Ok, so as if “gluten” isn’t an annoying enough word that has invaded my daily vocabulary, I also have to claim this one: Hashimoto’s Disease. My dumb luck, I have an auto immune condition that my friends can’t quite remember and almost always ask me about the “kawasaki” disease. Like the motorcycle.
Hashimoto’s disease, also called chronic lymphocytic thyroiditis or autoimmune thyroiditis, is a form of chronic inflammation of the thyroid gland. The inflammation results in damage to the thyroid gland and reduces thyroid function or “hypothyroidism,” meaning the gland doesn’t make enough thyroid hormone for the needs of the body. Hashimoto’s disease is the most common cause of hypothyroidism in the US.
So in other words, every time your immune system flares up, either due to a food allergy, sickness, stress, etc. you not only deal with the effects of that issue, but with the effects of your thyroid gland being bombarded by your immune system. Bring on the fatigue, foggy brain, mood swings, etc. Loads of fun.
So what’s the Hashimotos and gluten connection?
- Difficulty concentrating or thinking
- Dry skin
- Enlarged neck or presence of goiter
- Hair loss
- Heavy and irregular periods
- Intolerance to cold
- Mild weight gain
- Small or shrunken thyroid gland (late in the disease)
Other symptoms that can occur with this disease:
Laboratory tests to determine thyroid function include:
- Free T4 test (low)
- Serum TSH (high)
- T3 (low or normal)
- Antithyroid peroxidase antibody
- Antithyroglobulin antibody
You may be prescribed with a thyroid hormone replacement therapy (levothyroxine is a common one) if your body is not producing enough of the hormone. Or, you may receive it if you have signs of mild thyroid failure (such as elevated TSH), also known as subclinical hypothyroidism.
If Hashimoto’s disease causes thyroid hormone deficiency, your doctor may recommend replacement therapy with thyroid hormone. This usually involves daily use of the synthetic thyroid hormone levothyroxine (Levothroid, Levoxyl, Synthroid). Synthetic levothyroxine is considered identical to thyroxine, the natural version of this hormone made by your thyroid gland. The oral medication restores adequate hormone levels and reverses all the symptoms of hypothyroidism.
Soon after starting treatment, you’ll probably notice that you’re feeling less fatigued. The medication also gradually lowers cholesterol levels elevated by the disease and may reverse any weight gain. Treatment with levothyroxine is usually lifelong, but because the dosage you need may change, your doctor is likely to check your TSH level every six to 12 months.
If you’re showing signs of hypothyroidism while on a thyroid treatment protocol, I encourage any of you (even those already being treated for hypothyroidism) to ask to have your TSH and thyroid antibody levels tested right away.
Here are some sites that I reference often in my quest to better understand what I’m dealing with:
The Mayo Clinic: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/hashimotos-disease/DS00567
The Thyroid Book by Doctor Datis Kharrazian – he is a Guru when it comes to the proper treatment of Hashimoto’s patients: http://www.thyroidbook.com/
Here’s a helpful brochure you can print out:
Like many of you, I had symptoms which went un-diagnosed, and untreated for so many years, that by the time we figured it all out, I was a bit of a mess. My symptoms included headaches, fatigue, muscle aches, constipation/diarrhea, skin rashes, thinning hair/hair loss (it would come out in clumps when I brushed it) and menstrual irregularities to name a few. I went from one specialist to the next, and almost all told me I was depressed, suffered from anxiety, or just needed to sleep better. By the time I was 25, I was on several different SSRIs and was told to avoid dairy and caffeine for my “Irritable Bowel Syndrome” which I now know is what they tell a person who suffers from bowel issues before Celiac and Gluten sensitivities became more common to test for. So if you have any of these symptoms, I suggest trying the elimination diet or getting tested for gluten sensitivity. Just remember it’s very common to have a false negative test, so be persistent in testing if you’re the kind of person who needs to see it in black and white. If just knowing you feel better once you stop eating it, then try the elimination method and give it 4 weeks without eating gluten. Watch out for hidden gluten ingredients though.
Remember, if you go gluten-free and still suffer symptoms live I’ve mentioned above, it’s best to have your doctor test to make sure you aren’t dealing with auto-immune hypothyroidism as well. Be your own healthcare advocate and keep plugging away at the tests every 6 months until you get a diagnosis that makes sense based on your symptoms.
Wishing you all good health. Please share your thoughts and experiences below!