Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is an autoimmune disease of the thyroid gland. Left unattended the thyroid gland can gradually be destroyed.[i] Over time, symptoms may develop that include an enlargement of the thyroid gland called a goiter, which is usually painless. As an engine drives a car, the thyroid drives the body.
What is Hashimoto’s Disease?
The disease was first noted in 1912 by Dr. Hakaru Hashimoto. In 1957 it was recognized as an autoimmune disorder. Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is thought to be due to a combination of genetic and environmental factors, especially if there is family history of the disease or any other autoimmune conditions. The disease is believed to be the most common cause of primary hypothyroidism in North America. Diagnosis is confirmed by blood tests for (TSH) thyroid-stimulating hormone, T4 Thyroxine test and anti-thyroid antibodies.
Hashimoto’s thyroiditis affects about 5% of the population at some point in their life. It usually develops between the ages of 30 and 50 and generally affects more women than men; approximately 8 to 15 times more often in women. The disease may affect young women, while in men it may not occur until middle age.[ii]
It occurs more frequently in regions of high iodine dietary intake and among people who are genetically susceptible.[iii]
Signs and Symptoms:
There are many symptoms for the onset of Hashimoto’s and it is often misdiagnosed as depression, PMS, chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia. The most common symptoms are fatigue, weight gain, pale or puffy face, feeling cold, joint and muscle pain, constipation and depression.
If a goiter swelling is present, but not painful, no action may be recommended by the doctor, while others may try to reduce the size of the goiter. Those affected should avoid consuming large amounts of iodine. If TSH levels are elevated they can lead to an enlargement of the thyroid gland as the body attempts to trap more iodine and produce thyroid hormones.
Thyroid Gland Function:
The thyroid gland consists of two lobes on either side of the trachea in the neck sitting under the thyroid cartilage. This cartilage gives us the ‘Adam’s apple’ prominence. The gland produces hormones from iodine picked up from the blood circulating through the gland, which are necessary to maintain a normal level of metabolism in all body cells. Metabolism is the chemical process in our bodies resulting in the production of energy and growth. Thyroid hormone helps cells in their uptake of oxygen to support the metabolic rate in the body. Another hormone produced by the thyroid gland is secreted when calcium levels in the blood are high. It stimulates calcium to leave the blood and enter the bones.
Risks of Iodine Deficiency:
Pregnant mothers may be at risk for iodine deficiency as the growing fetus places additional pressure on the thyroid and can lead the thyroid either to have decreased function or to fail. Without sufficient iodine in the mother’s system there can be multiple adverse effects on the growth and development of the fetus, such as low birth weight, neonatal respiratory distress, fetal abnormalities, miscarriage or pre-term delivery.[iv] These risks are for women whose low thyroid function has not been stabilized by medication. Those people who have a family history of thyroid dysfunction may also be at risk, especially young women who may become pregnant.
As well, anyone who may already have an autoimmune disease are further at risk if the disease is untreated. Autoimmune diseases most commonly associated to Hashimoto’s thyroiditis include celiac disease, type 1 diabetes, vitiligo (loss of skin pigment) and alopecia (hair loss).[v]
Hypothyroidism caused by Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is treated with thyroid hormone replacement in tablet form, usually taken once a day. The tablets will likely be required for the rest of the person’s life and blood tests required on a regular basis to monitor the thyroid-stimulating hormone levels.
All the body’s organs are connected to our brain, nervous system and our spine; therefore, it is most important to make sure that your spine is always kept in alignment for all parts of your body to function properly. Regular visits to your chiropractor will take care of adjusting any subluxations that may interfere with your health.
[i] “Hashimoto’s Disease”. NIDDK. May 2014. Retrieved 9 August 2016.
[ii] “Hashimoto’s disease fact sheet”. Office on Women’s Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, womenshealth.gov (or girlshealth.gov). 16 July 2012. Retrieved 23 November 2014.
[iii] Fabrizio Monaco (2012). Thyroid Diseases. Taylor and Francis. p.78. ISBN 9781439868393.
[iv] Budenhofer, Brigitte K.; Ditsch, Nina; Jeschke, Udo; Gärtner, Roland; Toth, Bettina (2012-10-27). “Thyroid (dys-)function in normal and disturbed pregnancy”.
[v] Akamizu, T; Amino, N; DeGroot, LJ; De Groot, LJ; Beck-Peccoz, P; Chrousos, G; Dungan, K; Grossman, A; Hershman, JM; Koch, C; McLachlan, R; New, M; Rebar, R; Singer, F; Vinik, A; Weickert, MO (2000). “Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis”. PMID 25905412.