We’re going to focus primarily on Hashimoto’s thyroiditis today because this type of hypothyroidism accounts for about ninety percent of all cases in the US. Hashimoto’s is caused by an autoimmune attack on the thyroid. And it is by far the most prevalent cause of a slow functioning thyroid. But before we get to the top four Hashimoto’s triggers, let’s review some thyroid basics.
Your butterfly-shaped thyroid gland is the master thermostat for your body, determining, among many things, the rate of your metabolism, your energy levels and how well you’re burning fat. Hashimoto’s occurs when your thyroid gland slows down.
If you’re dealing with this condition, you could experience a variety of symptoms including: Feeling tired, sluggish, cold and achy. Experiencing depression or anxiety. Difficulty managing your weight gain (no matter how disciplined you are. In addition, your body starts to store fat—some of it in the form of harmful cholesterol). Folks have problems with their hormones, including irregular or heavy periods, and even fertility troubles. Not to mention constipation, dry skin, sleep problems and even hair loss. Oiy!
Do these symptoms sound familiar? If so, Hashimoto’s could be the culprit. That’s why I’ve invited Aviva Romm, Integrative M.D. to give us the 411 on some of the biggest Hashimoto’s triggers. Aviva is a Yale-trained M.D. and Board Certified family physician, midwife and herbalist who is focused on helping women not only heal their bodies and minds, but transform their lives.
Top 4 Causes of Hashimoto’s Disease
Thanks, Kris. As a functional medicine doctor and herbalist, my approach to thyroid health is to look for the root causes. Because when we know what led to the problem, we can create a more effective and holistic treatment plan. And in some cases we can reverse it and prevent other conditions from developing. While sometimes medications may be necessary to treat your thyroid condition, knowing the root cause will increase your chances of improving your health.
Celiac disease is a frequently misdiagnosed autoimmune condition. It’s also a common underlying cause of Hashimoto’s disease. When you have celiac disease, your body produces antibodies in reaction to gluten. These antibodies can attack the thyroid gland, as well as the thyroid receptors on your cells. This leads to a drop in thyroid hormone production and can prevent your body from using the thyroid hormones you’re still producing. Learn more about how to identify whether you have celiac disease here.
Leaky Gut Syndrome
Leaky gut syndrome is when your intestinal lining acts less like a barrier, and more like a sieve, allowing proteins to enter your bloodstream. This triggers the production of antibodies and causes an autoimmune reaction in your thyroid (aka Hashimoto’s). Gluten and other food intolerances, antibiotic and ibuprofen use, ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease are all linked to leaky gut syndrome. To find out more about leaky gut, check out this blog.
Your adrenals, like your thyroid, are glands. They produce hormones and chemicals your body needs to function properly, including cortisol, adrenaline and aldosterone. These hormones control things like your blood sugar, insulin, fight-or-flight reaction, inflammation and blood pressure. So how are your adrenals connected to Hashimoto’s?
When you’re chronically exhausted, are calorie restricting or have chronic inflammation or infections, your adrenal glands tell your thyroid slow down. Why? So that your body can save energy for important tasks, like keeping inflammation at bay and storing fat so you have more energy to burn when needed. Slow thyroid equals Hashimoto’s and all the issues that come with it. And if adrenal overdrive becomes chronic, it can lead to an autoimmune disease, which will further deteriorate your thyroid health.
Here are some steps you can take to identify adrenal overdrive: work with your doctor to do a 24-hour saliva test, review a list of common signs(like the one in this blog) and check out Kris’ video on adrenal fatigue here.
Whenever patients come to me with symptoms of fatigue, joint pain, anxiety and depression, I check for Hashimoto’s disease and a couple of viral infections that not only cause the same symptoms as Hashimoto’s but can be an underlying trigger for autoimmune hypothyroidism.
Viral infections that have a strong association with Hashimoto’s include Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), Yersinia enterocolitica (an intestinal infection), Helicobacter pylori (a stomach bug) and Cytomegalovirus. It is important to note that EBV is more likely to be contracted or reactivated if you are under a lot of stress and aren’t getting enough rest and nutritious, immune-supporting foods. Yersinia and H pylori are more likely to occur when your stomach’s immune defenses are down, often due to low stomach acid or B vitamins.
The best way to identify these viral infections is through blood testing. Treatments can range from herbal and nutritional support to prescribed medication, depending on the condition and the severity.