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Is your immune system attacking your thyroid? It could be if you have Hashimoto’s thyroiditis

Have you ever walked into your home and completely forgotten the code to your alarm? The beeping gets faster and faster as you frantically type in numbers that kind of, sort of feel right. Even as you desperately search your mind for the right answer, a part of you is completely incredulous. How can something that was supposed to protect me suddenly turn on me like this?

Your home alarm system isn’t your only guardian that may be accidentally betraying you. We all rely on our immune systems to destroy germs and pummel the common cold when it comes to visit. However, your immune system isn’t always so smart. If it perceives an enemy, it attacks…even if that enemy is actually a friend, like your thyroid.

Do You Have Hypothyroidism?

If you’ve been feeling exhausted, depressed, cold, and can’t lose those stubborn ten pounds, you might have gone to your doctor for a blood test and received a diagnosis of hypothyroidism. That means your thyroid is not producing enough T3 and T4 hormones which regulate your metabolism. No wonder you feel tired! (Learn more about the thyroid.)

Chances are your doctor simply handed you a prescription for synthetic thyroid hormone and sent you on your way. In fact, it is highly likely that you have a specific type of hypothyroidism called Hashimoto’s thyroiditis

Introduction to Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis

Hashimoto’s is an autoimmune disorder wherein the immune system attacks the thyroid gland, damaging it over time so that it produces less and less of the very important T3 and T4 hormones. Hashimoto’s is the most common form of hypothyroidism in the United States and is six times more likely to be diagnosed in women rather than men. It also tends to appear in middle age, which is why so many postmenopausal women feel exhausted and begin to wonder if they are “lazy, crazy, and finished.”

There is still a lot we don’t know about Hashimoto’s, but it is clear that there is a genetic component involved. It tends to run in families. I believe my mother may have had Hashimoto’s and several other autoimmune conditions that were never diagnosed and that may have led to her early death.

We also know that certain triggers can cause the immune system to go on the attack. One of the biggest triggers is your diet, specifically gluten.

In future blog posts I will go into more detail about the relationship between gluten and autoimmunity. For now, it is simply important to know that if you have hypothyroidism you should definitely get yourself tested for Hashimoto’s.

It may come as a surprise, but many doctors don’t test for Hashimoto’s. The reason is that they will treat Hashimoto’s the same way they would treat any other type of hypothyroidism – with synthetic hormones. Personally, I believe it is extremely important to figure out if you have Hashimoto’s, because it will go a long way towards explaining why you feel so lousy. It will also allow you to begin making a plan to manage your symptoms without being reliant on synthetic thyroid (which doesn’t work for every woman).

Empower yourself with knowledge and ask to be tested for Hashimoto’s. You can also get the tests done yourself without going through your doctor by visiting a third party lab. If you need help figuring out which tests to schedule and how to schedule them with a third party lab, please contact me.