When Hypothyroid Mom launched on October 1st, 2012, I hoped my blog would reach a few readers outside of my family and friends, but never did I imagine the number of people that it would reach in such a short time. I was blown away when thyroid expert Dr. Kent Holtorf, medical director of the non-profit National Academy of Hypothyroidism and medical director of the Holtorf Medical Group, included @HypothyroidMom in his recommended list of people to follow on Twitter on a Friday in early November (#FF FollowFriday).
Dr. Kent Holtorf @HoltorfMed
#FF @HypothyroidMom @BHthyroid @crzythyroidlady @ThyroidMary @ThyroidChange @OutsmartDisease #hypothyroid #thyroid #hashimotos disease
When the Holtorf Medical Group contacted me recently about including this guest blog post at Hypothyroid Mom, I was so honored. It’s pretty obvious by how I responded to his team.
“Dr. Holtorf has been a great supporter of Hypothyroid Mom since I launched in October 2012. He shared my blog with his followers on Twitter in the very early days when no one but my family and friends had any idea I existed. Absolutely yes I would gladly include this guest blog post about Hashimoto’s disease.
Dr. Holtorf ROCKS! You let him know that.”
What is Hashimoto’s thyroiditis or Hashimoto’s disease? It is a genetically inherited disorder of the immune system in which there is chronic inflammation of the thyroid gland. It’s as though the body’s immune system is confused and turns against the thyroid gland, making antibodies that interfere with the thyroid hormones’ ability to function.
How common is it? It might be more common than you think. According to current published data, there are approximately 14 million Americans who have Hashimoto’s and women are seven times as likely to have it as men. The number one symptom of hypothyroidism, or sluggish thyroid functioning, is fatigue. This stands to reason, since the thyroid hormones help our cells absorb and utilize energy from sources such as food and other hormones.
People who have Hashimoto’s can find themselves feeling like they’ve been short-changed, but so often, they don’t know why. They think, “Why am I so tired all the time? Even if I sleep all night long, I still feel like I could sleep all day, too.” They push themselves just to make it through the day. Their routine might include caffeine in the morning in order to make it to lunch. Instead of eating, they drink a shake and take a nap until lunch is over. The short nap gives them just enough energy to get through the afternoon. They can’t wait to get home so they can crawl into bed as soon as possible. If it’s been a rough day, they may not even have enough energy to put on pajamas before going to bed. Does this sound at all familiar to you or is there someone you know that this describes? You don’t have to feel this way, and you don’t have to live this way.
The thyroid antibodies the immune system makes with Hashimoto’s are proteins that attach themselves to thyroid hormone, decreasing the amount of hormone that is available in the bloodstream. This is the primary reason it is so important to find a physician who will work with you to determine the appropriate treatment for you. The first course of treatment is determining the best thyroid replacement for you.
Once you find a Hashimoto’s disease doctor they will begin by treating you with thyroid hormone replacement therapy, but there are other medical and nutritional additions that can help.
Individuals with Hashimoto’s disease often have low levels of DHEA and testosterone. When these are supplemented, it can decrease levels of antibodies and decrease the ongoing destruction of the thyroid gland. It has also been shown that selenium deficiency can play a role in Hashimoto’s disease. Taking Selenium supplementation can often reduce antibody levels, though selenium is not a replacement for thyroid medication.
Low Dose Naltrexone has also shown to be very effective for autoimmune diseases such as Hashimoto’s disease and it can lower anti-thyroid antibodies.
Identifying and treating any chronic viral or bacterial infection that may be the underlying cause of the immune dysfunction can reverse the disease.
It might seem strange, but immune boosters can help Hashimoto’s disease. But they must boost the TH1 portion of the immune system and not the TH2 immunity. Treating with TH1 immune boosters can cause a reduction of the hyperactive TH2 immune response that is present in Hashimoto’s disease and help reverse the underlying cause. This may be especially helpful when a chronic infection is present, which is often the case (especially in chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia). The immune-modulatory properties of gamma globulin, either given intramuscularly or intravenously, can be very beneficial.
As you now know, there are a variety of treatments for Hashimoto’s and finding a hashimoto’s doctor that can assess you correctly and understand the treatment options can make all the difference in your quality of life.