Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism care includes brain care

When managing Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, you should not overlook the importance of addressing your brain health and function.

Hashimotos and brain healthHashimoto’s hypothyroidism can have profound effects on the brain and you may need to support your brain in addition to managing your Hashimoto’s thyroid condition.

Because every cell in the body needs thyroid hormone for proper function, a thyroid hormone deficiency can significantly impact brain health and function. Likewise, the inflammation that accompanies unmanaged Hashimoto’s can inflame and degenerate the brain.

Your thyroid health affects brain inflammation, communication between neurons (plasticity), brain chemicals (neurotransmitters), and general brain health and function.

It is these reasons why many people with unmanaged Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism experience depression, fatigue, brain fog, memory loss, worsened cognition, and other brain-based symptoms.

Thyroid hormones perform vital roles for brain function.

One of their most important roles is to dampen brain inflammation through their effect on the brain’s immune cells, called microglia cells. Unlike the body, the brain does not have an off switch for inflammation and it depends in part on sufficient hormone function to keep inflammation in check.

Unchecked inflammation can degenerate, or age, the brain too quickly.

While taking thyroid hormone medication may be necessary, it’s also important to address your autoimmune Hashimoto’s by removing inflammatory triggers, dampening inflammation, and restoring balance to the immune system.

Hashimoto’s is an autoimmune condition that causes 90 percent of hypothyroid cases in the United States; the immune system must be included in care.

It is also important to address autoimmunity to lower the risk of developing autoimmunity in the brain or elsewhere in the nervous system. One autoimmune disease significantly increases the risk of autoimmunity to other tissues in the body, and many people have more than one autoimmune disease.

In fact, it’s not uncommon for people with Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism to also have autoimmune attacks against their cerebellum, an area of the brain that plays a role in movement and coordination.

If you have Hashimoto’s and also have symptoms pertaining to balance, dizziness, or nausea, you may want to be screened for brain autoimmunity.

A worst-case scenario when it comes to Hashimoto’s and brain autoimmunity is Hashimoto’s encephalopathy (HE), also known as autoimmune dementia, HE is caused by the same immune antibodies that destroy thyroid tissue — thyroid peroxidase (TPO) antibodies. In addition to memory loss, symptoms can include tremors, seizures, impaired speech, confusion, partial paralysis, fine motor problems, and poor coordination. However, HE is not common and you should not assume you have it.

This information is important because many doctors tell their patients to wait until their thyroid “burns out” and then remove it surgically. This does nothing to treat an overzealous immune system that is at the root of thyroid dysfunction and poor brain health.

If you have been diagnosed with Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, ask my office about how functional neurology can help you recover and optimize your brain health.

2018-06-24T13:05:23+00:002 Comments

About the Author:

Joni Labbe
Dr. Joni Labbe is a board-certified clinical nutritionist specializing in science-based nutrition with a focus on women's health issues. She has successfully helped pre-menopausal and menopausal women regain and maintain their health since 1995. Dr. Labbe is the author of the Amazon #1 Best Selling book Thyroid & Menopause Madness and It’s Not Just Menopause: It’s Your Thyroid. She is also a professional speaker, radio personality, fitness expert, and former host of “Healthier Way With Dr. Labbe.” Dr. Labbe is one of the country’s leading authorities on thyroid disorders, including Hashimoto’s disease. Dr. Labbe has also authored numerous articles and blogs on health, nutrition, and thyroid health, as seen in Naturally Savvy, Thyroid Nation, and Fox News. She is a Board Certified Clinical Nutritionist, Doctor of Chiropractic, and has post graduate training in Functional Neurology, Functional Endocrinology, Functional Blood Chemistry Analysis, and earned a Diplomate and Fellow in Nutrition from the American Association of Integrative Medicine.


  1. Donna Spaulding June 24, 2018 at 9:13 am - Reply

    I am a 66 year old woman with Hashimoto for over 32 years. In the past 7 years have periodically been getting severe headaches that last a day. I take Nature Throid 120 mg. sublingually once a day. I have been gaining weight recently too fast while not really ingesting more. I have periodically eaten some bread and some tomatoes and peppers. Yesterday, I did have the headache and felt deprived of oxygen. The pain in my head while laying down was so great that I got up around midnight to just take deep breathes. I also took some peppermint beadlets orally.
    I am not seeing my Endrocrinologist as she just prescribed my thyroid meds and took lab work and never anything more. Going to PCP only, now because she does the same thing. I do think I have at least three things working against me. 1. PCOS 2. Cytokines 3. Lack of Glutathione
    Can you tell me what test to do and what type of Doctor to see for help. All the doctors I have seen just stare at me and never listen to my symptoms.

    • Joni Labbe
      Joni Labbe June 25, 2018 at 2:49 pm - Reply

      Donna, It is important to check with your primary care doctor to rule out anything organic or physical that may be causing the severe headaches. But, having said that, regarding your thyroid, Hashimoto’s, and inflammation (cytokines):

      • In the regular medical model, it is believed that changing your prescription dosage or brand of thyroid meds will manage Hashimoto’s. That routine only works if you have plain vanilla hypo-thyroid. (Just low T3, with high levels of TSH) Not with auto immune- Hashimoto’s. Why, because there are 22 root causes bombarding your thyroid. You have known for 32 years that you have Hashimoto’s, and as you wrote, nothing much changes. I’m proud of you for digging deeper. You’re right, struggling with PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome), can cause havoc with your sex hormones (progesterone estrogen and testosterone), causing fluctuations in your thyroid. (And in turn… your energy levels, headaches, and weight gain.) PCOS can also create glucose problems that you didn’t have before, even on a low sugar/carb diet.

      • Knowing that you have Hashimoto’s is the first step, but you need to go a step further and find out if you are TH1 or TH2 dominate. Which side of your immune system is dominate and needs to be dampened down? (Helping you with weight loss, headaches, and balancing thyroid/cortisol/sex hormones.)

      • You mentioned glutathione, (the strongest antioxidant in the body) will help with both TH1 and TH2. But beware, glutathione can act as a heavy metal cleanser (mercury, lead, fluoride) and can cause headaches if you have fillings or root canals. Sometimes, the pre-cursors to glutathione like n-Acetyl-Cysteine (NAC) are a better choice with headaches and that “being deprived of oxygen” feeling.

      • Bread, (especially if it’s not gluten-free bread) tomatoes, and peppers are common foods that “offend” people with auto immune issues, causing headaches. To find out if those foods are a culprit, run an IgG food sensitivity test or Cyrex cross reactive food test. (We can help you order that, if you’d like.)

      We can get you the appropriate lab tests you need no matter where you live in the US. We can email you a Quest Labs requisition (largest lab in the country) for a blood draw in your hometown or near your zip code (if rural). We can send you saliva, hair, and fecal kits, to be performed from the privacy of your home and then mailed to the appropriate labs. Dr. Labbe will journey with you through our all-inclusive ThyroSisters Freedom M.V.P. Program for Measurable, Verifiable, Progress™. In this program, you not only receive the appropriate labs, but comprehensive, unique-to-you, science-based nutrition and diet recommendations that change as you progress.

      Finally, find out if you have PCOS, TH1 or TH2 dominance, what foods are an issue, are you anemic, do you have a low-grade infection, are your adrenals fatigued? All these variables affect your thyroid! The first step is to set up a meaningful clarity call with Dr. Labbe by filling out our health history form. Once it’s complete, you’ll be redirected to our calendar where you can schedule a free consultation at your convenience. We hope to hear from you!


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