Since Molly and I put together this group we’ve had a lot of emails and tweets with this question:
Why won’t my doctor run Hahsimoto’s antibodies?
If I’ve heard this question once, I’ve heard it – unfortunately – a thousand times. So if you’re wondering, you’re hardly alone. The reason many docs don’t see the need to run TPO or TAA antibodies is largely because it won’t change their treatment for you.
In the conventional model, there is no treatment for Hashimoto’s, there is only treatment for hypothyroidism. Your doc will watch your TSH (and hopefully at least your T4) and adjust your dose of medication accordingly if you’re on it – or start you on it when things start to go downhill.
With this in mind, it seems irrelevant to many docs to know if it’s Hahsimoto’s or not. From their point of view, you treat the low thyroid with replacement hormones and you’re done.
That’s all they’ve got it. They aren’t looking at all the data we have that supports diet, natural medicine and lifestyle for treating the autoimmune aspect of Hashimoto’s. Just to name a few, we’ve got: vitamin D, gluten intolerance, leaky gut repair, blood sugar, nutrient deficiencies (B12, iron, etc.), estrogen issues, chronic infections, etc that all help quell the autoimmune fire.
Why You Should Be Tested
1) Autoimmunity is the attack of tissues that are your own, although you’re immune system has flagged them as foreign.
In Hashimoto’s, it’s the thyroid that is under attack – but there’s no reason to think other tissues aren’t also under attack. The thyroid is currently the kid getting beat up on the playground – it’s that fight we’re watching play out in your labs and low thyroid symptoms…but that’s not usually the end of the story, at least in the long run.
2) Many, many, too many women are on thyroid replacement and labs look normal enough, but they still don’t feel good.
They’re still tired, achy, hair is still falling out, can’t think straight and can’t lose a pound. With an immune system that’s all fired up there are little immune hormones called cytokines running a muck and wreaking havoc everywhere from your brain to your gut to your fat cells.
This can feel almost like a mild flu for some women, but regardless you just don’t feel good – and your body is being attacked, destroyed – when this is happening.
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Addressing this inflammatory mess will help you feel a whole lot better AND lessen the attack on the thyroid (protecting it from destruction thus decreasing the need for medication dosage increases) and when the immune system is calmed, it’s attacking other tissues less as well.
Knowing it’s Hashimoto’s or not lets you know if you’re autoimmune or not. This is a huge distinction from run of the mill low thyroid. This is important info for you.
If you have one autoimmune issues, you’re at risk for others – and of course you want to know that! Knowledge is power. If you know this, then you work to calm the immune system and protect all tissues – and prevent or delay other autoimmune diseases.
To me, as rough as it is to have Hashimoto’s, at least we have thyroid hormone replacement. We don’t have brain replacements if it’s MS and we don’t have blood vessel replacements if it’s Lupus.
You’d want to at least make the effort to forgo those , right? Of course! So it starts with knowing you’re in the autoimmune game or not.
3) If you’re merely hypothyroid (which is actually pretty rare in the Western World, as upwards of 90% of hypothyroidism here is autoimmune) then you have a variety of things you can do to boost thyroid production, such as iodine and tyrosine (the building blocks of thyroid hormone).
If you are autoimmune, it’s an entirely different ball of wax. Iodine, although necessary for thyroid hormone production flares the immune system, so you can’t run to the health food store and get on a “thyroid formula” that most likely contains iodine. You have to focus treatment on the immune system itself and if you do treat the thyroid, you have to know what’s safe and what’s not.
For example, many “immune boosters” such as green tea or acai berry or Echinacea will potentially make your autoimmunity fire up, increasing attack (this depends on which arm of your immune system is out of balance, Th1 or Th2).
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So whether you have low thyroid, the common cold or regularly add acai berry to your morning smoothie, you have to know what you’re doing when it’s autoimmune and not plain ol’ hypothyroidism.
So there you have my two cents on who you need to know if it’s Hashimoto’s or not – and why you should push your doctor to test you or work with a direct patient lab such as Direct Labs and find out yourself. Although it can be scary to hear the word Hashimoto’s or autoimmune, like I said, knowledge is power and at least now you can start doing something to feel BETTER today!