The Root Causes of Hashimoto's Thyroiditis
Hashimoto's Thyroiditis is an autoimmune condition that affects over 5% of people worldwide - with an additional 5% of the population estimated to be undiagnosed currently. If you have Hashimoto's, you are most likely familiar with what it is, and I am going to present a functional view of the condition in terms of what the root causes are. This educational piece is not intended to diagnose or treat, but instead, intended to educate and empower you to be your own health advocate.
My goal is always to help you get to the root cause of what you are struggling with, and it's important to know that just like all conditions, Hashimoto's has a root cause. It's important to know that Hashimotos is an autoimmune condition, and in this complex condition, antibodies attack a healthy thyroid gland, leading to long-term damage. An individual with Hashimoto's can have hypothyroidism symptoms (underactive thyroid) and hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid). This is due to the underproduction caused by antibodies (hypothyroid) and thyroid hormones entering the bloodstream upon damage (hyperthyroid).
A few causes:
1. Chronic stress is a leading cause of Hashimotos. I will always emphasize the need to focus on and monitor stress due to the bodily harm it can cause. While under chronic stress, the odds of intestinal permeability increase significantly. When there is permeability in the gut, molecules that are supposed to stay in the gut can leak into the bloodstream, thus triggering an autoimmune attack. In the case of Hashimoto's, TPO antibodies attack healthy thyroid tissue. Although Hashimoto's is a thyroid condition, it has much more to do with the immune system and intestinal permeability than the thyroid itself. While the thyroid might be blamed, it is the victim of antibodies that seek to impact proper function.
2. Viruses, toxic mold, or parasitic organisms can be a trigger for Hashimoto's. Typically, those impacted by these things already have underlying weaknesses that contribute to the intense response to these pathogens, but these are common triggers. Epstein Barr is a very common trigger for Hashimoto's. Specifically, Aspergillus is a common mold that is a trigger, and Blastocystis hominins is a parasite that is known to be a trigger for Hashimotos.
3. Genetic predisposition is another leading cause, but a topic that we must look at in a slightly different light than a mainstream approach. Specifically, if a mother has Hashimotos (or Graves, which is autoimmunity that leads to hyperthyroidism), the odds of her child developing Hashimoto's is drastically increased.
It's important to understand these causes because they serve as a guiding light on the solution for each individual. Most people are experiencing a triad of reasons - chronic stress (contributing to leaky gut), pathogenic overgrowth/an overwhelmed immune system, and a genetic predisposition.
Based upon what I have shared in this introduction, it's clear that three essential steps to take would include:
Addressing overgrowth or infections.
Being mindful of genetic/environmental factors that have contributed to autoimmunity development.
I will be diving deeper this week into the specific steps you can take to help if you are in this situation, but first, ask yourself these three questions. If needed, grab a journal and get comfy.
Have you been under chronic stress, or was there a time when I was under chronic stress? Do I have a traumatic past, or did a traumatic event happen to me? Those with a higher ACE score (adverse childhood experiences) are more likely to develop an autoimmune condition. You can take that test here.
Have you ever lived in a home with mold, or gone to a school/workplace that had mold? Have you had the Epstein Barr Virus (mono), or have you ever had food poisoning, specifically while out of your county of origin?
What was/is your mother's health like? Were you a vaginal birth, and were you breastfeed? C-section births and formula-fed babies are more likely to develop autoimmune conditions. Were you on antibiotics often as a child, or have you used them often in adulthood? If your answer to any of these is "yes," you will specifically benefit from our upcoming discussion on what you can do to support your microbiome if you have Hashimoto's.
I want to add a word of comfort about autoimmunity and Hashimoto's specifically. It can feel disheartening to hear that your body is essentially attacking itself. I have also felt this same disappointment, but rest assured that there is always a reason why something is happening in the body, and there is almost always an ultimate solution. Healing takes time, but it is worth it. My prior Hashimoto's diagnosis was triggered by a combination of chronic stress and the Epstein Barr Virus. After years of healing, my antibodies are at 2, and my TSH is 1.95 - without medication or an enormous amount of supplementation. It has taken me a while to get to this point, but it is possible. Our bodies are amazing, and they always want to heal - they just need the proper support.
Stay tuned for the upcoming post where I share what you can do to start healing if you are struggling with this condition.