Hashimoto's Disease (Thyroiditis)
By Steven Horne, RH (AHG) & Kimberly Balas, ND

See also Grave's Disease

Hashimoto's Disease is the most common cause of hypothyroid (low thyroid). It is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks the tissue that produces the thyroid hormone. Since 90% of the people who have been diagnosed with low thyroid have antibodies to thyroid tissue in their blood, this is the most common cause of low thyroid.

Conventional medicine has no effective treatments for this disease other than to replace the hormones that are not being made because of the damage to the thyroid. Most herbalists simply try to strengthen the thyroid with iodine or iodine-rich herbs. However, none of this is effective because Hashimoto's is not a disease of the thyroid, it is a disease of the immune system.

Most doctors rely primarily on blood levels of TSH to determine thyroid function. However, TSH can remain
within normal ranges even when the thyroid is being attacked by the immune system.

Several studies have shown a link between autoimmune thyroid disorders and gluten intolerance. The molecular structure of gliadin in gluten closely resembles that of the thyroid gland. When gliadin passes the protective barrier of the gut and enters the bloodstream, the immune system tags it for destruction. These antibodies to gliadin (and possibly the other 100 protein structures in wheat) also cause the body to attack thyroid tissue by molecular mimicry.

Based on this finding and clinical experience, here is a seven step program developed by Thomas Easley to treat Hashimoto'snaturally.

1. Don't Eat Gluten!
Avoid all gluten bearing grains. Antibodies to gliadin can show up in the blood up to six months after eating gluten, so you need to be very strict about this. It may also help to avoid all other grains and legumes for a few months while the gut heals. The GAPS diet (gapsdiet.com) may be helpful.

2. Heal the Gut
Avoid all toxins that inhibit nutrient absorption and inflame the gut including acid reflux medications, NSAIDS
and birth control medications. Increase stomach acid by taking PDA or 1 tablespoon of Apple Cider Vinegar before meals.
Drink 3-6 cups of bone broth a day.
Take one capsule of black walnut three times a day to help heal mucus membranes. It also helps to eat fermented vegetables (e.g. sauerkraut, kimchi) several times a day and take probiotics with every meal.

Seventy-percent Of the immune tissue in the body is found in or around the gut. This tissue is called the GALT, or gut-associated lymphoid tissue. When the gut lining becomes compromised, undigested food particles can leak out of the gut and create an immune response. The immune system can then mistake food proteins for body organs. This immune confusion results from what is referred to as molecular mimicry.

Thyroid hormones play a big role in regulating the tight junctions of the intestinal membrane and help govern
GALT function. This means that you can have a healthy thyroid without a healthy gut and you can't have a healthy gut without a healthy thyroid. This is why if you have an elevated TSH with low T4 and T3, prescription thyroid medication (like Armour Thyroid) might be necessary for a short time to allow the gut to heal.

3. Supplement with Selenium
The exacerbation of Hashimoto's disease by iodine almost always occurs in the presence of a selenium deficiency. Selenium by itself has been shown in several studies to reduce thyroid antibodies, showing a lessening of the immune attack on the thyroid. Take one capsule a day of a selenium supplement that supplies 200 mcg of selenium preferably in the form of L-selenomethionine, sodium selenate, selenodiglutathione and Se-Methyl L-Selenocysteine. This can improve thyroid function and balance immune excess.

4. Supplement with Vitamin D
Vitamin D is produced from cholesterol when your skin is exposed to the sun. Vitamin D deficiency is very common and most people don't have adequate levels. People with Hashimoto's should try to slowly increase their blood level to the therapeutic level of 70 ng/ml.

Healthy people that do not have any absorption or conversion issues might get adequate vitamin D blood levels from 2,000-5,000 mcg a day of D3. Most people need to do much higher doses of D3 to get blood levels in the therapeutic range. Vitamin D3, like all fat soluble vitamins, absorbs best when taken with a fatty meal. Vitamin D also works best when balanced with vitamins K, E and A.

5. Iodine
Dr. David Brownstein published the theory that supplemental iodine in large doses could help Hashimoto's" disease. Iodine loading test show that about 70% of the people coming to me do have a mild iodine deficiency. After you have been taking selenium and vitamin D for 2 weeks you can start taking herbs or herbal formulas that contain iodine, or an iodine supplement. Don't take a higher dose of iodine without doing an iodine loading test.

If done correctly, supplementing with iodine can be beneficial to people with Hashimoto's disease. If done incorrectly it can make the immune system hyperactive and worsen the disease.

6. Use Botanicals that Balance Immune Function
Astragalus and Ashwagandha have a strong balancing action on the immune system and the thyroid. Astragalus is available as a single from NSP, ashwaganda is an ingredient in 5-HTP Power. Other adaptogens may also be helpful.

7. Use Armour Thyroid if Needed
If your thyroid tests show function is low, you may need to take Armour Thyroid while you are working on the other steps. Armour Thyroid is the most well known brand of desiccated porcine thyroid. It is available by prescription only. You should never take any form of desiccated porcine thyroid without doctor supervision and regular blood testing.
Unfortunately, many doctors are resistant to prescribing Armour Thyroid because of misinformation by pharmareps promoting Synthroid. You may have to hunt around for a doctor who will be willing to write a prescription for you.

Below is a list of suggested products. Those in bold are key products for the health issue explained on this page.
For details and ordering simply copy a product's name in the search box above or click on the bold name.

Gluten-Free Diet, Gut Healing Diet, Heavy Metal Detoxification and Stress Management

Herbs: Astragalus, Black Cohosh, Dulse, Eleuthero, Gotu Kola, He Shou Wu, Lobelia, Milk Thistle. Mullein, Sage and Saw Palmetto

Herbal Formulas: AdaptaMax, APS II, IF Relief, IF-C and TS II

Herbal Extracts: Olive Leaf

Nutrients: Co-Q10, Flax Seed Oil, Lecithin, Vitamin A&D, Vitamin D3, Vitamin E and Zinc

Nutraceuticals: Adrenal Support, Carotenoid Blend, Master Gland, PDA Combination and Thyroid Support

Essential Oils: Myrrh