What is Hashimoto’s Disease?
Hashimoto’s (also referred to as Chronic Lymphocytic Thyroiditis according to the Mayo Clinic) is an autoimmune disease where the immune system attacks the thyroid wreaking havoc on the thyroid and the body. Before I explain Hashimoto’s I first want to inform you of how the thyroid works and its primary function. Please keep in mind I am not a medical professional just a fellow warrior on the journey with you all.
The thyroid gland is located at the front of your neck and is shaped like a butterfly. Your thyroid is responsible for regulating your metabolism, which is the chemical reactions with which food is turned into energy the body needs to function. The thyroid gland also regulates your heart rate, digestive functions, muscle control, your mood, and bone health according to yourhormones.info. You can see how this disease can affect the whole body not just your weight.
Hashimoto’s is more common among middle aged women than men but can affect both male and female at any age including children. Inflammation caused from the immune system attacking the thyroid can damage how the thyroid functions.
Eventually, the thyroid can stop producing enough hormones causing a condition known as hypothyroidism. “Hashimoto’s is the most common cause of hypothyroidism”, the Mayo Clinic website states. What is hypothyroidism? It is when the thyroid can no longer produce enough hormones to regulate the chemical reactions needed to sustain balance in the body.
The symptoms of hypothyroidism according to the American Thyroid Association’s website and the Mayo Clinic website, are fatigue, weight gain, joint pain and stiffness, muscle pain and weakness, reduced tolerance to exercise, depression, dry skin, cold sensitivity, brittle fine hair or hair loss, and could cause a goiter (an enlarged thyroid).
How is Hashimoto’s diagnosed you might wonder? Well if you present with the symptoms listed above or any combination your primary care physician will probably want to test your thyroid hormone levels. These blood tests are known as T4 total, it checks your thyroxine levels, and then there is the TSH blood test that checks your thyroid stimulating hormone levels. If these hormones are low this could mean you have hypothyroidism.
Because Hashimoto’s is an autoimmune disease there are antibodies that need to be tested to see if your immune system is attacking your thyroid gland. The name of the blood test is called TPO and if the antibody levels are elevated this could mean you may have Hashimoto’s.
It is too complicated to tell you an exact science because there just isn’t one; everyone’s body is different and responds differently. As in my case my antibodies are elevated while my thyroid hormone levels are normal. And diagnoses change dramatically from doctor to doctor.
Here is some advice that might be helpful to you if you are battling this extremely difficult disease. Listen to your health care provider and know that they have your best interest in mind. Always share all information you research with your doctor and ask their opinion on the subject. Keep a running dialog between you and your healthcare provider, and if you see more than one specialist make sure everyone is up to date on your latest labs and overall welfare. It may be helpful to keep a journal of your symptoms and weight gain or loss, as well as a food journal, so you and your doctor can see what is, and isn’t working for you. I hope you find this information helpful in some way.
Like most autoimmune diseases there is so much more research needed. New medicine and clinical trials are always coming out. One day I hope to see a cure or at least some kind of definitive criteria for diagnosing and maintaining Hashimoto’s. I know many women who suffer from this disease and it can be discouraging to have your levels stay the same while your weight fluctuates dramatically. As always thank you for reading the article. I encourage you to research your disease for yourself just stick with reputable websites. Have a blessed day!
Signed a fellow warrior,