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ARE YOU HYPOTHYROID OR DO YOU REALLY HAVE HASHIMOTO'S DISEASE?
By Dr. Marianne Beck
20 million Americans are affected by thyroid disorders. One in eight women will experience thyroid dysfunction in their lifetime. One of the most common thyroid disorders is hypothyroidism. In this country, 90% of all hypothyroidism or low thyroid function is an autoimmune condition called Hashimoto's Disease. With Hashimoto's, your own body's immune system is attacking and destroying your thyroid gland!
What triggers Hashimoto's Disease?
The exact cause(s) of Hashimoto's and all other autoimmune diseases such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, MS, type 1 diabetes, Sjogrens syndrome etc are unknown, however what we do know is that a number of factors can contribute to the development of immune system dysfunction and eventually autoimmune disease. These include a combination of several factors such as stress (adrenal gland malfunction), viral, parasitic and bacterial infections, estrogen fluctuations (birth control pills, hormone replacement therapy, pregnancy, peri-menopause), insulin resistance, polycystic ovary disease, environmental toxicity, Vitamin D deficiency, leaky gut, chronic inflammation, gluten intolerance and celiac disease as well as a genetic predisposition or susceptibility.
How Do I Know If I Have Hashimoto's?
Before we discuss this, we need to list some of the symptoms of both hypothyroid and hyperthyroid so we are better able to recognize thyroid problems in general. Some of the better known hypothyroid symptoms are fatigue, weight gain, cold hands and feet, thinning hair and hair loss, depression, lack of motivation and constipation. Symptoms of hyperthyroidism (Graves Disease) are heart palpitations, increased pulse rate, insomnia, anxiety, night sweats, nervousness and difficulty gaining weight. Most people with Hashimoto's will have a combination of hypo and hyper thyroid symptoms. For example, a person may suffer from fatigue, cold hands and feet and hair loss, but when their immune system attacks the thyroid gland, thyroid cells are destroyed and released into the blood stream along with thyroid hormones. Some of these hormones such as T3 are stimulatory and may cause heart palpitations, night sweats and anxiety when they are released.
If you have already been diagnosed with hypothyroidism and are on thyroid medication, and you continue to have hypothyroid symptoms or your medical doctor is always changing your thyroid medication dosage because your thyroid "just can't be regulated" or your thyroid medication dose is always being increased, then you should be tested for Hashimoto's.
How Can I Be Tested For Hashimoto's?
Most doctors do not go far enough when testing the thyroid for possible dysfunction. A complete thyroid panel including TPO antibodies and TGA antibodies should be performed through laboratory blood testing. A TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) blood test can never decide whether a patient has Hashimoto's. Remember, Hashimoto's is an autoimmune disease-it is not a thyroid disease-it is your body attacking your thyroid. So, the most valuable test measures autoimmune antibodies TPO (thyroid peroxidase antibodies) and TGA (thyroglobulin antibodies) which show the autoimmune attack on the thyroid gland itself.
IsThere Any Treatment For Hashimoto's Disease?
Since Hashimotos' disease is not a disease of the thyroid gland, but instead an autoimmune disease, treatment must center on the immune system and not the thyroid gland itself. This is why prescribing thyroid medications such as Synthyroid, Armour Thyroid, Levothyroid etc does nothing to help your autoimmune condition. Without regulating your immune system, your thyroid will continue to be attacked and you will continue to experience thyroid symptoms as well as a worsening autoimmune disease. Therefore, Hashimoto's MUST be treated as an autoimmune disease and NOT a thyroid disease. This means your immune system function must be measured via immunological blood tests and then monitored. Essential lab panels measure inflammatory cytokines for TH1/TH2 dominance and the ratio of T-Helper cells to T-Suppressor cells (CD4/CD8 ratio). Also, Vitamin D levels are measured. Testing for leaky gut is also imperative in autoimmune disease. When the results are in, a program is implemented to regulate the immune response and stop the destruction of the thyroid gland along with restoring adrenal gland health and the immune barrier of the gut lining. Since gluten is a common trigger of Hashimoto's, a gluten free diet is a must.
Hashimoto's Is Commonly Misdiagnosed!
Hashimoto's often goes misdiagnosed and usually mismanaged by traditional medicine. The issue of autoimmune attack is also not addressed by traditional medicine. Since a patient's autoimmune response is ignored, over time, more and more of the thyroid gland is destroyed and their disease progresses. Also, when a patient presents with one autoimmune disease such as Hashimoto's, if the immune system remains untreated, this patient is prone to developing additional autoimmune diseases such as pernicious anemia (inability to absorb vitamin B12) and Type 1 diabetes.
Last, but certainly not least, because the human brain is loaded with thyroid hormone receptors, when a person is hypothyroid, brain chemistry and function are seriously compromised. Because brain neurotransmitters such as GABA, serotonin, dopamine and acetylcholine are compromised, patients suffering from hypothyroid conditions experience poor memory, diminished ability to learn,
increased states of depression, anger, feelings of hopelessness, inability to handle stress and loss of enthusiasm for life, not to mention brain degeneration and Alzheimer's! Also, hypothyroidism can increase your chances of Parkinson's Disease due to dopamine deficiency.
So, it is of the utmost importance to discover if you are suffering from Hashimoto's disease. If a patient is properly tested, diagnosed and treated in such a way to restore proper immune function, they can lead a healthier more productive life instead of losing their health to autoimmune disease.
If you are finally tired of being "sick and tired", contact Dr. Marianne Beck at Women's BestHealth today. Call 954-782-4855 to to set up an appointment.
Women's BestHealth is a functional medicine and nutritional health center specializing in women's health issues and wellness. Dr. Marianne Beck, founder and director, provides natural treatment for menopause, perimenopause, adrenal fatigue/stress, thyroid problems, Hashimoto's, osteoporosis, gastrointestinal problems and autoimmune disease. We offer our services locally in Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach Counties.
Serving: South Florida (South Fl), Ft. Lauderdale, Miami, West Palm Beach, Boca Raton, Sunrise, Oakland park, Pompano Beach, Deerfield, Boynton Beach, Delray Beach, Miramar, Coral Springs, Cooper City, Pembroke Pines, Tamarac, Coconut Creek, Weston, Hollywood, Plantation, Wellington, Palm Beach Gardens. Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach Counties.
Marianne Beck, D.C., Functional Medicine Practitioner and Director, Women's BestHealth