Health and wellness are often defined by numbers- blood pressure, weight, heart rate, etc. The ‘right’ numbers on a blood test signify that all is well- or do they?
The visibility or tangibility of diseases often dictates how seriously they are taken. Only those diseases with on-your-face symptoms are paid attention to. Cold is indicated by sneezing; chicken pox by the lesions, and somehow this is our coping mechanism to believe that every health condition outright shows us that it exists- loudly and clearly. Primarily, this is why mental health is not given its due importance in overall health.
Along the spectrum of ailments exist some diseases that are physical, that plague many, yet are not known to the average person because they are not visible.
Hashimoto’s or Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, an autoimmune disease is one such condition.
Understanding Autoimmune Disease:
Autoimmune disease is a condition where the body mistakes its own healthy tissues as foreign and attacks them. Most autoimmune conditions cause unnecessary inflammation in the body- depending on which organ is being attacked. These conditions are hard to detect, especially in the starting because symptoms are varied, not consistent, or usually masked under some other disease. The presence of one autoimmune condition can usually trigger other autoimmune conditions if not treated well.
Understanding Hashimotos Thyroiditis:
Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis is an autoimmune condition wherein the body’s immune system attacks the tissues of a butterfly-shaped hormone gland in the throat called the thyroid gland. This gland regulates the metabolism, growth, and development of the body.
Think of the thyroid gland as the ‘battery’ of the human body. As it supplies the hormones to the rest of the body, a sub-optimally functioning thyroid gland affects every part of the body and its functioning. Therefore symptoms are extremely varied- such as fatigue and sluggishness; increased sensitivity to cold, dry skin, muscle aches, hair loss, puffy face, etc.
This is why a large percentage of Hashimoto’s cases are either not detected, or wrongly detected as hypothyroidism (a condition in which excessive hormone is discharged by the thyroid gland)
Hashimotos is primarily caused by an inflammation or imbalance in the gut. The gut, stretchy, fishnet-like structure, when inflamed can allow the toxins in the digestive contents to flow into the bloodstream. This ‘triggers’ the immune system and alerts it of the foreign particles in the bloodstream. The immune system as a defense mechanism releases excessive amounts of white blood cells that attack the thyroid gland itself, damaging it and reducing its capability to function optimally.
The immune system in overdrive also causes the body to be in ‘fight or flight mode’, i.e., hunger, thirst, moods, eating and sleeping habits, etc. are all altered in a way that is not directly noticeable to the human eye, but are enough to make the body feel at unease.
Hashimotos, at its best impacts productivity by causing brain fog, insomnia, low stamina, etc. Eventually if left untreated can even result in heart disease, anxiety, depression, hypo or hyperthyroidism, thyroid cancer, etc.
How to detect Hashimotos?
Memory loss, fatigue, excessive sleepiness or drowsiness, unexplained weight loss or weight gain, and recurring digestive issues are all major symptoms of Hashimotos. Low moods, depressive periods, or anxiety can also be indicative of this peculiar condition.
It can often be frustrating to explain this to a healthcare provider, since at the surface, these symptoms are largely scattered and could be due to any issues or lifestyle problems.
However, a good way to detect Hashimoto’s is by doing a hormone profile and an Anti-TG test to detect the levels of thyroid hormones and white blood cells in the bloodstream.
Prevention and cure:
The good news and the bad news is- Hashimotos does not have a ‘magic pill’. If the condition has worsened enough to cause a significant increase or decrease in thyroid levels, a hormone pill may be prescribed. However, it is important to remember that Hashimotos is an immune condition, and affects more than just the thyroid. Therefore it is imperative to look after your body even if you’re on the pill.
If not, the condition is treatable with a few simple guidelines.
1. Focus on anti-inflammatory foods:
Omega 3 fatty acids, in the form of supplements, do a world of good to the digestive tract and help reduce inflammation all over the body. These usually do not pose any side effects and therefore can be taken as an OTC medication. Anti-inflammatory foods such as nuts, green leafy vegetables, olive oil, etc also help reduce inflammation naturally.
Since autoimmune conditions already put the body in ‘fight or flight’ mode, stress can be one of the most harmful triggers for the already impaired immune system. An effective and consistent stress management system, such as deep breathing techniques, Yoga, or any exercise helps channel negative energy in the right direction.
An underrated piece of advice is to avoid overly rigorous exercise since this can usually have a reverse and more detrimental effect on the body.
3. Avoid inflammatory foods:
Any foods that can potentially trigger the digestive system should be keenly avoided or restricted. Preservative-laden food is highly inflammatory for everyone- no matter how healthy they are. Anyone with an already compromised immune system seeks to lose out on much more with the consumption of these foods than the average being.
Sometimes the body is intolerant to even healthy foods such as gluten or lactose intolerances, or celiac disease. It is always a good idea to get an allergy test done to see which foods are a trigger for the body.
4. Avoid strong toxins and chemicals:
Common household chemicals are also toxic to Hashimoto’s patients. A good idea would be to reduce the usage, if not exchange the products for less chemically toxic alternatives.
5. Eating the right way:
Hashimotos play a huge role in the temperature regulation of the body and are therefore affected by changing seasons as well. Oversensitivity to both heat and cold is a common symptom. Eating according to the season is one of the best ways to combat this. Intake of seasonal fruits and vegetables according to the locality you live in makes a world of difference in the way your body processes food and how inflammatory it is.
The most difficult part of Hashimotos is detection because of a lack of awareness and unfortunately, even indiscretion by the healthcare community. The good news is, remission is not only possible but highly probable once the right lifestyle changes are made. Hashimotos can be just the push you need to start taking care of your health, today!