Hashimoto's Thyroiditis & Hypothyroidism
Welcome to the Hashimoto's Thyroiditis Lens
Hashimoto's Thyroiditis and Hypothyroidism are often misdiagnosed or undiagnosed and most commonly affect women more than men. The purpose of this lens is to inform people about the autoimmune disease Hashimoto's Thyroiditis, hypothyroidism, and other thyroid issues for the newly diagnosed or for those looking for information on thyroid diseases and conditions.
What is Hashimoto's Thyroiditis?
A basic description.
Hashimoto's Thyroiditis is an autoimmune thyroid disease, mainly afflicting women, in which the body misinterprets the thyroid as a foreign body and the immune system attacks it.
The thyroid is responsible for regulating your metabolism as well as your digestive and reproductive systems. In short, the thyroid affects just about every cell in your body. When your body attacks it and it can't produce enough hormone to regulate your body's metabolic processes, that is called hypothyroidism.
Hypothyroidism has many symptoms such as weight gain, inability to concentrate, depression, sensitivity to heat or cold, and more. The symptoms of Hashimoto's are so varied and sometimes so vague that the disease is often misdiagnosed as something else. The best way to confirm Hashimoto's Thyroiditis is by having a physician check for the existence of thyroid antibodies in the bloodstream.
Hashimoto's Thyroiditis is a hereditary disease. It is highly treatable with synthetic thyroid medications such as levothyroxine, Synthroid, or levothroid.
If you suspect you might have Hashimoto's, please consult with your physician or endocrinologist.
Books on Hashimoto's Thyroiditis
Symptoms of Hashimoto's Thyroiditis
Common symptoms of Hashimoto's Thyroiditis include:
Sensitivity to cold or heat
Feeling fatigued, sluggish, or weak
Memory problems or forgetfulness
Cold or dry skin
Coarse and thinning hair
Heavy or irregular periods
Swelling in arms, legs, or feet
More detail on Hashimoto's Thyroiditis symptoms...
Diagnosing Hashimoto's Thyroiditis
The symptoms of Hashimoto's Thyroiditis, also known as chronic lymphocytic thyroiditis, are varied and may be often misdiagnosed as another disease or condition. The best way for a doctor to diagnose Hashimoto's Thyroiditis is through a blood test that checks for thyroid antibodies. This blood test is often done in conjunction with a TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) test to determine if thyroid hormones are within the normal range.
Other tests that may be done are free T3 and free T4 tests that measure the amount of T3 and T4 hormone in the blood. T3 is the active thyroid hormone that regulates the cells in your body. T4 is the inactive thyroid hormone that your body converts into T3. Abnormalities in the T3 and T4 levels may help your doctor diagnose either hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism that a regular TSH test may have missed.
If you are denied a TSH blood test, are having difficulty convincing your doctor to order one, or do not have insurance to cover the costs, you can order a kit online to have an independent lab process and mail results to you. You simply collect a few drops of blood according to the instructions on the kit and mail it in. You'll receive results by mail when your kit is processed, which you may then show to your physician. It's a cheaper alternative to pricey hospital lab tests.
Visit the Thyroid Testing at Home page at Hashimoto's Thyroiditis site for more information.
Hashimoto's Thyroiditis and Diet - Goitrogenic Foods
What foods affect your thyroid and how can you lose weight?
What you eat can affect your thyroid. There are naturally occurring substances in foods that are called goitrogens (after the word "goiter"). Goitrogens interfere with the thyroid's ability to produce thyroid hormone. That, in turn, can cause your thyroid to enlarge in an attempt to compensate for the low hormone production. That enlargement of the thyroid tissue is called a "goiter".
There are two main types of food that contain goitrogens, soy-based foods and cruciferous vegetables. There are other foods that don't fit into one of those two categories, but they will be included in the list of goitrogenic foods at the end of this article.
Soy and soy-bean related food products are notorious for interfering with the thyroid. They contain isoflavones that interfere with thyroid hormone production by blocking the enzyme thyroid peroxidase which adds iodine to the thyroid hormone.
But there are so many foods today that are soy-based that it is difficult to avoid soy. It is best if thyroid patients avoid goitrogenic foods such as soy. But barring that, one simple step to avoid having goitrogenic foods interfere with your thyroid is to take your thyroid medications on an empty stomach and do not eat until at least an hour afterwards. This gives your body a chance to absorb and use the thyroid medication without interference from goitrogens.
The other category of food that disrupts the thyroid is cruciferous vegetables. They contain isothiocyanates which also block thyroid peroxidase and also messages sent across thyroid cell membranes.
Examples of goitrogenic foods:
Soy and soy-based foods (including tofu)
Cruciferous vegetables such as:
* Brussel sprouts
Vegetables in the genus Brassica are also goitrogenic. Some Brassica vegetables are also listed in the cruciferous vegetable section above.
* Bok choy
* Broccolini (Asparations)
* Chinese cabbage
* Choy sum
* Collard greens
* Kai-lan (Chinese broccoli)
* Rapeseed (yu choy)
The heavy use of soy in the NutriSystem Diet was one reason I did not try it. However, I recently asked my doctor about it and he told me it would be okay to try as long as I wasn't allergic to soy and that I took my medication on an empty stomach and waited an hour to eat afterwards. So, I recently started the diet and I'm happy with the results. I'm currently 17 pounds lighter, more energetic, and feeling good. My husband started a few months before I did and has currently lost 35 pounds. If you're interested in trying the diet, please consult your physician first.
Hashimoto's Thyroiditis and Diet - Thyroid Stimulating Foods
What foods stimulate your thyroid?
There are certain foods that have the opposite effect as goitrogens, that is they stimulate your thyroid function instead of suppressing it.
Here's a partial list:
whole grain cereals
A word of caution, eat thyroid stimulating foods in moderation. You do not want to overstimulate your thyroid. In addition to eating thyroid stimulating foods in moderation, you may want to increase your intake of foods that stimulate your adrenal glands. Good adrenal support via foods and herbal remedies may help to counteract fatigue. This is a topic I hope to explore more in this lens at a later date.
Books About Thyroid Issues and Diet
Below are some books about nutrition and diet for thyroid patience. Learn how to eat the proper foods and what foods to avoid to keep your thyroid functioning as best it can.
Hashimoto's Thyroiditis and Your Heart
Hypothyroidism, heart problems, and poor circulation
Those suffering from Hashimoto's Thyroiditis or hypothyroidism are at risk for heart and circulation problems.
Slow Heart Rate - Low thyroid hormone levels due to Hashimoto's Thyroiditis may cause your heart rate to slow. The thyroid is responsible for regulating your metabolism, so when it is under-performing, your metabolism and heart rate will slow down.
High Blood Pressure - Low thyroid hormone levels cause arteries to become more narrow and less flexible. This, in turn, causes the pressure needed to circulate blood around your body to increase.
Atherosclerosis - People with low thyroid levels are at risk for high cholesterol. High cholesterol can lead to hardened and narrowed arteries, which in turn increases the risk of heart attack or stroke. Be sure to have your cholesterol levels tested often if you have hypothyroidism.
Diminished Pumping Capacity - A slower, weaker heart caused by the above conditions means that blood flow to areas like the skin, kidneys, brain, and other vital organs is reduced.
If you suspect that you suffer from some of the heart and circulation issues listed here, please talk to your doctor about how to treat them.
How Hashimoto's and Hypothyroidism Affect Your Memory and Brain Function
I'm sure many of you who have suffered from Hashimoto's Thyroiditis or hypothyroidism for any length of time have an idea of what I mean when I say "brain fog". For those of you who don't, I will elaborate.
"Brain fog" is an all encompassing term for all the brain related impairment that comes with Hashimoto's Thyroiditis, including short-term memory loss, difficulty concentrating or focusing, being easily distracted, and slower processing of information. People who previously had sharp memories and brain function may find themselves feeling like they've lost more than a few IQ points when suffering from the full effects of Hashimoto's Thyroiditis.
Memory problems can be most troubling. Brain fog goes far beyond not being able to remember conversations, names, dates, or events. Some Hashimoto's sufferers, like me, often have a hard time remember the names of common objects or cannot remember a particular word they mean to use in conversation.
For example, I recall vividly one time when my husband and I were going to go out. I said to him, "Let's go out to the... the... you know that thing that has wheels and takes us places?" "The car?" "Yes!"
You may laugh, but the mental impairments brought about by hypothyroidism can get that bad.
Simple Tips for Dealing With Fatigue
Some of these health tips for fighting fatigue are really obvious, but deserve repeating.
1. Get at least 7-9 hours of uninterrupted sleep a day.
2. Stay well hydrated. Here's a handy Hydration Calculator to help you determine how much you need to drink daily. This is important, as dehydration can make it easier for you to get infections, such as sinus infections or UT infections.
3. Get active. Even if you only walk for 5 minutes, getting active gets the blood pumping and helps you stay awake during those frequent bouts of daytime sleepiness. It's much better for you than coffee, though having limited amounts of coffee on occasion is ok. Exercise is important for Hashimoto's thyroiditis patients, as I'm sure many of you know it's difficult to manage your weight when you're hypothyroid. So, get walking, gardening, bowling, something!
4. Limit your caffeine intake in the evenings and don't drink anything a few hours before bed so you can fall asleep better and enjoy uninterrupted sleep. Also, do quiet, "winding down" type activities like reading shortly before going to bed.
I'll be adding more tips as I think of them!
The risks over over-treating Hashimoto's Thyroiditis
After being properly medicated and having your thyroid hormone levels under control for a while, you can usually tell when things get out of whack. I've been in that situation many times.
When I notice things aren't quite right, my routine is to call the doctor, have labs done to check my TSH levels, and request my medication be adjusted depending on the results.
The last time I had my TSH levels checked, I was surprised to find that I was actually HYPERthyroid, instead of hypothyroid. My medication dosage was too high.
Symptoms of hyperthyroidism include:
*Feeling nervous, moody, weak, or tired.
*Sweatiness or warm, red, itchy skin.
*More bowel movements than usual.
*Fine, soft hair that is falling out.
*Losing weight even though you eat the same or more than usual.
If left untreated, hyperthyroidism may cause:
*Weight loss (believe me, you don't want to lose it that way)
*Heart problems including atrial fibrillation and heart failure.
*Calcium deficiency and osteoporosis.
You may even be at risk for a life-threatening condition called "thyroid storm" where your body releases large amounts of thyroid hormone at once.
If you have any of the symptoms listed above, please see a doctor to get tested and treated.
Hashimoto's Thyroiditis and Other Health Risks
Diseases and Conditions You're at Risk for if you Have Hashimoto's Thyroiditis
People who have Hashimoto's Thyroiditis are more susceptible to developing other diseases and conditions.
Since the thyroid is responsible for metabolism and thus pretty much all the cells in your body, a malfunctioning thyroid can have a big impact to your health in many different ways.
Hashimoto's Thyroiditis is an autoimmune disease and people who have an autoimmune disease are at great risk for developing another. Below is a list of some of the autoimmune diseases and health conditions that Hashimoto's Thyroiditis sufferers may develop.
Diabetes Mellitus Type 1
Increased risk of infections
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
Tips to reduce inflammation due to Hashimoto's Thyroiditis
Inflammation due to Hashimoto's Thyroiditis can be painful, but there are some simple things you can do to fight that inflammation.
1. Take fish oil or omega-3 supplements. Omega-3 fatty acids help support the immune system and reduce inflammation.
2. Make sure your magnesium levels are sufficient. Research has concluded that keeping adequate levels of magnesium in your body is directly related to a decrease in inflammation.
3. Anti-oxidants. Red, purple, and blue berries are rich in anti-oxidants which get rid of the enzymes responsible for inflammation and fight free radicals.
4. Cinnamon. Taking cinnamon can help reduce inflammation. Be careful, however, as too much cinnamon can be toxic. It may also cause acid reflux.
5. Eat a gluten free diet. Gluten is often responsible for inflammation that irritates the digestive system.
As always, talk to your doctor before you try any of these tips to make sure they're right for your particular situation. Good luck in reducing your pain and inflammation.
Hashimoto's Thyroiditis Links
An informative site full of basic information on Hashimoto's Thyroiditis geared towards newly diagnosed patients. Includes informative videos, forums, photos, and more.
- The Thyroid Forum
Interactive medical question and answer format about all aspects of thyroid treatments.
- Thyroid Disorders @ About.com
About Thyroid Disease site, with conventional and alternative information on hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, Hashimoto's, Graves' Disease, nodules, goiter, thyroid cancer, and thyroid drugs and treatments.