What You Need to Know About Hashimoto’s Disease
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Do you suffer from constant fatigue, weight gain, or feeling cold when others do not? Do you feel puffy, or constipated all of the time? If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you may be suffering from Hashimoto’s disease.
Hashimoto’s disease, or Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is an autoimmune disease that attacks your thyroid, a small gland located at the base of the neck. According to the Mayo Clinic, Hashimoto’s disease is the most common cause of hypothyroidism, which is an underactive thyroid. The thyroid gland is a part of the endocrine system, and is responsible for producing hormones that control various activities in the body including metabolism, heart rate, and organ function. Therefore a damaged thyroid could slow down your metabolism, leading to fatigue and weight gain, and various other symptoms.
Symptoms and causes of Hashimoto’s disease
One of the first signs of Hashimoto’s disease is an enlarged thyroid gland called a goiter. A goiter may make it difficult to swallow, and cause your neck to look swollen. However it is rare for goiters to cause any pain. As previously mentioned, symptoms of an underactive thyroid include weight gain, abnormal fatigue, constipation, decreased heart rate, and feeling cold when others do not. Women may also experience heavier menstrual periods, and have difficulties getting pregnant.
While medical professionals are unsure on the exact cause of Hashimoto’s disease, studies have shown that it is more common among women than men. Individuals with a family history or have other autoimmune disorders have a higher risk of developing this disease. Women who recently had a baby may also develop postpartum thyroiditis, however these issues typically end 12 to 18 months after symptoms start.
How is Hashimoto’s disease treated?
While diagnosis of Hashimoto’s disease can be completed through a simple blood test from your doctor, treatment of this autoimmune disease is a little bit more complicated. The type and intensity of treatment depends on if your thyroid gland is damaged enough to cause hypothyroidism. If you have hypothyroidism, replacing the hormone levothyroxine, which is the hormone produced by the thyroid gland will be a daily treatment. Hypothyroidism can typically be managed through thyroid hormone medication and routine checkups to test your thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH).
Even though treatment is started, it may take several months for symptoms to entirely subside because thyroid hormones act very slowly in the body. If you are pregnant, have heart disease, or take menopausal hormone therapy, your TSH levels may change and medication may need to be adjusted. It is also important to remember that symptoms only subside if medication is taken accurately and consistently.
Your thyroid isn’t always to blame
Though hypothyroidism is associated with fatigue and weight gain, the relationship between the metabolism and the thyroid is a very complicated one. There are a lot of other factors including hormones, environment, sleep, and proteins that are additional pieces to the puzzle. According to the American Thyroid Association, weight gain that is experienced from hypothyroidism is usually only seen in severe cases and is a result of water and salt retention. Generally, about 5-10 pounds can be attributed to a damaged thyroid.
When you have Hashimoto’s disease it may be difficult for your body to feel whole and balanced. Hormone replacement therapy is essential for individuals with hypothyroidism, however there are additional lifestyle changes that can make a tremendous difference in your health. If you need help making these lifestyle changes and finding balance, consider consulting with a doctor of natural medicine who can help assess your needs.