Hashimoto Thyroiditis

Hashimoto's thyroiditis is named after Dr. Hakaru Hashimoto, who first described the condition in 1912. It is part of the spectrum of autoimmune disease and the most common cause of goitrous hypothyroidism in non-iodine-deficient areas. However, there is also an atrophic form of autoimmune thyroiditis (Ord's thyroiditis) which is more common in Europe. It is a condition caused by inflammation of the thyroid gland and is an autoimmune disease, which means that the body inappropriately attacks the thyroid gland as it is fooled into thinking it is a foreign tissue. The underlying cause of the autoimmune process remains unknown. 

 

Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis can be present, but show no immediate outward symptoms. However, when symptoms appear they generally begin as a gradual enlargement of the thyroid gland (goiter) and/or the gradual development of hypothyroidism, the symptoms of which include:

  • Anaemia

  • Forgetfulness, sluggish thinking, loss of energy

  • Chest pains

  • Cold intolerance; cold hands and feet

  • Constipation

  • Depression

  • Dry, coarse skin

  • Early greying of hair

  • Frequent colds and flu and difficulty recovering from infection

  • Headaches, including migraines

  • High cholesterol

  • High blood pressure

  • Infertility; miscarriage

  • Low libido

  • Muscle cramps/tenderness

  • Hair loss

  • Seasonal (cold weather) exacerbation of symptoms

  • Severe pre-menstrual stress

  • Reduced menstrual cycles

  • Sleep disturbances

  • Weak, brittle nails

  • Weight gain

These are just some of the symptoms and if you have not already been tested and found to have the disease, but think you may have it you should see a doctor immediately as Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis can be treated and in some cases reversed if caught early enough through dietary intervention. Sadly in the case of my wife, we did not know this 15 years ago and it is now too late to reverse the effects, however, it is possible to manage the disease better with the correct diet.

Once a diagnosis of Hashimoto’s is obtained, the dietary goals are to cool the inflammation, work to balance all hormones and to help the thyroid gland produce hormones (as well as support the body in using them) properly. Since thyroid hormone medication is indicated when antibodies are detected, dietary recommendations are meant to be in addition to medical therapy, not in place of it. Adopting a diet rich in high-quality proteins and fats (e.g. Fish and high quality olive oil), with lots of fresh, seasonal and organic vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, whole grains and nutrient-dense booster foods is the shortest, straightest path to nutritional thyroid support. An emphasis on building, through an increased amount of protein, is recommended, as a decreased thyroid function reduces the body’s ability to benefit fully from the protein foods eaten.

What to Avoid

  1. Gluten: The gluten molecule is very similar to thyroid tissue and it is thought that the immune system identifies the thyroid gland as gluten and attacks it. Therefore pretty much all advice states you should adopt a gluten-free diet, but be warned that once you are gluten free there is no going back as the body develops an intolerance. In our case, I bake gluten free bread for my wife's breakfast, but still enjoy wholemeal bread for mine

  2. Aspartame: Aside from its other known toxic effects, Aspartame appears to be particularly problematic for the thyroid gland

  3. Iodized Salt: Even though the thyroid gland depends on iodine to produce hormones, you should not rely on this to get what you need. It is not possible to eat enough salt, in the first place, to get the daily recommended dosage of iodine. Nor is it advisable to consume such a highly processed product, often the shop bought versions will also contain aluminium and dextrose that you should avoid. Unprocessed Himalayan salt containing trace minerals is a far better choice

  4. Unsaturated Oils (including canola oil): There is speculation that these contribute to hypothyroidism. Whether it is because they contain so much inflammation-promoting omega-6 fatty acid, or because they are generally rancid even before they are bottled is not known

  5. Soy: Also disruptive to the endocrine system and considered a toxin by some, though it is the isolated and concentrated isoflavones that pose the greatest risk. Depending on soy as a primary source of protein is not recommended. Even small amounts have been shown to have powerful hormone disrupting powers and can lower concentrations of T3. The exception to this is fermented soy foods, such as tempeh, natto, miso and Tamari sauce

It is also a good idea to stay away from sugar and caffeine, both of which can increase the overproduction of stress hormones, namely, adrenaline and cortisol, which can hinder thyroid function. Goitrogens should be avoided and these include; broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, kohlrabi, rutabaga and turnips. It is thought that goitrogens can hinder the thyroid function by causing a goiter, or enlargement of the thyroid gland.

 

However, some experts disagree stating that, cooked, these foods are fine to consume. I have even seen brussels sprouts listed in foods to consume for those with Hashimoto and leaky gut syndrome. We prefer to err on the side of caution and have noticed that cutting broccoli out of our diet had a very positive effect.

As previously stated, we are not medical or dietary experts.  If you are in any doubt you should speak with one or read some of the recent medical books and journals on the subject.