The Connection Between Hypothyroidism, Auto-Immune Disease (Hashimotos) & Leaky Gut
If you have hypothyroidism (low thyroid or under active thyroid function), or if you think you might be hypothyroid, there is a good chance you also have a very common autoimmune disease that has serious risks and dangers – and you may not know it.
80% of all cases of hypothyroidism are actually caused by Hashimotos Disease, an auto-immune disease in which antibodies which are supposed to fight disease fail to recognize the thyroid as a normal part of the body. They therefore turn on the thyroid and start attacking it. Many people, primarily women and usually over the age of 60, may know they are hypothyroid, yet don’t realize they have Hashimotos Disease, which is in fact the most common form of hypothyroidism. Many doctors fail to test for thyroid anti-bodies, which is the way Hashimotos is diagnosed.
Then there is another subset of patients who are exhibiting symptoms of hypothyroidism even when their thyroid levels test normal. They are often not diagnosed as having a thyroid problem when in fact they do have Hashimotos, and if left untreated, full fledged hypothyroidism will ultimately develop, along with other complications of autoimmune disease. So any time a patient is complaining of hypothyroid-type symptoms, they should always have their thyroid anti-bodies tested – even when thyroid hormone levels appear within normal ranges.
According to Body Ecology:
In order to treat autoimmune hypothyroidism (Hashimotos), which is the most common form of hypothyroidism, it is absolutely necessary to address the immune system. If autoimmune hypothyroidism is not fully addressed, the patient never feels better, and the condition will continue to advance.
If TSH levels continue to rise, even when the patient is taking thyroid replacement medication (Synthroid usually) it is time to consider autoimmune hypothyroidism. That is a definite sign that Hashimotos is at work.
In order to support thyroid health in cases of autoimmunity, you need to heal the gut.
Achieving a healthy digestive tract and stable blood sugar levels are both essential when healing an autoimmune hypothyroid condition.
An effective program that supports the healing of autoimmune hypothyroidism will include:
- Regulation of blood sugar.
- Gut support and leaky gut repair.
- Reduction of stress and inflammation.
- When we remove food toxins from the diet, such as sugar, grains, and processed oils, we begin to take the steps that will heal an imbalanced immune response.
- When we practice harmonious food combination and listen to the messages from our body, we no longer overburden our system with inflammatory agents.
When treating the thyroid, its often necessary to go beyond thyroid hormone replacement and heal the gut as well.
This information is also supported by Dr Axe, who I have learned a lot from over the years in terms of recovering from thyroid and adrenal issues, and for whom I therefore have much respect. Here’s what he has said:
Gut inflammation (leaky gut syndrome)
An unhealthy gut environment can contribute to nutrient deficiencies and raise autoimmune activity in the body. Gut inflammation can be triggered by food sensitivities or allergies, including those to gluten and dairy. Other causes of a damaged gut are high stress levels, toxin overload from diet and the environment, and bacterial imbalances. When leaky gut occurs, small particles that are normally trapped inside the gut start to leak out into the bloodstream through tiny openings in the gut lining, which creates an autoimmune cascade and a series of negative symptoms.
Interactions of certain medications
Use of certain medications can also cause hypothyroidism, especially recovering from cancer treatments, surgery, or taking prescriptions for mental disease or heart disease.
High levels of emotional stress
Stress impacts hormones and is known to worsen inflammation. Stress can raise levels of cortisol and adrenaline, which disturbs neurotransmitter function and worsens symptoms of thyroid disease —these include low energy levels, poor mood, low concentration, disturbed appetite and weight gain, and the inability to get good sleep.
Mild hypothyroidism is usually the early stage and can progress into hypothyroidism if changes a hypothyroidism diet isn’t adopted and lifestyle changes aren’t made. When the condition isn’t corrected, more severe autoimmune reactions can occur — this can cause worsened problems like impaired brain function, infertility, unhealthy pregnancy, obesity, heart complications and joint pain.
Source: Dr Axe
Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis and Other Autoimmune Disorders
As we stated, autoimmune disorders are caused by a malfunction in your immune system. Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is an autoimmune disorder, and having Hashimotos increases your risk of developing other autoimmune disorders, particularly when it is not controlled. That is why it is essential to keep your thyroid levels under control when you have Hashimotos. If you are on thyroid medication and your TSH continues to rise, that needs to investigated and resolved promptly.
According to EndocrineWeb, a long established and well respected resource of information for endocrine disorders:
“If you have an autoimmune disorder, your immune system is malfunctioning in some way. That’s why you are at a higher risk of developing Hashimoto’s thyroiditis than someone who does not have an autoimmune disorder.” (Source)
Hashimoto’s thyroiditis increases your risk of developing a number of autoimmune disorders. Some examples include:
- Addison’s disease
- Graves’ disease
- premature ovarian failure
- type 1 diabetes
- lupus erythematosus (a disorder that causes inflammation in a number of the body’s systems, including the lungs and heart)
- pernicious anemia (a disorder that prevents the absorption of vitamin B12)
- rheumatoid arthritis
- thrombocytopenic purpura (a disorder that interferes with the blood’s ability to clot)
And according to the Mayo Clinic, uncontrolled Hashimotos can lead to a serious, life threatening condition called Myxedema (miks-uh-DEE-muh). “This rare, life-threatening condition can develop due to long-term hypothyroidism as a result of untreated Hashimoto’s disease. Its signs and symptoms include intense cold intolerance and drowsiness followed by profound lethargy and unconsciousness. A myxedema coma may be triggered by sedatives, infection or other stress on your body. Myxedema requires immediate emergency medical treatment”.
Symptoms of Hashimotos Hypothyroidism:
By Mayo Clinic Staff
Hashimoto’s disease typically progresses slowly over years and causes chronic thyroid damage, leading to a drop in thyroid hormone levels in your blood. The signs and symptoms are mainly those of an underactive thyroid gland (hypothyroidism).Signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism include:
- Fatigue and sluggishness
- Increased sensitivity to cold
- Pale, dry skin
- A puffy face
- Hoarse voice
- Unexplained weight gain — occurring infrequently and rarely exceeding 10 to 20 pounds, most of which is fluid
- Muscle aches, tenderness and stiffness, especially in your shoulders and hips
- Pain and stiffness in your joints and swelling in your knees or the small joints in your hands and feet
- Muscle weakness, especially in your lower extremities
- Excessive or prolonged menstrual bleeding (menorrhagia)
The bottom line is, if you have Hashimotos Hypothyroidism, you need to fix your immune system, as stated by Dr. Brooke Kalanick ND, MS, LAc. Work with a qualified health care provider well-versed in supplements, thyroid and autoimmune concerns.