- Patricia Pearce, ND
The Autoimmune Disease Series: Five Naturopathic Strategies for Hashimoto's Disease
Overview: Hashimoto's thyroiditis is an autoimmune disease against the cellular infrastructure of the thyroid, often causing a state of hypothyroidism (decreased thyroid function) and occasionally brief periods of hyperthyroidism (increased thyroid function.)
Goals of Naturopathic Strategies:
Use immunomodulatory interventions to decrease overall inflammation and restore "tolerance to self."
Heal the gut and reduce intestinal permeability to prevent the immune system from encountering foreign, immune stimulating proteins.
Support and modulate endocrine (hormone-producing) function including the hypothalamic-pituitary-thyroid (HPT) and hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis.
1. Find and remove triggers of autoimmunity & inflammation:
A pro-inflammatory diet that emphasizes grains (especially gluten), dairy, refined sugar, saturated animal fat, dairy, and lack of fruits and vegetables, lack of exercise, regular exposure to harmful and toxic substances like mold and harsh cleaners, excessive daily stress, chronic infections, presence of genetic SNPs affecting proper metabolism of nutrients and toxin clearance, sleep deprivation, poor sleep quality, hormone imbalances, lack of proper hydration, and more.
2. Heal the gut & promote intestinal cell wall integrity
Eliminate gluten! Studies have found a correlation between Hashimoto's disease and both Celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity. It is speculated that gliadin, a protein found in gluten, may cross react with antibodies to the thyroid, stimulating destruction of thyroid tissue. (1) (2) (3)
Eat an anti-inflammatory diet with emphasis on fruits, vegetables, and lean meats, healthy fat sources like coconut and olive oil, and reduction or elimination of grains, refined sugar, and dairy. Glutamine for enterocyte (gut cell) repair (4) and a quality probiotic to establish healthy gut flora (5) are also exceedingly beneficial for establishing normal intestinal integrity.
3. Omega-3 fatty acids
Omega 3 fatty acids from fish are called EPA & DHA, and these two powerful anti-inflammatory compounds have been shown to have an immunomodulatory effect on cell differentiation into T-regulatory cells rather than Th17 "attack" cells (6) (7), as well as reduce inflammatory cytokines (8).
4. Vitamin D
The positive effects of vitamin D on the immune system are well-established. Vitamin D influences immune cells to produce less pro-inflammatory cytokines like IL-1,6,8, 12, and more anti-inflammatory cytokines, like IL-10 (9). However, the presence of the "vitamin D receptor polymorphism," or genetic defect, makes it difficult for people with Hashimoto's disease to get enough vitamin D into their cells to work efficiently (10). Therefore, supplementing with doses far above the RDA is often essential.
5. Endocrine function optimization
Various "adaptogenic" herbs are beneficial for improving the communication of the HPA axis and endocrine system, improving energy, and reducing stress (11). In particular, ashwagandha, or Withania sominfera is an ayurvedic herb that has been shown to be beneficial in immunomodulation and various chronic conditions (12) It has also proven beneficial for anxiety (13), as well as exerting an anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective, and immunoprotective effects (14).
Wondering about doses? When it comes to supplementation in autoimmunity, frequency, duration, and amount is highly dependent upon the individual and their condition severity. For example, very sensitive individuals often have to start with a very low dose, however, RDA of certain vitamins and minerals can be considered "the bare minimum," as in the case of the RDA of vitamin D, 400 IU. Please consult with your doctor regarding a safe dose for you!
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