Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis is an autoimmune disorder that negatively impacts the function of the thyroid gland (1). Like other autoimmune disorders, Hashimoto’s occurs when the immune system produces antibodies that attack healthy tissue in the body (1). When you have Hashimoto’s, it kind of feels like your body has a love-hate relationship with itself.
What is Hashimoto’s?
Hashimoto’s is the most common cause of hypothyroidism in developed countries (2). A total of 14 million people are affected by the disease in the U.S. alone (3). If you’ve been diagnosed with Hashimoto’s, you’re definitely not alone. Read this next to learn about the symptoms of a thyroid problem.
Standard treatments for Hashimoto’s include close monitoring of the disease, taking synthetic thyroid hormones, and sometimes surgery, if the disease has significantly progressed (1). None of these treatments, however, address the underlying problems that cause the disease (1). New research indicates the importance of gut bacteria when diagnosing and treating Hashimoto’s (4).
Hydrogen Peroxide: The Secret “Poison” that Drives Hashi’s
Your body naturally produces hydrogen peroxide (HP). It is produced by certain cells to help fight infections (5a). However, hydrogen peroxide works as a free radical / pro-oxidant to do this. Our bodies must keep hydrogen peroxide levels in check by using our own self-made antioxidants such as glutathione and catalase (6a). In turn, your body can convert it into oxygen and water (7a).
In Hashimoto’s, this process may be hindered, leading to a build-up of hydrogen peroxide, which is thought to be detrimental to thyroid health (8a). With not enough of those antioxidants to keep it in check, HP builds up can wreak havoc affecting the youthfulness of your hair and skin, and possibly affect cardiovascular health long term.
A good approach would be to give your body what it needs to quench HP levels. A 2017 study from the Journal Thyroid noted that selenium is essential for thyroid function, but is also needed for glutathione production, which according to them ‘helps to protect the thyroid by removing excess HP’ (9a). Additionally, they also found vitamin D and iron (especially for menstruating women), to be important factors to address in those with Hashimoto’s.
What It’s Like Living with Hashimoto’s
What’s Bacteria Got to Do With It?
Research published in the journal Thyroid found that differing levels of gut microbiota are significant factors in the development of autoimmune diseases (4). Basically, when you have Hashimoto’s, the levels of bacteria in the gut are thrown out of whack. The research was conducted through a cross-sectional study of 28 Hashimoto’s patients and 16 healthy controls (4).
The study found that Hashimoto patients had lower levels of microbiota that help with immune function (10). Participants with Hashimoto’s were also found to have higher ratios of two types of microbiota, which are only healthy at lower ratios (10). This phenomenon can be attributed to a number of factors that are toxic to gut bacteria including increased availability of over-the counter-medications, chlorinated drinking water, pesticide and herbicide use, and widespread use of antibacterial cleansers to name a few (13).
Which Came First, the Gut Imbalance or Hashimoto’s?
As this was a cross-sectional study and was conducted on a relatively small group of participants, it is difficult to pinpoint causation. Associations between dysbiosis, an imbalance of gut bacteria, and Hashimoto’s are evidently present, however, conclusions as to which comes first are unable to be drawn from this study (10).
What does this mean for Hashimoto’s?
The study’s primary purpose was to improve diagnostic abilities for Hashimoto’s, but the importance of gut health when it comes to autoimmune diseases is certainly evident. Autoimmune disorders often stem from a condition known as leaky gut syndrome, which is more evidence that gut health is an essential component to Hashimoto’s (1).
Leaky Gut Syndrome and Autoimmune Disorders
Many scientists today believe that in order to solve a thyroid problem, leaky gut syndrome must be addressed first (1). A leaky gut occurs when larger holes form in the lining of the intestines and particles such as gluten escape through small openings into the bloodstream (1). When people with thyroid issues, like Hashimoto’s, go on a gluten-free diet, they often notice better thyroid functioning and reduced symptoms immediately (1). Makes sense, right?
Healing Foods for Hashimoto’s and Leaky Gut
If you have Hashimoto’s, there are certain foods you can eat to heal your gut and manage the symptoms of the condition.
- Probiotic-rich foods: Probiotics are widely researched, beneficial bacteria that have been proven to heal the gut (1). Overall, probiotics improve nutrient extraction and digestion (11). Incorporating probiotic-rich foods like fermented veggies, goat’s milk yogurt, and kefir can greatly improve your Hashimoto’s symptoms (1).
- Fresh fruit and veg: Fruits and vegetables have a number of redeeming qualities about them – they contain antioxidants, minerals and vitamins, and fiber (1). Low sugar fruits, such as berries and apples, and colourful vegetables, such as carrots, broccoli, and beets, are best to incorporate into your diet (12). The fiber in these fruits and vegetables helps with digestive health while the antioxidants reduce inflammation (2). Increase your intake of this group of superfoods to fight off Hashimoto’s!
- Coconut oil: Coconut oil doesn’t just make your hair look better; it also facilitates a healthy metabolism, nourishes the gut, and increases energy levels when ingested (1).
- Beans and sprouted seeds: Sprouted seeds such as chia seeds, hemp, and flax provide a beneficial omega-3 fat that balances hormones (1). Beans are high in fiber, which can greatly assist in the digestive process (1).
Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis is not a pleasant condition to live with but emerging research has provided hope for the future. In the meantime, there are a number of dietary changes you can make to improve your quality of life. Remember – you are what you eat! Learn about natural ways to heal Hashimoto’s here.
- Mincer, D.L., Jialal, I. (2017, November 16). Thyroid, Hashimoto Thyroiditis. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29083758
- Milas, K. (n.d.). Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis Overview. Retrieved from https://www.endocrineweb.com/conditions/hashimotos-thyroiditis/hashimotos-thyroiditis-overview
- Zhao, F., Feng, J., Li, J., Zhao, L., Liu, Y., Chen, H., Jin, Y., Zhu, B., Wei, Y. (2018, February 1). Alterations of the Gut Microbiota in Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis Patients. Thyroid, 28 (2), 175-186. Retrieved from https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/10.1089/thy.2017.0395
- Shomon, M. (2018, April 18). Hashimoto’s and Your Gut. Retrieved from https://www.healthcentral.com/article/thyroid-and-your-gut
- Wentz, I. (2017, August 18). The Best Probiotics for Hashimoto’s. Retrieved from https://thyroidpharmacist.com/articles/the-four-best-probiotics-for-hashimotos/
- Ware, M. (n.d.). The best diets for Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. Retrieved from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/321197.php
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