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What is hashimoto’s thyroiditis?

Understanding your thyroid condition


Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis is an inflammatory autoimmune condition that causes the body to attack the thyroid gland. Lymphocytes (white blood cells) and thyroid antibodies infiltrate the gland and cause destruction on a cellular level.

Hashimoto’s is often mistaken as being the same as hypothyroidism. While it is the leading cause of hypothyroidism in Australia, Hashimoto’s is caused by dysfunction of the immune system, whereas hypothyroidism is caused by the destruction of the thyroid gland.

Identifying the problem


Looking to treat your Hashimoto’s naturally? With autoimmune disorders like Hashimoto’s, genetic, dietary, environmental and hormonal factors, stress, as well as underlying viruses, bacteria or fungal infections are all possible causes. Researchers have also found strong associations between Hashimoto’s and impaired gut health conditions. 


This is why our practitioners address not only the thyroid but also take a holistic approach to investigate and address the root cause and contributing factors so that you can find a more permanent solution to your thyroid condition.

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What causes eczema?

There isn’t one single cause of eczema but a range of potential contributing factors that are unique to each person. These include:

Genetics

Research has found people with the ‘atopic triad’ have a defective barrier of the skin and upper and lower respiratory tracts.

These genetic alterations cause a loss of function of filaggrin (filament aggregating protein), which is a protein in the skin that normally breaks down to create natural moisturisation and protect the skin from penetration by pathogens and allergens.

Filaggrin mutations are found in approximately 30 percent of people with atopic dermatitis, and also predispose people to asthma, allergic rhinitis (hayfever), keratosis pilaris (dry rough patches and bumps on the skin), and ichthyosis vulgaris (a chronic condition which causes thick, dry, scaly skin.)If one parent carries this genetic alteration, there is a 50 percent chance their child will develop atopic symptoms. And that risk increases to 80 percent if both parents are affected. 

Food allergy and sensitivity

Food hypersensitivity has been found to cause or exacerbate atopic dermatitis in 10-30% of cases, and 90% of these are caused by eggs, milk, peanuts, soy and wheat.

Compromised gut health

The connection between the gut microbiome and skin health is complex, however, research has found the microbiota contributes to the development, persistence, and severity of atopic dermatitis through immunologic, metabolic and neuroendocrine pathways.

Nutritional deficiencies

Deficiency of Omega-6 essential fatty acids (EFA) has been linked with the increased incidence of atopic dermatitis, along with the inability for the body to efficiently metabolise EFA’s to gamma linoleic acids (GLA) and arachidonic acids (AA).

Weather and environment

Changing weather conditions can certainly aggravate eczema symptoms, but the triggers are subject to change among individuals.

Hormones

Hormones also play a role in the course of atopic dermatitis, including the stress hormone cortisol which triggers an inflammatory immune response affecting all organs of the body, including the skin.

Mould exposure

Mould exposure and susceptibility to mould can cause Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (CIRS), of which dermatitis is a manifestation.

Forget short-term standard treatments. Treat the cause instead

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What causes hashimoto’s thyroiditis?


Affecting about 1 in 100 Australians, and ten times more common in women than in men, hashimoto’s is the most common form of thyroiditis.

It is more common in people with a family history of thyroid disease, and those with other autoimmune diseases including type 1 diabetes, Addison’s disease and coeliac disease.  

Those with an existing autoimmune condition are also at greater risk of developing another autoimmune condition like Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. Around 25% of people with an existing autoimmune condition go on to develop three or more autoimmune conditions over their lifetime, thought to be caused by genetic and environmental factors. 

With autoimmune disorders like Hashimoto’s, genetic, dietary, environmental and hormonal factors, stress, as well as underlying viruses, bacteria or fungal infections are all possible causes. 

Researchers have also found strong associations between Hashimoto’s and impaired gut health conditions such as food sensitivities, microbiome dysbiosis and increased intestinal permeability. 

As mentioned earlier, people with other autoimmune conditions are more susceptible to developing Hashimoto’s, including:

  • Addison’s disease
  • Autoimmune hepatitis
  • Coeliac disease
  • Lupus
  • Pernicious anaemia
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Sjögrens syndrome
  • Type 1 diabetes
  • Vitiligo

 

Risk factors that increase the likelihood of developing Hashimoto’s disease include being a female of middle age (40-60 years old), and having family members with Hashimoto’s or another autoimmune disease.

Natural vs conventional hashimoto’s treatments


The conventional treatment approach for Hashimoto’s usually doesn’t treat the underlying autoimmune condition. Instead, people with Hashimoto’s usually receive the standard treatment for hypothyroidism that develops as a secondary symptom.

Thyroid hormone and antibody testing is used to diagnose Hashimoto’s, and conventional hypothyroidism treatment involves taking synthetic Levothyroxine

Unfortunately, conventional testing isn’t always as sensitive as needed to identify early-stage Hashimoto’s, and misinterpretation of results can result in misdiagnosis.

Regular monitoring of thyroid hormone levels should continue throughout treatment, so the dosage can be adjusted according to thyroid hormone levels. 

As this approach doesn’t address the underlying autoimmune disorder, synthetic thyroid hormone may be required long term, or even for life.


The Melbourne Functional Medicine approach to hashimoto's thyroiditis


Personalised assessment and treatment of what’s causing your Hashimoto’s


Unlike the conventional approach which only addresses the thyroid, the functional medicine approach to Hashimoto’s thyroiditis involves finding and addressing the root cause and contributing factors of the underlying autoimmune disorder.

 

Following advanced thyroid panel testing, our practitioners prioritise supporting the immune system and restoring normal immune function, while also supporting optimal functioning of the thyroid.

This is a proactive, whole-of-person approach that focuses on restoring homeostasis to the body, which may enable the thyroid to resume normal function. 

 

While some people may have a greater genetic predisposition to Hashimoto’s that can’t be changed, there is usually a triggering event or environmental circumstance that leads to the development of the condition. Our practitioners can work with you to identify any potential bacterial overgrowth, lingering virus, fungal infection, toxin overload, food sensitivity, heavy metal or mould exposure that could potentially be the trigger of your autoimmune disorder.

 

Gut health and a strong and diverse microbiome are also directly related to immune function and thyroid health. We know intestinal barrier function plays a key role in the prevention of autoimmune conditions. This is because compromised intestinal barrier function, or ‘leaky gut’, creates dysregulation of the immune response.

 

To support these aspects of your health, our practitioners may recommend some of the following steps as part of personalised treatment plan.

 

Eliminate inflammatory foods and beverages 

A protein called zonulin can increase intestinal permeability and promote autoimmune disorder, and is released when the small intestine is exposed to gluten. As a result, our practitioners will generally recommend removing gluten containing foods from the diet, along with other potentially inflammatory foods. This will look different for everyone, though may include alcohol, soft drinks, dairy, sugar, artificial ingredients, processed foods and refined carbohydrates.

 

Increase healthy fats and nutrient-rich wholefoods

Foods rich in thyroid-supporting nutrients like selenium, zinc, iron, B vitamins, and vitamin A, as well as wholefood sources of healthy fats like olive oil, avocados, olives, nuts, seeds, wild-catch fish and sardines.

 

Nurture gut health

Removing inflammation is the first and most important step in improving gut health. We can then go about restoring healthy gut function and a diverse microbiome with probiotics and supplements, as well as cultured foods like kombucha, kimchi and broths, and prebiotic-rich foods like leeks, onions and plantains.

 

Remove toxins

Everyday activities expose our bodies to toxins including heavy metals, radiation, microparticles and other potential hazards. We can reduce the toxin load by removing environmental toxins from our home and using only natural and organic haircare, skincare and cleaning products, using air and water filters, and avoiding hazardous chemicals including perfumes which can interfere with hormone levels.

 

Reduce stress

A reduction in stress levels is essential for the health of people with autoimmune disorders. This is because chronic stress elevates cortisol levels and disrupts other hormone levels in the body, including the thyroid. Our practitioners and health coaches can help you develop a stress reduction plan which might include improving sleep, practicing restorative yoga, meditation, more outdoor time, exercise, and mindfulness. 

 

These are just some of the ways our healthcare team can support people with Hashimoto’s and underactive thyroid at Melbourne Functional Medicine. The approach for you may be different depending on your individual findings. Self-diagnosis and treatment of Hashimoto’s are not recommended due to the serious nature of the condition.


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See how functional medicine is helping our patients achieve better health and richer lives.

Are you ready for a personalised, natural functional medicine treatment? Our unique model of care was designed with you in mind. Find out how, then book a call today!

FAQs

What are some new treatments for hashimoto's thyroiditis?

The most advanced treatment for Hashimoto's thyroiditis is the functional medicine approach, that investigates and addresses the root cause and contributing factors of Hashimoto's, which can result in a more permanent solution to the thyroid condition. With autoimmune disorders like Hashimoto’s, genetic, dietary, environmental and hormonal factors, stress, as well as underlying viruses, bacteria or fungal infections are all possible causes. Researchers have also found strong associations between Hashimoto’s and impaired gut health conditions. A functional medicine practitioner will explore all possible avenues to find and address each person's individual disease factors.

How do I get a hashimoto's thyroiditis diagnosis?

Seeking the expertise of an experienced endocrinologist or a functional medicine practitioner will lead to a greater likelihood of detection of Hashimoto's. Hashimoto’s is notoriously difficult to diagnose because of the inconsistent symptoms experienced by people with the condition. Often silent in nature initially, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis may not present with any symptoms until the condition is advanced, and underactive thyroid or hypothyroid symptoms set in.

Due to the volatile nature of the condition as an autoimmune disorder, people with Hashimoto’s may also experience symptoms of an overactive thyroid, or hyperthyroidism. This is confusing and frustrating for people living with Hashimoto’s, and can often lead to misdiagnosis and delayed or incorrect treatment. That's why it's important to see an experienced hormone specialist.

Can you have hashimoto's without a thyroid?

Thyroid antibody levels that attack the thyroid gland in Hasmhimoto's drop significantly when the thyroid is removed, so symptoms of Hashimoto's are no longer present.


How long does hashimoto's thyroiditis last?

As long as the immune system remains dysfunctional, Hashimoto's Thyroiditis will persist, which can sadly be for the rest of a person's life, or until a thyroidectomy is conducted. Thankfully, there are more advanced approaches that seek to fully address and restore a person's thyroid health, using the functional medicine approach.

How to manage hashimoto's thyroiditis

Unlike the conventional approach which only addresses the thyroid, the functional medicine approach to Hashimoto’s thyroiditis involves finding and addressing the root cause and contributing factors of the underlying autoimmune disorder. Following advanced thyroid panel testing, a practitioner prioritise supporting the immune system and restoring normal immune function, while also supporting optimal functioning of the thyroid through dietary and lifestyle measures.

Can’t find what you’re looking for? Reach out to the team directly – we’ll be happy to assist.