Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is becoming a widespread disease. It’s now increasingly common to receive a diagnosis of thyroid disease. But how many of those who are diagnosed are actually affected by this autoimmune disease?
In this article, we will take a comprehensive look at the thyroid gland and its dysfunctions, and discuss how holistic treatment of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is possible.
- What is Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis?
- What Are the Functions of the Thyroid Gland?
- What Happens When the Thyroid is Underactive or Overactive?
- What Are the Causes of Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis?
- What Are the Symptoms of Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis?
- How is Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis Diagnosed?
- What Can Be Done About Hashimoto’s?
- Discuss How Holistic Treatment of Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis is Possible.
- Holistic Thyroid Treatment According to Anthony William
What is Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis?
Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is a chronic inflammation of the thyroid gland. This is triggered by an autoimmune reaction, which in turn makes Hashimoto’s an autoimmune disease.
Autoimmune disease: Body fights thyroid gland
In Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, the immune system mistakenly identifies the cells of the thyroid gland as foreign bodies. To fight these supposed foreign bodies, it creates defense cells against its own thyroid tissue.
Gradually, the body destroys its thyroid gland through this continuous attack. This increasingly thwarts the production of hormones, and hypothyroidism develops as a result. At the beginning of the disease, there may also be temporary hyperthyroidism due to a dysregulation in the destroyed tissue.
Hashimoto’s is usually detected late
Those who are affected usually don’t notice Hashimoto’s thyroiditis at the beginning, since there are initially no symptoms. The consequences only become more apparent at an advanced stage, which is why in most cases the disease is only recognized late. Women over the age of 40 are particularly affected by this.
Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is a chronic inflammation of the thyroid gland. The body constantly attacks its own tissue and the thyroid gland is gradually destroyed. This has an impact on the production of hormones and in the long run leads to the development of an underactive thyroid gland.
What Are the Functions of the Thyroid Gland?
If we compare our body to the engine of a car, hormones are the sparks that get it going.
Regulates all metabolic processes
The thyroid gland is one of our most important endocrine glands. It produces hormones that influence all systems of the body, like circulation, digestion, and mood. If this small gland gets out of sync, it can upset the entire metabolism.
Thyroid Hormones: T3 and T4
The thyroid gland is located below the larynx and is shaped like a small butterfly. When healthy, it’s about the size of a walnut and weighs between 18 (in women) and 25 grams (in men). It’s stimulated from the pituitary gland by the command hormone TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) to produce and store the hormones triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4), as needed.
Conversion disorder T4 to T3
In order for T3 to be activated from its previous storage form, T4, this requires an adequate amount of selenium, since the selenium-dependent deiodases are required for the conversion process. It’s not often considered that the reason for thyroid dysfunction may be a conversion disorder from T4 to T3.
In addition to a selenium deficiency, psychological stress plays a major role here. During stress, the adrenal glands produce increased cortisol, which in turn impedes the conversion of T4 to T3.
The hormones T3 and T4, which are formed from proteins and iodine, regulate a number of metabolic processes, and have a heavy influence on the following bodily systems.
With its T3 and T4 hormones, the thyroid gland influences many bodily systems and metabolic processes, like energy metabolism, digestion, and mood. Accordingly, a lot of areas are impaired when the thyroid malfunctions.
What Happens When the Thyroid is Underactive or Overactive?
When the thyroid gland malfunctions, it stops producing hormones in adequate quantities. This has serious negative effects on our well-being and causes a number of unspecific symptoms.
Hypothyroidism: Too few hormones
The most common disorder of the thyroid gland is hypothyroidism. Here, the thyroid produces too little T3 and T4 , which, to put it simply, slows down the metabolism. This can manifest as weight gain, low blood pressure, constipation, water retention in the tissues, muscle weakness, and listlessness, and even depressive moods.
The causes can be an iodine or selenium deficiency, the contraceptive pill, an imbalance of the intestinal flora, and psychological stress, to name a few examples. Artificial hormones are usually prescribed, but hypothyroidism can often be controlled naturally.
Hyperthyroidism: Too many hormones
In hyperthyroidism, the thyroid gland produces more hormones than are needed in the body. The increased concentration causes a lot of bodily functions to run at full speed. Heart palpitations, nervousness, diarrhea, sleep problems, and heavy sweating are all examples of symptoms.
In most cases, an autoimmune condition called Graves’ disease can lead to hyperfunction. Here, the body mistakenly forms antibodies that bind to TSH receptors, which prompts the thyroid gland to produce more hormones. Causes could be a genetic predisposition, viral diseases, excessive iodine intake, or a progesterone deficiency. Another typical symptom is the development of a goiter, also called a struma, which forms over time.
What Are the Causes of Hashimoto’s?
Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is one of the most common autoimmune diseases. It’s a known fact that the inflammation and slow destruction of the thyroid gland is triggered by an error in the immune system. However, the causes leading to this defect have not yet been conclusively clarified.
A metastudy from 2017 found that, among other things, too much iodine in the diet could lead to Hashimoto’s. However, an undersupply of iodine also hurts healthy thyroid function. The research summarized in the study also shows that many Hashimoto’s patients do not get enough selenium and iron supplements. When these micronutrient deficiencies were corrected, thyroid hormone concentrations improved and a number of symptoms disappeared (1).
These triggers are discussed as the cause of Hashimoto’s:
- Genetic predisposition
- Environmental influences
- Hormonal changes (puberty, pregnancy, menopause)
- Taking the contraceptive pill
- Micronutrient deficiency (i.e. iodine, selenium, iron, vitamin D)
- Malfunction of the adrenal cortex
- Metabolic disorder HPU/KPU
- Viral infections, for example herpes, mumps, rubella
Exactly how the immune system malfunctions in Hashimoto’s disease has not yet been conclusively clarified. Micronutrient deficiencies like an iodine, selenium, or iron deficiency are suspected as triggers, as are genetic predisposition, environmental influences, stress, use of the contraceptive pill, and viral infections.
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What Are the Symptoms of Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis?
There is a wide range of Hashimoto’s symptoms that develop over time. Since they happen inconspicuously and are very unspecific, it often takes a long time to make any connection to the source.
How is Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis Diagnosed?
Oftentimes people with Hashimoto’s, especially women, have already had the disease for a long time before they receive a Hashimoto’s diagnosis. And often, they run from doctor to doctor without recognizing the context of the symptoms and getting the right tests done.
Keep a symptom diary
If you feel something is wrong with your metabolism, try to trust your intuition. Don’t get sidetracked, and be persistent until the cause is figured out. Typically with any illness, it can help to keep a symptom diary to get more clarity. Spend a few days documenting how you feel physically, how your digestion is doing, and what your mood is like.
First clue: Palpation
By palpating the thyroid gland, doctors, and in particular endocrinologists (hormone specialists), can determine if the thyroid is sensitive to pressure or if it’s enlarged. This, in turn, could be evidence of Hashimoto’s. A subsequent blood test, as well as an ultrasound, can provide further clarity.
Blood tests for clarity
It’s important at this point that all decisive parameters like TSH, T3, T4, and also antibodies are examined in the blood. In acute inflammation of the thyroid gland, the inflammation levels in the blood also become elevated. And what’s important to know: not every diagnosis looks the same. The TSH level, for example, may be elevated in some people, while the T3 and T4 hormones are still within the normal range.
It’s also important to know that some people with autoimmune diseases often have several systems or organs affected at the same time. For example, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis may be accompanied by celiac disease or Crohn’s disease.
Hashimoto’s thyroiditis can be diagnosed by examination of the thyroid gland, palpation findings, ultrasound, and corresponding blood tests. It’s important for all necessary levels and findings to be determined in order to receive a correct diagnosis.
What Can Be Done about Hashimoto’s?
With the damage of thyroid tissue by the antibodies formed in Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, less and less thyroid hormone is produced as a result. This, in the long run, leads to hypothyroidism.
Conventional medical approach: Medication
In orthodox medicine, autoimmune diseases are considered chronic and incurable. In this case, the lifelong intake of the artificial hormone L-thyroxine is used to compensate for the lack of hormones – as in the case of hypothyroidism. The drug dosage depends on the amount of hormones that the thyroid gland is still able to produce itself, and is adjusted through regular blood tests. In this way, the hope is to slow down the process of thyroid degradation.
More and more experts are beginning to take a holistic perspective, viewing diet, mental state, and medication use all as essential elements to thyroid health.
It’s striking that the extensive frequency of thyroid diseases is really only found in industrialized nations. The more unnatural and polluted the diet, the more often hormonal problems show up.
- Hormonally active chemicals
Few people are aware that pesticide residues in conventionally produced foods can contain more than 20 different hormonally active chemicals. Microplastics and plasticizers also have hormonal effects on the human body.
Hormonally active chemicals are also called “endocrine disrupting chemicals” (EDCs). As the name suggests, they can mimic the action of the body’s own hormones and thus massively disrupt the balance of the endocrine system(2).
- Dairy products
Cow’s milk is food for the baby calf, and can double its weight in 47 days. The physical growth of a human baby naturally occurs 3 times slower. Thus, the concentration of growth hormones in cow’s milk is much too high for a human baby, and even more out of place for human adults. Additionally, cows are still milked when they are very pregnant, which means that the milk also contains a lot of female sex hormones.
Gluten can lead to adhesions in the human intestine, inflammation of the intestinal mucosa, and degeneration of the intestinal villi to the point of leaky gut syndrome. Leaky gut, in turn, promotes autoimmune diseases.
There are a number of drugs that interfere with thyroid hormone metabolism: for example, psychotropic drugs, beta blockers, cortisone, diuretics, cholesterol-lowering agents, and also the contraceptive pill.
IScientific studies have shown that taking the pill increases levels of thyroxine-binding globulin (TBG) in the blood. This protein binds free thyroid hormones, thereby upsetting the natural thyroid hormone metabolism (3).
Thyroid hormones not only influence organic processes like heart function, digestion, or weight, they also activate the metabolism of nerve cells. As a result, the thyroid gland has a considerable influence on the psyche and mental balance of a person.
The thyroid gland sits like a butterfly with spread wings at the front of the neck and symbolically represents the seat of emotions as well as its expression. It’s thus in harmony with our bodies especially when we express our heart’s desire. Discord, inner restlessness, worries, permanent stress, or a constant pressure of “fitting in” all have very stressful effects on the thyroid gland.
From this point of view, a thyroid dysfunction could also be seen as a signal to make the most of life and to explore the world of feelings and thoughts.
Maja Biel (Author)
Ecotrophologist, food journalist and nutritionist. Maja has her own practice and supports Your Nutrition Academy with her expertise.
Holistic treatment of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis
There are many natural ways to support the thyroid gland. These include, above all, a diet rich in vital substances, intestinal cleansing, and avoiding stress.
Natural Plant-Based Nutrition
- Enzymes act as catalysts and are metabolism-activating, defense-increasing and provide vitamins and minerals with important coenzymes.
- Biophotons with their weak light stimuli, support the transmission of information among cells and have an organizing effect.
- Dietary fibers are only found in plants. They activate intestinal peristalsis and serve as food for the intestinal bacteria that are so important for immune defense (4). If the intestinal flora is strengthened, the body’s resistance to infections is improved at the same time.
Particular attention should be paid to:
- Adequate iodine intake: Too much iodine is harmful for Hashimoto’s patients. However, this doesn’t mean that they should forgo iodine completely, as there are now reports of users who have actually benefited from taking it. Also, the American physician Dr. Brownstein, in his book Iodine: Why You Need It, Why You Can’t Live Without It, writes about these kinds of experiences in his practice.
Algae serve as a raw vegan source of iodine. Iodized table salt and marine fish should be avoided at all costs. Marine fish is considered a valuable food because of its high content of polyunsaturated fatty acids and iodine content. However, more and more environmental physicians and doctors are warning against regular fish consumption, pointing to high levels of heavy metals and other industrial toxins in marine animals. For more in-depth information on iodine, see the article “The Nutritional Significance of an Optimal Supply of Iodine.”
- Good selenium supply: Selenium is involved in the activation of thyroid hormones. Two Brazil nuts a day cover the selenium requirement. It can also be found in other nuts, mushrooms, and onions.
- Meeting iron needs: plant sources of iron include sesame seeds, almonds, amaranth, pistachios, mushrooms, and green leafy vegetables
- Adequate intake of zinc, copper, vitamin A, vitamin B12, and vitamin D.
Avoid these factors:
- Foods from conventional agriculture
- Heavily processed foods
- Animal foods, especially dairy products
- Trans fats
- Environmental toxins, like plasticizers in plastics
Since Hashimoto’s is an autoimmune disease, meaning that the immune system can no longer distinguish between “foreign” and “ its own,” a healthy digestive system is crucial for recovery.
To this end, it’s valuable to know that the defense cells in the intestinal mucosa make up 80% of the immune system. These can perform their specific task in the best possible way if the intestine is free of sticky residues, it’s not permeable (leaky gut),and the microbiome (intestinal flora) is balanced. Leaky gut syndrome is argued to be a cause of autoimmune diseases.
A raw-vegan, alkaline diet has a very healing effect on the digestive system. With this form of nutrition, the body is nourished, burdened as little as possible, and at the same time it makes a gentle, steady detoxification possible.
Detoxification can be supported, for example, by intermittent fasting, vegetable juice fasting, or alkaline baths. If necessary, heavy metal detoxification is also recommended.
Important aspects for preventing stress:
- Relaxation and getting enough sleep
- Resolution of mental conflicts
- Getting enough, regular exercise
Metabolism-promoting and stress-reducing activities like sports, relaxation, meditation, and mindfulness exercises keep the thyroid healthy and can even support the recovery of the thyroid.
Holistic treatment of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis According to Anthony William
Anthony William, in his book “Heal Your Thyroid,” writes that the true cause of all thyroid disease is Epstein-Barr virus. He doubts that Hashimoto’s is an autoimmune disease at all. The antibodies that are found, he says, are a protective reaction of the immune system against the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) and not against the patient’s own thyroid gland.
In a 90 day thyroid treatment, this relieves the liver, lymphatic system, and digestive tract. The goal is whole body regeneration with a strong immune system that defeats EBV and eventually clears the thyroid of viral load. In this process, proper nutrition serves both to detoxify and to nourish.
For treatment, Anthony William presents 3 detoxification plans:
- Detox plan A: Relieve the liver, lymphatic system, and digestive tract.
- Detox plan B: Elimination of heavy metals
- Detox plan C: detoxification of the thyroid gland
The selection of which plan to use can be made individually. Central components of the 90-day cure are celery juice, lemon or lime water, ginger water, heavy metal detox smoothies, and fat reduction. Fat makes the blood thicker and slows down detoxification. When the blood is thinner, pollutants can be removed more effectively and sent to the kidneys or intestines for elimination.
Additionally, Anthony highlights some foods to support the thyroid gland:
Wild blueberries, apricots, artichokes, aloe vera, apples, basil, spinach, kale, asparagus, peas, chamomile tea, as well as chaga, cat’s claw, spirulina, barley grass juice, dulse algae, and the dietary supplements zinc, vitamin B12, and vitamin C.
For more insights, check out the blog article “The Morning Routine According to Anthony William” and his book Thyroid Healing.
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