I asked what you wanted to know about Hashimoto’s and the questions came flying in! In this episode, I’m going to tackle half of them and tune in next week as well because I’ll answer the rest there!
Hashimoto’s disease is an autoimmune disease that affects the thyroid. Like other autoimmune diseases, what happens is that the immune system gets confused and starts to see the thyroid as a threat. In other autoimmune diseases, the system attacks a different part of the body (the myelin sheath with MS, joints with rheumatoid arthritis, connective tissue with lupus). Under this attack, the thyroid can’t perform optimally and the result is often hypothyroidism.
Conventional medicine treats Hashimoto’s by only addressing the hypothyroidism if present or waiting for hypothyroidism to begin or suppressing the immune system with medication. The functional medicine approach is to find the root cause of the Hashimoto’s and fix it. I support the functional medicine approach and it starts by understanding what’s going on first. Which is why, I’m so happy to answer your questions!
There are four main triggers that can get the immune system in a tizzy. Here are the key triggers for autoimmune diseases:
Individuals may have food sensitivities, or lack the proper enzymes or stomach bile to properly digest food. If the food we eat doesn’t work for our body its a huge trigger for autoimmunity.
There are a variety of infections that can become chronic causing the immune system to malfunction.
Environmental toxins (like those found in some cleaning products and beauty products) as well as heavy metals can serve as a trigger.
The immune system handles stress by shutting down other non-essential systems. Over time (especially if it’s chronic), this can be a trigger for autoimmune disease.
Question #1: What is the relationship between heavy metals and the root cause of Hashimoto’s?
Heavy metals are things like aluminum, mercury, arsenic, lead and they can really do a number on our system. Our bodies can handle a little bit of heavy metals but when they build up, they become a toxin (which is one of the triggers). Even copper can become a toxin if it gets out of control (usually due to a zinc deficiency). Mercury has an affinity for the thyroid, so this heavy metal (in particular) should be monitored to ensure it hasn’t reached toxic levels in the body.
There are lab tests that will determine if heavy metals might be the root cause for you. A standard hair analysis is one test but it doesn’t show both types of mercury. My go-to tests for heavy metal are the Quicksilver Scientific Tests because it includes a full heavy metal panel and looks for mercury levels in the blood, urine, and hair.
If heavy metal is a problem, then a detox using binders and herbs like Milk Thistle are often used. However, you’d want to consult with a functional medicine practitioner to make sure you’re doing the right kind of cleanse.
Question #2: What is the connection between Hashimoto’s and the adrenal glands?
Stress is one of the four triggers. The adrenal glands deal with stress by producing the hormone cortisol. When too much is produced, the immune system takes that to mean that it’s an emergency putting things like thyroid production on the backburner.
Cortisol also has a relationship with TSH. When cortisol is off, TSH can be off as well and directly affect thyroid function. There is one other potential connection. The symptoms of hypothyroidism are very similar to the symptoms of adrenal fatigue (weight gain, fatigue, depression, hair loss) and so the symptoms may be misinterpreted.
Question #3: What is the true connection to EBV (Epstein-Barr Virus)?
This question sparked a secondary question involving the Medical Medium and the things he’s said about EBV being connected to everything, including attacking the thyroid before causing Hashimoto’s.
I get asked about this a lot but remember the four triggers – one of them is infection which is exactly what EBV is. There is some research that EBV can get into the thyroid gland (as well as other organs) but I wouldn’t say it’s conclusively linked. However, it is an infection which is a trigger. It’s worth noting that once someone gets EBV it’s always in the system and it can flare up due to stress, toxins, and other infections – it has the same triggers as autoimmune.
Question #4: Can you Address Food Sensitivities with Hashimoto’s?
Another listener also asked about her experiences with cutting out gluten and dairy and subsequently developed other food sensitivities. (Be sure to check out the episode I did on food sensitivities for more on this)
Food is one of our four triggers, so we know there is a connection. Food sensitivities are not typically things are born with, they develop over time. So, I always recommend that you get tested to see what your sensitivities are using a test that will look comprehensively at antibodies and genetics (not just the general antibody test). But also we want to look at where the sensitivities come from (before eliminating more and more foods) because if there’s inflammation in the body, you’re more prone to sensitivities.
Another thing to consider is if you might have gut issues, dysbiosis, candida, parasites or bacteria. This could create a lot of inflammation in the intestines, causing leaky gut. And, if you are lacking the right enzymes or your bile is off, you may not be digesting your food which could result in food getting into your bloodstream. So, sensitivities can definitely be a trigger but you also want to make sure that it’s not your gut health (and infections) causing the issue.
Question #5: Hashimoto’s tends to run in families, especially daughters and females. Is there anything I can do to keep my daughters from getting it down the line?
I love this question because there’s so much we can do to protect our children’s health. Prevention is the key when you’re dealing with any disease – especially autoimmunity. Start by considering the four main triggers.
Testing for food sensitivities early can be helpful as can genetic testing – specifically the HLA-DQ2 and HLA-DQ8 which is related to gluten which has a big connection to autoimmunity (not just Hashimoto’s). Keep an eye on their gut healthy – especially with regards to antibiotics that can disrupt the microbiome and cause dysbiosis (which introduces another trigger – infection). Consider a good probiotic for kids and doing a regular stool test to get a sense of their microbiome.
Toxins can be minimized by control chemicals in the home (including cleaning products and beauty products). And finally, try to help them learn how to deal with stress. I like the book The Goodnight Caterpillar: A Children’s Relaxation Story to Improve Sleep, Manage Stress, Anxiety, Anger by Lori Lite and Emily Fletcher (who appeared on episode 005) has a new meditation program for kids. And, remember that kids learn from watching us, so make sure you model good stress-management skills too.
You had more questions about Hashimoto’s disease than I could answer in this one episode! So, tune in next week for more questions and answers about Hashimoto’s and your thyroid health.
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