What is Autoimmune Thyroid Disease and How do I Live with It?
Often enough when discussing my condition as a nutritionist, I am approached by people that want to know one simple question. The question is, "What is autoimmune thyroid disease? How does autoimmune thyroid disease relate to nutrition?" Autoimmune thyroid disease is a condition of the thyroid gland. Autoimmune is when the body's immune system attacks itself. This attack cannot be controlled and results in either a hypothyroid state, which is considered Hashimoto's thyroiditis, or a hyperthyroid state, which is considered Graves' disease. Graves' disease can also be known as thyrotoxicosis.
Unfortunately, conventional medicine claims that there is no cure for autoimmune thyroid disease. Treatment options involve surgery, radioactive iodine, or taking medications that consist of synthetic or desiccated thyroid hormones that will either increase or decrease overall thyroid hormone production. Taking medication is usually a lifetime commitment and sometimes specific vitamins and minerals can be taken alongside these medications to better our quality of life.
Which vitamins and minerals are used in treating thyroid disease?
Vitamins and minerals are a huge in today's emerging economy. Almost every person that eats the Standard American Diet has some sort of deficiency or excess. Nutrients utilized with thyroid interventions are iodine, selenium, zinc, vitamin A, and a variety of B vitamins. B vitamins often range differently with each individual. Also, tyrosine is an amino acid that can sometimes be used in treating thyroid disease or symptoms. Although the biggest player is iodine, not every thyroid condition is iodine-induced. Meaning many clients with thyroid disease may not have an insufficiency.
How to Diagnose Thyroid Disorders
Most people that find out they have autoimmune thyroid disease, find out because their labs come back with low or high levels of thyroid hormones. The hormone levels range differently depending on how the units are measured. The hormones tested for thyroid disease are T3, T4, and TSH. The hormones tested for autoimmune thyroid disease are T3, T4, TSH, TSI, Tg, and TPO.
T3 is triiodothyronine
T4 is thyroxine
TSH is thyroid stimulating hormone
TSI is thyroid stimulating immunoglobulin
Tg is thyroglobulin
TPO is thyroid peroxidase
TSI, Tg, and TPO are all proteins used to test for autoantibodies. When these proteins are attacked by autoantibodies, then it can be confirmed that there is autoimmunity. Nutrient levels also can determine if a person could be headed towards thyroid disease. Getting your iodine and vitamin A levels checked for deficiencies can also verify hormone conversion issues.
What is the difference between Hashimoto's thyroiditis and Graves' disease?
What is the difference between Hashimoto's thyroiditis and Graves' disease? Hashimoto's thyroiditis is a form of hypothyroidism. This particular attack of the thyroid causes the body to not produce enough thyroid hormones. Graves' disease is a form of hyperthyroidism. This type of attack causes the body to over-produce thyroid hormones.
The difference in symptoms between thyroid conditions is, an individual with Hashimoto's thyroiditis will suffer from many signs and symptoms such as hair loss, dry skin, weight gain, and even sensitivity to the cold. Just the opposite, a person with Graves' disease will usually lose weight, increased heart rate, have a sensitivity to heat, and have bulging eyes. Both conditions can cause similar signs and symptoms such as hair loss or coarse voice.
Getting diagnosed with any condition isn't easy for anyone. Physicians are trained in a way that the information they collect has to have evidence behind it for them to appropriately diagnose a patient. Many times what occurs is we doubt our physicians. However, the information is printed in black and white on our lab work and is presented right in front of us for us to read. No one person really wants to admit that they have a condition if they cannot see a physical impact of it. Getting diagnosed with autoimmune thyroid disease is merely the beginning. The effects of this disease increase over time.
I was first diagnosed in 2003, which is way too young for the information at this level to sink in. Five years later, I was diagnosed again. Both times I was diagnosed with Graves' disease. The third time I was diagnosed was a lot later in life and at that point in my life, I was diagnosed with Hashimoto's thyroiditis. I, as with many other people, was diagnosed three times before I finally realized the severity of my condition.
How can Someone be Diagnosed with both Grave's disease and Hashimoto's disease?
Yes, someone can have both Graves' disease and Hashimoto's disease. More than often if someone has both conditions, they usually have Graves' disease first. Graves' disease is a more serious condition and the protocol is to try to get the thyroid back to a euthyroid state or get the condition to a state they can treat longterm. If euthyroid fails, physicians will use surgery or radioactive iodine treatments as an intervention. These two treatments will put the patient into a Hashimoto's state. They will then try to treat this instead.
What is Hashitoxicosis?
There is also a condition now known as Hashitoxicosis. This where the patient gets Graves' disease due to inflammation but thyroid cells are effected by autoantibodies of Hashimoto's. It is sometimes known as a hyperthyroid type thyroid condition in addition to having thyroiditis, but the thyroiditis is what is causing the condition. The end result is a hyperthyroid state.
Originally I was suspected of having a goiter. A goiter is the swelling of the neck where the thyroid is located. The gland swells immensely from the inflammation. Usually, this will draw the attention of the physicians to test the blood for an imbalance of thyroid hormones. Goiters can be symptoms of both Graves' and Hashimoto's diseases.
When I was diagnosed with Graves' disease the first time, the physicians did not test me for thyroid antibodies. They diagnosed my condition on the basis that because my TSI levels were abnormally increased and the goiter was extremely large, that this is what I had. They neglected to take age into factor. I also smoked cigarettes at the time which didn't help, was very athletic (danced ballet at eight yrs old and verticle athletics as a young adult), and was lucky if I had one meal a day. Cigarettes are toxic and have been known to be a trigger of thyroid disease. As well, protein malnutrition and negative nitrogen balance are also factors for thyroid dysfunction.
Can Hashimoto's be Reversed?
Yes, Hashimoto's can be reversed. There are many ways to reverse this condition, but everyone uses a different combination of factors to succeed in it. Other factors that can influence thyroid are toxins, hormone imbalance, and gut imbalance.
In researching my condition, I was able to find information everywhere. The information I read was inconsistent and spread throughout the web. Many of my findings were contradictory. Which I assume causes confusion in many other people trying to find answers. I found there are in fact people who have been clinically diagnosed with Hashimoto's who have successfully reversed their conditions.
Which condition did I have, Graves' or Hashimoto's?
After doing my own lab tests, I found out that I had all three thyroid antibodies. However, I could not get a physician to diagnose me with Hashitoxicosis because I was no longer in a hyperthyroid state. Although the reports and results I had could prove this, I felt like the physicians just cared about giving me medication and not really were focused on reversing my condition. Also, I technically did not have just Hashimoto's.
This reason is that I had outside factors that manipulated my disease. In my past interventions, I had both a partial thyroidectomy and radioactive iodine. After my initial surgery, my condition worsened. Years later I was given radioactive iodine, my condition still did not begin to reverse. It wasn't until three to four years later that the Graves' disease began to finally subside. Therefore, when doctors tested me for antibodies in my current state, I technically already had Hashimoto's antibodies. I was already autoimmune prior to these treatments. So, I conclude that I had Hashitoxicosis the whole time and was misdiagnosed.
How do you treat Hashimoto's Thyroiditis Naturally?
You can treat thyroid disease by doing a number of things. Some health practitioners say through diet alone, chances of euthyroid are high. Other practitioners say that a combination of diet and lifestyle techniques are needed to be successful. This would be the whole body approach to wellness. Factors such as stress level, mental and emotional wellness, dietary intake, and physical activity levels all play a role in thyroid diseases.
How I Live with Autoimmune Thyroid Disease
I have tried many techniques to achieve wellness and optimal health. Many years of researching my condition and practicing techniques have taught me many things. I have met other health practitioners that had this disease and have successfully managed to reverse it. Every day I remember these things include proper nutrient levels, dietary assessments, lab work, lifestyle interventions, and happiness. I keep up with health, I log my meals, I stay around my biggest supporters!