What is Hashimoto’s Disease and Why Is It a Big Deal?

Hashimoto’s Disease is the number one cause of hypothyroid in the United States.  The standard treatment for hypothyroidism is a drug called levothyroxine and it was the number 2 most prescribed drug in the United States in 2018.  While the levothyroxine addresses the low thyroid hormone, it does nothing for the root cause of the disorder.  If you have hypothyroid there is an 85-95%% chance that it’s caused by Hashimoto’s and it’s an autoimmune disease. Realizing your hypothyroidism is coming from an autoimmune processed called Hashimoto’s Disease is a big deal for two reasons.

Thyroid Medication

Thyroid medication can fail to improve patient symptoms even when TSH is normal in Hashimoto’s Disease patients.

Reason #1:

Hashimoto’s Can Make You Feel Awful Even After You Get on Thyroid Medication:

Most patients diagnosed with or suspicious of Hashmoto’s disease are aware of the TSH thyroid test.  While balancing this number is part of the equation, it is often presented as the ONLY piece to the puzzle.  Unfortunately, an autoimmune disease can cause elevations in immune cytokines that block your thyroid hormone from working.  This means many Hashimoto’s patients see their TSH levels return to normal yet their symptoms of low energy, losing hair, inability to lose weight, depression, and constipation persist despite the TSH blood test now looking “normal”.  In April 2017 the Star Tribune ran a front page article about how thyroid medication failed to improve patient symptoms…When the number 2 prescribed drug in the United States fails to improve patients symptoms we end up with a major problem on our hands!

Reason #2:

More autoimmune Diseases Are NOT Necessary

If you have an autoimmune disease you are at a greater risk of developing another autoimmune disease. These are just the facts and the last sentence puts it mildly.  When I was in classes learning about hypothyroidism in 2009 this point was mentioned but not really stressed.  As I’ve continued my work with thyroid and doing continuing education this point has grown bigger, and bigger!  This is not simply an increased risk to develop more autoimmune diseases.  This is going to happen.  The only questions are what other autoimmune processes are happening in your body and when will you experience a trigger that sets them into motion?  When enough tissue destruction has happened you will be diagnosed with another autoimmune disease.  A study published February of 2010 in the American Journal of Medicine entitled, “Prevalence and Relative Risk of Other Autoimmune Diseases in Subjects with Autoimmune Thyroid Disease” found that 14% of patients with Hashimoto’s had other autoimmune diseases!  The current research tells us that if you have Hashimoto’s, then you WILL get another autoimmune disease in your future if you do nothing for your immune system.   Levothyroxine (medically treating the hypothyroid) does not address the immune system component to this disease and thus us does nothing to change this future for you.

Thyroid Medication Fail

Levothyroxine does not address the immune system component to this disease and thus us does nothing to change this future for you.

Other famous autoimmune diseases are things like MS, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Lupus, or Sjogren’s. These are diseases you don’t want! I cannot tell you how many patients are in my office who developed hypothyroidism in their 20’s and 30’s only to get a second autoimmune disease in their 40’s or 50’s.  These should have been prevented with proper treatment when the immune system imbalance was identified years ago!  So when you have a thyroid condition you need to make sure you are doing something to take care of your immune system.

To see if you have Hashimoto’s please have your doctor run TPO antibodies and TGB antibodies.  You must get to the cause of the thyroid problem or it will continue to fester and cause less than optimal function in your body.

For more information on what to do if you have Hashimoto’s click here to visit our other posts!


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