Learning to Live with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis

Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis is the leading cause of hypothyroidism. It’s responsible for more than 90% of cases. If you’ve been diagnosed or think you may be at risk, there are medical treatments and lifestyle changes that can help you to manage underactive thyroid symptoms.

Hashimoto's hypothyroidism develops when your immune system mistakenly targets healthy cells.

This autoimmune disorder interferes with thyroid function and causes chronic inflammation resulting in the following main symptoms.

Most Common Complaints with Hashimoto's:

  • general fatigue
  • depression
  • poor brain function
  • chronic constipation and digestive problems

Other symptoms may include the following, although only about 10% of people have really obvious symptoms:

  • dry hair
  • loss of outer third of eyebrow hair
  • puffy face
  • enlarged thyroid gland
  • show heartbeat
  • arthritis
  • cold intolerance
  • depression
  • anxiety
  • dry skin
  • fatigue
  • forgetfulness
  • menstrual disorders
  • infertility
  • muscular aches and pains
  • weight gain
  • loss of muscle
  • constipation
  • brittle nails

Eventually, your thyroid gland may be unable to produce enough hormones for its usual functions. That includes regulating your metabolism and body temperature as well as some of the above symptoms.

With smart decisions, you may be able to avoid the weight gain and fatigue often associated with an underactive thyroid.

Lifestyle Tips for Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis:

1. Eat clean. Ultra-processed products are a major source of inflammation. Plan your meals and snacks around natural whole foods.Fill your plate with vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. Choose healthy fats and lean proteins.

2. Manage food sensitivities. Certain foods may add to your digestive troubles. Common culprits include dairy products, eggs, peanuts, and caffeine. Try removing them from your diet one at a time to see if it makes a difference.

3. Avoid gluten. This protein found in wheat and other grains is more likely to trigger an immune response if you have a medical condition such as Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. Check food labels and buy a cookbook that will teach you about gluten substitutes and foods that are naturally gluten-free.

4. Exercise regularly. Working out can give you more energy. It may also help to relieve depression, stiffness, and other symptoms of Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis.

5. Protect your joints. While physical activity is beneficial, it’s important to avoid overdoing it, especially if you experience muscle and joint aches. Listen to your body and schedule rest days. Try low impact activities such as swimming and biking.

6. Lose weight. Slimming down can be more challenging when you have a thyroid condition. However, it’s important because those excess pounds can aggravate your symptoms. Follow a sensible diet and workout plan and talk with your health care practitioner if you need more help.

7. Sleep well. Adequate rest helps your body to heal. Aim for 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night and stick to a consistent bedtime.

8. Reduce stress. High levels of cortisol and other stress hormones can block thyroid hormones and increase inflammation.Find relaxation practices that work for you or talk about your feelings with a trusted friend or family member.

Medical Treatment for Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis:

1. Know your risks

Women are seven times more likely than men to develop Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. Other risk factors include your family history or having other autoimmune conditions.

2. Get diagnosed

You may not notice thyroid symptoms because they develop slowly. Some signs may include weight gain, fatigue, constipation, mental confusion, and mood changes. Your doctor or practitioner can give you a physical exam and test your thyroid function and antibody levels.

3. Take medication.

You’ll probably be prescribed a synthetic hormone called levothyroxine, which is considered very safe and effective. It may also be protective to your thyroid and help prevent further damage.

How I approach Hashimoto's

When dealing with autoimmune conditions like Hashimoto's, I like to look at three main steps:

1. Identify the triggers which may be causing immune dysfunction; things like food sensitivities, mould exposure, infections (with viral infection(s) being the most dominant trigger, metabolic changes like PCOS, pregnancy, etc.

2. Calm the immune system down and balance inflammation as they influence each other by making sure that vitamin D levels are adequate as well as including essential fatty acids.

3. Rebuild the gut. Around 80% of the immune system lives in the gut, so it doesn't escape my attention. Oh no, it doesn't!

Experiences with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis vary widely from one individual to another. Talk with your functional medicine practitioner about what combination of medical treatment and lifestyle adjustments can help you manage your symptoms more effectively.

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