disease.
Usually, this is a person who takes their thyroid medication faithfully and regularly sees their physician yet continues to feel worse even when the thyroid medication is increased. Remember, Hashimoto’s is an autoimmune disease. What’s happening is the immune system is gradually attacking and destroying the thyroid gland. Medication is useless in preventing this onslaught from occurring. While the meds do keep her TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) in the accepted range, this does not affect the underlying problem. So the patient’s symptoms worsen despite all efforts.
Then there is the Hashimoto presentation that swings wildly between hypothyroid symptoms ( gains weight easily, feeling tired or sluggish, etc) and hyperthyroid symptoms (difficulty gaining or maintaining weight, nervousness, etc.). The reason for periodic hyperthyroid symptoms is due an increased autoimmune activity or flare-up. The body’s own immune system is “stepping up” its attack on the thyroid gland when this occurs and is probably due to a biological (hormone fluctuation), chemical stress (ingestion of food allergen like wheat gluten), or a stressful, emotional event. In some cases, there is no known reason for the flare-up. When this autoimmune attack occurs, thyroid tissue is destroyed and hormones within the gland are dispersed into the blood. The result of too much thyroid hormone in the blood causes the symptoms of hyperthyroidism.
There are two other conditions that typically accompany Hashimoto’s thyroiditis: pernicious anemia, resulting from a lack of the intrinsic factor that enables absorption of B12 in the stomach, and wheat gluten intolerance or celiac disease. We discuss the reasons for gluten sensitivity and the effects on our health in our book “Wheat Gluten the Secret to Losing Belly Fat & Regaining Health”. (Amazon)
Diagnosing Hashimoto’s disease can be done through the proper blood tests but it also requires a doctor who will listen carefully to your history and symptom list.
Hello…I’m Dr. Frank Lanzisera and I’d like you to know that my office is a place you can come for information and help. I regularly present seminars on thyroid symptoms. If you’d like to register for one of these seminars or if you just want to ask a question, please use the contact form on this page.
What Exactly Is Hashimoto’s Hypothyroidism?
It is not unusual for a patient with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis to have symptoms of both hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism. The most common symptom is fatigue, but someone with Hashimoto’s can also present with a racing heart, a feeling of being “on edge” or nervousness, and brain fog or loss of mental clarity.
Hyperthyroidism symptoms are evident when the thyroid has produced too much of a thyroid hormone called thyroxine. This creates “hyper” signs and symptoms by accelerating the body’s metabolism significantly. Typically these symptoms include inability to gain weight or sudden loss of weight, sweating, rapid and irregular heart rate, nervousness, diarrhea and irritability. Hashimoto’s causes the release of too much thyroxine when the thyroid gland is under an active attack by the body’s own immune system. During the attack the thyroid tissue is destroyed and any thyroxine within this tissue is released into the body causing a surge of this hormone into the bloodstream. This is the reason a person with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis can experience temporary bouts of hyperthyroidism then a return of hypothyroidism symptoms.
After the attack has leveled off there is less functioning thyroid gland able to produce thyroid hormones and this shows itself by a slowed metabolism. Weight gain, constipation, fatigue, slowed heart rate, and depression are several symptoms that reflect this “hypo” or decreased thyroid hormone output otherwise known as hypothyroidism.
Hashimoto’s is a gradual destruction of the thyroid gland by the body’s own immune system. Often, a person will suffer with Hashimoto’s for years before seeking help. Even then, traditional allopathic treatment is typically only directed toward achieving a TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) blood level in the “normal” range. Although this thyroid hormone replacement (HRT) treatment is necessary at times, the underlying autoimmunity problem needs support as well or the thyroid gland will continue to be destroyed. Also, it is common for patients who are taking thyroid replacement hormones to continue to experience symptoms.
Another important point is a person with Hashimoto’s has an autoimmune problem that may not stop at just attacking the thyroid gland. Other organs, including the pancreas and brain, are all at risk. It’s vital to diagnose this condition as early as possible.
Do not assume that just because there is no family history of thyroid disease in your family that you are not susceptible. Also don’t think that thyroid conditions are relegated to middle-age women. We are seeing more 20 and 30-year old women and men presenting with thyroid symptoms and many do have Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. Often, when taking the history of this group, they report experiencing their symptoms since they were children or teenagers. This leaves us to believe that there are a number of undiagnosed children and adolescents suffering with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis in the U.S.
With fluctuating hormone levels depending on what part of hyper/hypo state is present at the time, it can be difficult for an inexperienced practitioner to diagnose a patient with Hashimoto’s simply through basic thyroid lab tests. If Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is suspected, a practitioner can order blood tests that evaluate the body’s antibody count against thyroglobulin (TG) and thyroid peroxidase (TPO). A needle biopsy may also be ordered to rule out the presence of lymphocytes and macrophages. The majority of the time a needle biopsy is not necessary to diagnose Hashimoto’s.
A goiter or enlargement of the thyroid gland is sometimes associated with Hashimoto’s disease. A goiter can be so large as to be disfiguring or the enlarged thyroid size can simply make it uncomfortable to wear scarves or neckties. At times, the neck or throat will be sore or tender.
Functional medicine uses a treatment approach well suited for autoimmune thyroid disease (AITD) like Hashimoto’s disease. Causative factors such as food allergens with cross-reactivity are addressed with functional medicine as well as the other involved systems beyond the immune system.
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