Hashimoto’s disease: what is it?
Essentially it is when the body’s immune system goes haywire and produces antibodies that start to attack your thyroid. This is one of many autoimmune diseases on the rise in the modern world. Remember that the thyroid is also part of the endocrine system whose responsibility is to discharge hormones that generally coordinate the functions of the human body. So this autoimmune disease has many different effects on the body because of the effect on hormones. As with all autoimmune conditions in addition to treating the symptoms people diagnosed should be doing things that work on the root causes of autoimmunity. Here is a surprise for you, Functional Medicine practitioners often use more effective tools to diagnose and treat Hashimoto’s than conventional practitioners.
A condition that can often result from Hashimoto’s is Hypothyroidism. This is called underactive thyroid or low thyroid and is also an autoimmune disorder of the thyroid in which the gland does not secrete some of the essential hormones in the human body. People with Hashimoto’s should be educated on preventing hypothyroidism and it’s warning signs.
The hormones’ – known as triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4) primary task is to ensure that metabolism runs smoothly in the human body. The onset of this condition results in the occurrence of slow metabolism in people. This culminates in people struggling to lose excess weight most of the time. Rebalancing these hormones is very important for proper bodily functioning. In addition to testing the most common of thyroid indicators, Functional Medicine practitioners will run some additional testing.
Hashimoto’s disease is the most common initiator of low thyroid or underactive thyroid in the United States – affecting between 7-8 percent of the entire American population – and this condition develops as a result of the inflammation caused by lymphocytic thyroiditis. This disease is prevalent among middle-aged women, though it can occur in both men, women, and children of any age.
Symptoms of Hashimoto’s Disease
In most cases, people with Hashimoto’s disease do not notice any symptoms or signs of the ailment. Some may see a small swelling at the front of their throats, known as goiter. Hashimoto’s disease is a disorder that progresses very slowly over the years, causing chronic and irreparable damage to the thyroid. This leads to a significant drop in thyroid hormone levels in the blood.
Hypothyroidism itself has many symptoms that unfortunately are common with many other conditions.
These are the symptoms of hypothyroidism:
- Sluggishness and fatigue
- Hair loss
- Stiffness and pain in the joints
- Brittle nails
- Weakness in the muscles
- Pale, dry skin
- Intolerance to cold
- Irregular or heavier than normal menstrual periods
- Inexplicable weight gain
- Elevated high cholesterol level
- Muscle tenderness, stiffness, and aches
- Memory Lapses
- Enlargement of the tongue
- Enlarged thyroid gland
Stages of Hashimoto’s Disease
Stage 1 – Initiation
This is the first stage where your immune system starts producing molecules that will eventually come to misidentify part of the thyroid gland by targeting it as a foreign body. Then the attack begins.
All this activity takes place at a minute scale, and most patients do not feel any symptoms that can be associated with an underactive thyroid. Typically the only thing you may or may not experience at this juncture is a little issue with your digestion. But your thyroid still functions well at this stage, and a test will not reveal the onset of Hashimoto. This stage can also take more than a few years and is the best period to discover this disease so that you can take corrective measures.
Stage 2 – Expansion
This is the stage where the immune cells start to multiply, both in efficiency and numbers. They start working fast to destroy more portions of the thyroid gland. Symptoms you may begin to experience during this stage include hair loss, intolerance to cold, and fatigue.
When flare-ups occur, your neck may swell up, and you may become more sensitive after eating certain foods. This is the stage where your fT4 level may be somewhat lower than average.
Although this stage takes a few months or years to transpire, your thyroid can still be functional if you are diagnosed early.
Stage 3 – Advanced of full-blown disease
This is where you start feeling the whole gamut of symptoms outlined earlier in increasing intensity and frequency. This is the tipping point for the well-being of your thyroid.
A blood test will reveal the elevation of your TSH level, and your physician may prescribe levothyroxine (T4), a thyroid hormone replacement therapy. For patients with only a slight shift in TSH levels, they will be monitored regularly to ensure their thyroid hormone levels do not start spiking. This therapy is known as “expectant management.”
Following a healthy lifestyle will help your thyroid to remain functional, and you may be able to avoid the use of medication if you are diagnosed at this stage.
This is the stage at which you will certainly be diagnosed with Hashimoto’s disease; at this stage, your thyroid can no longer produce enough T3 and T4 for normal biological functions. This is where your physician increases your dosage of synthetic thyroid hormones.
Adjusting your lifestyle is highly critical when it comes to managing Hashimoto’s disease. Make sure you get your necessary nutrients, exercise, reduce your stress, and make as many life hacks as possible so you can be as healthy as possible. Make sure you keep in touch with your physician, and with time, you may even be lucky enough to beat the disease.
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