What comes to your mind when you hear about Hashimoto's thyroiditis? You may be new to the term or you may have read about it online. In either case, anxiety is natural. A disease with a name that long, how long would the treatment be?
So let's break it down and keep it simple. In this blog, we will understand what Hashimoto's thyroiditis is and how to treat it. The approach we are discussing goes beyond conventional treatment. It is focused on functional medicine, a novel treatment plan that offers holistic solutions.
What is Hashimoto's thyroiditis?
Hashimoto's thyroiditis or Hashimoto's disease is the medical term for autoimmune destruction of the thyroid gland. This means that your body is producing antibodies that are attacking your thyroid gland.
The common symptoms of Hashimoto's thyroiditis include:
- Weight gain
- Body ache and weakness
- Slowed digestion with bloating and constipation
- Dry skin
- Hair fall
- Brittle nails
- Feeling cold
- Irregular menstrual cycle
What is the difference between Hashimoto's disease and hypothyroidism?
How is the functional medicine approach different from the traditional approach?
This is a big question and requires some explanation. The difference starts from the diagnosis itself.
Allopathic doctors diagnose thyroid disease primarily based on TSH levels. TSH or thyroid-stimulating hormone is released by the brain and pushes the thyroid gland to release the hormones T3 and T4.
Let's understand how these hormone levels are interpreted to diagnose hypothyroidism. Patients with hypothyroidism have low levels of T3 and T4. This stimulates the brain to release more TSH. Based on elevated TSH levels and low T3 and T4 levels, hypothyroidism is diagnosed.
Seeing this the logical conclusion would be that if your hormone levels are normal, you can't have hypothyroidism. There lies the problem. Thousands of patients with normal blood tests continue to experience symptoms such as lethargy or tiredness. The reason lies in the fundamental cause of hypothyroidism.
As mentioned earlier, Hashimoto's thyroiditis is an autoimmune condition. Hence, its diagnosis is based on the presence of antibodies. The most common antibody is anti-TPO or anti thyroperoxidase antibodies.
Functional medicine experts opt for a detailed panel of tests right at the beginning. This is because their approach is to treat the entire body, not just one part of the disease. Several factors such as poor diet, nutrient deficiencies, high-stress level, etc. also impact antibody levels.
The next point of consideration is root cause analysis. Functional medicine experts focus on detailed history and pinpointing risk factors that can cause or aggravate thyroid disease. At Jeevam Health, our initial doctor consultations typically last 45 minutes to an hour. Compare this to quick consultations of 10 minutes and you can imagine the difference.
What is the functional medicine approach to treat Hashimoto's thyroiditis?
Despite all these differences, there is one thing where functional medicine and conventional medicine are in complete agreement. That is the use of hormone supplements and medication to regulate hormone levels.
So when patients have been taking high doses of up to 100mcg, how is it that Jeevam Health controls thyroid symptoms better at lower doses?
The answer lies in optimising the lifestyle along with setting the right dose of medication. You need to remember that if you have Hashimoto's thyroiditis, simply being regular with tablets is not enough. Even if you take your tablets every single day, you might not be feeling as great as you hope to.
Here are four things that functional medicine experts typically recommend for Hashimoto's thyroiditis patients:
Get a personalised diet plan
A hypothyroidism diet plan typically focuses on foods that reduce inflammation in the body. Research shows that a gluten-free diet can be helpful in this regard. Many patients benefit from avoiding dairy as well.
As each body is different and responds differently to treatment, it is beneficial to opt for personalised treatment. There are also several famous diets such as the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) diet. This diet plan is based on eliminating several harmful foods such as sugar, coffee, dairy, alcohol, and so on in a systematic manner.
The AIP diet has helped patients with Hashimoto's thyroiditis significantly. However, to avoid side effects, such plans should only be implemented under the guidance of trained nutritionists.
Get moving every day
A lot of patients with hypothyroidism struggle with lethargy and lack of energy. Just the thought of exercise is enough to make them feel tired. However, don't mistake this for just being lazy or unmotivated.
The thyroid hormone is responsible for keeping up your energy levels by stimulating metabolism. Persons with a low metabolic rate put on weight more easily too.
If you are new to exercise, the key is to listen to your body. Don't push yourself to try lifting weights or doing high-intensity workouts when you aren't used to it. Not only may you end up feeling worse than before, you may also injure yourself.
Instead, take it slow and start off with walking or yoga. Pick something that you enjoy and that is not too strenuous. You might just find yourself looking forward to this added movement each day!
Be regular with your thyroid medication
As much as you may want to stop being dependent on tablets, it does not happen overnight. Many people need to take tablets for the rest of their lives and that is absolutely alright. Thyroid medication is not the enemy. It is the most important part of Hashimoto's thyroiditis treatment.
To control thyroid disease, it is important to ensure that your body isn't constantly fighting to produce enough hormones. Supplements support your thyroid gland by providing your body with the hormones it needs.
Skipping doses, modifying the dose by yourself, or abruptly starting and stopping the medication can all be dangerous and are not advisable.
Don't ignore stress
A lot of people feel stress is just an unavoidable part of life. If you ever sit in silence and try to clear your mind, you will realise how many thoughts are constantly running through your head.
However, stress is not just a feeling of being rushed or busy. It is accompanied by a hormonal response in the body. The cortisol hormone or "stress hormone" also impacts your weight and inflammation.
Some steps that you can take to actively manage high-stress levels are:
- Ensure that you get seven to eight hours of restful sleep each night.
- Try to spend time outdoors by going for a walk.
- Start the day with breathing exercises or meditation.
- Find a hobby and carve out some time for it each day.
- If you suffer from anxiety, consult an expert. You may benefit from medication.
Which is better - functional medicine or traditional medicine?
The two are not mutually exclusive! Functional medicine adopts aspects of conventional medicine as well. A functional medicine approach does not mean you do not need to take allopathic medication. Rather, it is a way to make sure that the medication you take gives you the optimal benefit.
Your thyroid treatment plan will require consistent efforts from you every day. The dietary changes are going to be permanent alterations that will need some getting used to. Over time, the results will be enough motivation to keep you going!
In a nutshell:
If you have been newly diagnosed with Hashimoto's disease, you may be overwhelmed with information about how to treat it. In case you have been struggling with symptoms for some time, you may be dissatisfied with the treatment outcome. In either case, functional medicine may give you the solution you are seeking.