Hashimoto’s Disease & Graves' Disease
One of the most common autoimmune diseases that affects people today is Hashimoto’s.
It’s triggered when your immune system attacks your thyroid gland. The thyroid gland is situated at the base of your neck, about where you’d wear a bowtie. The thyroid gland produces hormones that help drive your metabolism.
Hashimoto’s is one of the most common causes of hypothyroidism, or slow thyroid function.
As the immune system churns out antibodies that target thyroid tissue, it slowly damages the thyroid gland to the point where it becomes underactive (hypothyroid).
Determining the exact cause of this - why the immune system begins to attack the thyroid - is difficult to know. It may be related to your genetics (Hashimoto’s can run in families), a prior viral or bacterial infection, or other situations that imbalance our delicate immune systems.
Hashimoto’s most often affects middle-aged women but it can also occur in both sexes at any age. It is also more common in people that already have other autoimmune diseases like lupus, rheumatoid arthritis or type 1 diabetes.
In Hashimoto’s disease, the thyroid gland is under attack from two type of antibodies known as thyroid peroxidase (TPO) and thyroglobulin (Tg). These antibodies can be measured with a blood test and tracked over time to monitor treatment and disease progress.
Another similar, but different autoimmune thyroid condition is known as Grave’s disease.
In Graves disease, a different type of antibody (known as thyrotropin receptor antibody (TRAb) mimics the action of your main thyroid-stimulating hormone (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone - TSH). In Graves, a person will become hyperthyroid - their thyroid gland will speed up dramatically.
Similar to Hashimoto’s, it’s not clear why the immune system creates antibodies to attack the thyroid gland. Grave’s disease is also more common in middle aged women and people that have other autoimmune conditions.
Hashimoto’s disease can rarely stimulate the thyroid into hyperthyroidism (fast thyroid), but most often by the time this condition is diagnosed a person will have become hypothyroid (slow thyroid).
In Grave’s disease, a person will remain hyperthyroid (fast) for the duration of the illness. It may be short lived or it can go on for years. Regardless, Grave’s disease generally has more urgent symptoms that often require prescription medicine to prevent serious issues that result from an overactive thyroid.
Hashimoto’s disease is often treated similarly to hypothyroidism.
When the thyroid is running slow without any immune system involvement, it is simply termed ‘hypothyroidism’ and also requires support to assist in production of thyroid hormone.
Support for Hashimoto’s disease involves:
- Addressing immune system imbalances through diet
- Protect the thyroid gland from further immune system-caused damage
- Support normal production of thyroid hormone
Identifying and removing food sensitivities is an important part of balancing out the immune response. Food sensitivities can be one of the main drivers of inflammation in the body (inflammation is the result of an overactive part of the immune system).
Wheat/gluten is perhaps the most well-known food sensitivity in relation to its negative effect on thyroid antibody production. In other words, gluten (a protein found in wheat) is a suspected driver of anti-thyroid antibodies in Hashimoto’s disease. Removing gluten from the diet is a ‘must do’ in terms of treatment for Hashimoto’s disease.
And when there is one food sensitivity there are almost always others. This is why it’s so important to test for food sensitivities if you’re dealing with Hashimoto’s disease.
Occurs when larger food proteins or bacteria are absorbed in greater amounts than they should be through the normally very selective small intestinal barrier. One of the side effects of leaky gut is autoimmunity. Healing the gut is also one of the most important steps in resolving an autoimmune attack on your body.
Here's a more detailed article on Leaky Gut.
Protection & Support
During the course of Hashimoto’s, the immune system slowly chips away at the health of the thyroid gland. Over time, thyroid function may start to decline. Supplying the correct nutrients and herbal extracts that support healthy thyroid function can also help protect the thyroid against further damage from the immune system. Thyroid Support Complex is our go-to for this.
Cortisol is another hormone that when elevated, can have detrimental effects against thyroid function. Because stress is so prevalent in many of our lives, high cortisol levels are a common finding. Working to minimize stress is important for all aspects of our health but especially so in autoimmune diseases. Cortisol Recovery works to keep cortisol levels down, in a normal range.
Lastly, omega-3 fatty acids are one of the most important anti-inflammatory compounds that we can use. Of course, fatty fish is the best source but we also like to dose
omega-3 fats beyond what you’d get from diet alone, to further enhance their powerful anti-inflammatory effects on the body and thyroid gland, especially in cases of autoimmunity.