Hypothyroidism and Hashimotos – What’s The Difference?
- Weight gain or difficulty losing weight
- Fatigue, even after sleeping for 10 hours
- Cold intolerance
- Dry skin, dry hair and hair loss
- Constipation and loss of appetite
- Reproductive health complaints, in some cases infertility
- Muscle and joint pain
- Poor memory, brain fog
Hypothyroidism is classically diagnosed via:
- High TSH blood test
- Low Free T4 and/or Free T3 levels
In subclinical cases, the blood test results can still be within reference range however if signs and symptoms are indicating hypothyroidism then monitoring via blood tests every 6 weeks is prudent to account for hormonal fluctuations.
Hashimoto’s is essentially diagnosed via:
- Positive thyroid antibodies (anti-TPO and anti-TG) blood test
- Thyroid ultrasound which would show inflammation of the thyroid gland (thyroiditis)
It is much more common for a person to have Hashimoto’s than it is to simply be Hypothyroidism. About 10-15% of patients with Hashimoto’s can have a false negative blood test result which does not show the presence of thyroid antibodies. The level of antibodies when positive range greatly from person to person.
Essentially an autoimmune condition, Hashimoto’s develops due to the antibodies attacking thyroid tissue and the hormone activity in the body (similarly to Grave’s disease where this causes overactivity instead).
Many patients actually don’t know that they have Hashimotos if this blood test has never been performed. In some cases, despite being on medication for Hypothyroidism the diagnosis is simply called Hypothyroid when it should be called Hashimoto’s. The key here is early detection as once the antibodies attack thyroid tissue damage occurs slowly and cannot be reversed. High-risk categories for developing Hashimoto’s include around peri-menopause, postpartum, post-viral or when there is family history.
How can Naturopathy help with Hypothyroidism and Hashimotos?
Treatment goals are aimed at improving thyroid function and supporting body systems also affected by the condition by:
- Targeting the key drivers behind autoimmunity
- Correcting nutrient deficiencies, primarily those responsible for hormone production, conversion and distribution into all cells of the body
- Address secondary conditions where issues have been identified e.g. heavy metals, digestive issues, infertility
What can a Naturopath do for a patient suffering from Hypothyroidism and Hashimotos?
Thyroid function is quite demanding on a range of nutrients, so often getting the balance right using a therapeutic dose of the vitamins and minerals the body is lacking can make all the difference.
Herbal medicines have a range of therapeutic applications and there are certain herbs which directly support thyroid health and many others which add to the potency of treatment.
Patients who are already on prescribed medication for Hypothyroidism and Hashimotos respond well to natural treatment as the pharmaceutical medication tends to focus on taking over the role of the thyroid, so natural options help to restore function to the thyroid gland and address the ongoing symptoms which may not improve with conventional treatment.
Diagnosed Hypothyroidism and Hashimotos patients often ask if they can come off their thyroid medication when they start natural treatments. The simple answer to this question is No. It is the duty of the prescribing practitioner to give advice about your medication and recognise and decide when it is appropriate to make adjustments to the prescription.
The role of Naturopathy is not always to provide an alternative but rather support and integrate their treatments alongside the medical attention their patients require.