thyroid | June 4, 2017 | Author: Naturopath
Hashimoto’s disease is an autoimmune disease where the immune system produces antibodies that attack the thyroid gland resulting in inflammation and destruction of thyroid tissue. These antibodies bind to the thyroid and prevent the manufacture of thyroid hormones. Hashimoto’s disease is the leading cause of underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism).
The thyroid gland sits below the larynx at the front of the throat. It’s in the shape of a butterfly with two lobes that sit on either side of the windpipe.
The thyroid gland is responsible for the production of certain hormones that regulate metabolism in every cell in the body—particularly those involving energy metabolism and growth.
The thyroid is controlled and regulated by the pituitary gland and hypothalamus. These two brain structures produce a chemical called thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). TSH prompts the thyroid gland to produce the hormones thyroxine (T4) and tri-iodothyronine (T3). If T3 and T4 levels are low, the pituitary gland releases TSH to stimulate the thyroid to produce more of these hormones. In Hashimoto’s disease, the thyroid gland is unable to manufacture sufficient amounts of these hormones because the antibodies have attacked the thyroid tissue—causing the thyroid to become inflamed (thyroiditis). In response, the pituitary gland continues to produce more TSH which can lead to an enlargement of the thyroid (goitre).
Hashimoto’s can develop slowly and can often remain undiagnosed for many years. Common signs and symptoms include:
Why the immune system attacks the thyroid gland remains a bit of a mystery. Most researchers believe it is a combination of both environmental and genetic influences. Some of the current theories as to why Hashimoto’s occurs includes:
Natural therapies provide a variety of options that help to support healthy thyroid function through avoiding certain foods and ensuring adequate intake of certain nutrients.
Among many of the environmental factors that have been suggested to contribute to the development of Hashimoto’s disease, iodine deficiency may be the most important. Iodine deficiency is common in Australia – leading to underactive thyroid, a goitre, or both. Iodine is an essential component of T3 and T4.
The RDI of iodine is 150 micrograms, or 250 micrograms for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Foods rich in iodine include seaweed, fish, seafood, eggs, cow’s milk, yoghurt, strawberries and cranberries. Iodine can be taken as a supplement if the diet is deficient in this nutrient – it can be hard to reach the RDI through food alone.
High dose iodine supplementation is not advised in Hashimoto’s as it is potentially harmful.
Selenium is another important mineral for thyroid function. It is found in high concentrations in a healthy thyroid, where it is responsible for increasing active thyroid hormone production.
Numerous studies have shown selenium beneficial for Hashimoto’s disease by decreasing the levels of antibodies that causes damage to the thyroid. Like iodine, large quantities aren’t advised as it can potentially be harmful.
Foods rich in selenium include brazil nuts, oysters, mushrooms, tuna, wholemeal bread, rye, sunflower seeds and most kinds of meat.
If selenium is supplemented a safe range is between 50-300 micrograms per day and if iodine deficiency is occurring also, they must be supplemented together.
Other important nutrients for thyroid function include vitamin A, zinc, tyrosine and iron. However, supplementation with any of the above nutrients should be assessed by a health professional, especially if thyroxine is being taken.
Goitrogens are substances present in certain foods that prevent the utilisation of iodine. These substances are primarily isothiocyanates which is similar in structure and action to a drug that is used to reduce the function of the thyroid in an overactive thyroid.
Isothiocyanates are found in foods from the Brassica family which includes kale, cabbage, broccoli, brussels sprouts and radishes.
Goitrogenic substances are also found in soybeans, millet, pine nuts and peanuts. In Hashimoto’s disease, reducing the consumption of these foods is highly recommended.
Cooking these foods deactivates the goitrogens making them less of a problem.
Celiac disease (CD) is a condition in which there is chronic inflammation and destruction of the intestinal villi. This reaction occurs after ingestion of gluten—a protein found in wheat, barley, rye and oats. CD has been linked to a number of other autoimmune diseases including Hashimoto’s disease. Research has found that a diet low in gluten is beneficial for sufferers of Hashimoto’s disease, whether or not they have CD. Avoiding gluten was shown to reduce disease progression and potential complications.
Hechtman L (2014). Clinical Naturopathic Medicine. Churchill Livingstone, Australia
Liontiris MI, Mazokopakis EE. A concise review of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis (HT) and the importance of iodine, selenium, vitamin D and gluten on the autoimmunity and dietary management of HT patients. Points that need more investigation. Hell J Nucl Med. 2017 Jan-Apr;20(1):51-56
Felker P, et al. Concentrations of thiocyanate and goitrin in human plasma, their precursor concentrations in brassica vegetables, and associated potential risk for hypothyroidism. Nutr Rev. 2016 Apr;74(4):248-58