A Hashimoto’s patient is given thyroid hormone (either synthetic or natural), because her damaged thyroid can no longer produce enough hormone. Unfortunately, taking more thyroid hormone doesn’t “cure” someone with the disease, in the same way that taking replacement insulin doesn’t cure a Type 1 diabetic. in fact, even the hypothyroid symptoms in Hashimoto’s Disease are usually not resolved with thyroid medication alone. See our Home page for detail about unresolved symptoms.
Supplements Don’t Cure Hashimoto’s
There is a significant difference between the roughly 10% of people who have hypothyroid symptoms alone (Hypothyroidism), which can be temporary, and the 90% who have Hashimoto’s Autoimmune Thyroid Disease. Hashimoto’s is a complex, whole-body disorder, involving a problem with the immune system. Lupus, Type 1 Diabetes, Multiple Sclerosis, and Ulcerative Colitis, for example, are all autoimmune diseases. Simply taking more of the raw materials needed to make more thyroid hormone (iodine, tyrosine, selenium, and zinc) will not cure Hashimoto’s Disease.
Though these supplements might be helpful, at times, they are not a panacea. In general, it is wise to have the advice of a Functional Medicine doctor when taking supplements (and determining dosages) connected with thyroid-hormone production or with the immune system, because some supplements can have adverse effects on Hashimoto’s patients.
An Immune System Problem
To be cured of Hashimoto’s Disease, a person’s immune system would have to stop targeting and destroying thyroid tissue. Currently, there is no medical intervention that will entirely stop this destructive, autoimmune process. It is possible, though, to lower the number of antibodies which target both thyroid hormone and thyroid peroxidase (an enzyme used in making thyroid hormone). This is done in two steps: 1) by using appropriate lab tests to identify and to correct the underlying root causes of an overactive immune system; and 2) by using the right nutritional intervention (based on these test results) and making healthy lifestyle changes.
At Carolinas Thyroid Institute, we focus on healing an overzealous immune system, through natural means. For more information, schedule a free, 15-minute phone consultation with me, Dr. Steven Roach, on the Contact Us page or by calling (704) 853-8000.
Difficulty Proving a Cure
Some people with Hashimoto’s use the word “remission,” when they experience an improved condition, with a “calmer” immune system and minimal symptoms. Remission is improvement but not a cure. If someone claims to have been cured of Hashimoto’s (apart from divine intervention), there is good reason to be skeptical.
One problem in verifying a cure is that a patient’s antibody count alone is not a reliable sign of being cured of Hashimoto’s, once someone has the disease. The problem is that a lowered antibody count should reflect a calmer immune system but not an exhausted one. There is a balance to be maintained here.
After years of being “on fire”—overreacting to the point where the body’s own tissues are the target—an immune system can become depleted and not be able to muster much of a reaction to anything, even bad foreign invaders (infections, parasites, etc.). In this case, antibody count against thyroid hormone or TPO (thyroid peroxidase) might be extremely low, but this count would point to a very ill Hashimoto’s patient, rather than to a healed one.
Instead, if a person with Hashimoto’s can eliminate inflammatory triggers that “stir up” her immune system too much, she will be able to lower her high antibody count in a healthy way. For instance, reducing an inflammatory marker like histamine will lower zonulin (a protein made in the body).
Lowering zonulin is a good goal, because zonulin increases intestinal permeability (food particles escape through the “leaky” wall of the intestines into the bloodstream), which leads to more inflammation, more food sensitivities, and worsening hypothyroid symptoms. Some high histamine (zonulin-boosting) foods are pickled items, smoked meats, soybeans, chocolates, shellfish, and alcohol. For Hashimoto’s patients, reducing these high histamine foods will help to prevent more intestinal damage.
There is no cure for Hashimoto’s Disease, but every patient can have a greater level of healing. At Carolinas Thyroid Institute, patients are taught how to avoid inflammatory triggers that further provoke a fiery immune system. See our Hashimoto’s Disease or Functional Medicine pages for helpful information.