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Do You have Hypothyroid or Hashimoto’s?

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Thyroid Information

The thyroid got a lot of attention in the media back in 2007 when Oprah Winfrey announced she had a thyroid condition which, she believed, was the cause of her inability to lose weight.

The problem is that over 90% of people conventionally diagnosed with hypothyroid are, in fact, suffering with something else: Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. Though related to hypothyroid, Hashimoto’s is actually a very different condition and requires a very different approach.

Hypothyroidism is a problem with your thyroid gland; Hashimoto’s is a problem with your immune system. In Hashimoto’s– as in all autoimmune diseases– the immune system gets confused and mistakenly attacks a part of your own body, kind of the metabolic equivalent of “friendly fire”. In this case, the immune system attacks the thyroid gland, ultimately destroying thyroid tissue and leading to a reduction in thyroid hormone.

How Hashimoto’s is Diagnosed

Why do conventional doctors often miss Hashimoto’s? It has to do with the standard testing for thyroid function, a blood test called the TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone). When TSH levels are high, and thyroid hormones are low, conventional docs will generally prescribe synthetic thyroid hormone and consider the condition treated.

But the TSH test doesn’t tell the whole story- far from it. When your immune system attacks the thyroid, thyroid tissue is destroyed and thyroid hormones can randomly get dumped into the bloodstream. Even though your TSH levels may be “normal”, at any given time you might actually have elevated levels of thyroid hormones (with the accompanying symptoms of anxiety and increased heartbeat). “I’ve seen people mis-diagnosed with bipolar disorder, panic attacks, anxiety attacks—all because thyroid hormones can really put you on an emotional roller coaster”, says Dr. Izabella Wentz(1), author of Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis: Lifestyle Interventions for Finding the Root Cause.

All this should point to the importance of getting a thorough evaluation. Any treatment for an autoimmune disease like Hashimoto’s should take a hard look at food sensitivities, diet, stress, sleep, digestion, nutrient deficiencies and inflammation, all of which can cobble the immune system in significant ways.

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Stress Factor

Take stress, for example. When you’re under stress, your body secretes a hormone called cortisol, which can actually save your life in an emergency. But cortisol has a dark side. High levels of cortisol directly impair the functioning of the immune system(2,3), so a treatment plan for Hashimoto’s should always include a plan for managing the stressors in your life. Constant stress weakens the immune system at exactly the time you need to be strengthening it.

Diet and Nutrients

Diet matters as well. In a study(4) published just this year, Italian researchers put 180 overweight people with Hashimoto’s on either a low-carb diet or a low-calorie weight loss diet. After only 21 days, those on the low-carb diet saw a significant drop in their thyroid antibodies, while those on the low-calorie diet saw their thyroid antibodies rise. In this study, diet reduced thyroid antibodies by a whopping 40% or more.

Deficiencies of nutrients—particularly selenium— can have a big effect on both thyroid hormones in general and Hashimoto’s in particular. Several studies have shown significant reductions in thyroid antibodies after supplemention with 200 mcg of selenium (5,6,7)

Hashimoto’s Management

Hashimoto’s can be managed with the right treatment plan– your life can be put back on track. (Just ask the well-known biohacker, entrepreneur and athlete Dave Aspery– inventor of Bulletproof Coffee– who’s had Hashimoto’s all his life.)

But first it needs to be correctly identified. Because naturopathic physicians are trained to look well beyond the standard TSH test, they are uniquely qualified to identify and treat difficult and multifaceted conditions such as Hashimoto’s.

Need more information on how naturopathic medicine and thyroid disease? Learn more in How do Naturopathic Doctor’s Treat Hypothyroidism?



This article is provided by

The Institute for Natural Medicine, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization. INM’s mission is to transform health care in the United States by increasing public awareness of natural medicine and access to naturopathic doctors. Naturopathic medicine, with its person-centered principles and practices, has the potential to reverse the tide of chronic illness overwhelming healthcare systems and to empower people to achieve and maintain optimal lifelong health. INM strives to fulfil this mission through the following initiatives:

  • Education – Reveal the unique benefits and outcomes of evidence-based natural medicine
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  • Research – Expand quality research on this complex and comprehensive system of medicine

About The Author(s)


Institute for Natural Medicine Staff

Our dedicated content team of professional staff writers represents decades of experience covering essential natural health topics in an accessible, evidence-based, and engaging way. Guided by a shared passion for holistic well-being, each and every one of our writers strives to empower our readers to take charge of their health.

Supported by a rigorous fact-checking and medical editing process from licensed naturopathic doctors that examines the latest in peer-reviewed research, our team brings their in-depth knowledge of natural health practices into every piece of content we produce. We strive to be the gold standard for evidence-based natural medicine, providing trustworthy information and inspiring narratives to help you live your best health, naturally.

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