Hashimoto is an autoimmune condition where the immune system mistakenly attacks the thyroid gland. Under normal circumstances, the immune system develops antibodies against harmful bacteria or viruses to provide beneficial protection for the body. In autoimmune conditions such as Hashimoto, the immune system develops antibodies against the body’s own cells, which leads to inappropriate attacks on normal body tissues. Thyroid antibodies in Hashimoto include those produced against thyroid peroxidase (anti-TPO) or thyroglobulin (anti-TG), which both compromise thyroid hormone production. When thyroid hormone levels decline, the body enters a state of hypothyroidism, which can lead to symptoms such as include fatigue, weight gain, dry skin, cold intolerance, constipation, hair loss, menstrual irregularities, and joint pain. Hashimoto is the most common cause of hypothyroidism in the U.S.
Initial treatment involves thyroid hormone replacement to compensate for declining thyroid hormone production by the thyroid gland. While thyroid hormone medications work well to restore healthy thyroid hormone levels in the body, there are additional methods of supporting the thyroid gland and addressing the underlying autoimmune process.
The thyroid gland contains more selenium content per tissue weight than any other organ in the body. Selenium is required for thyroid hormone production and acts as a powerful antioxidant. Studies have shown that selenium reduces TPO antibodies. Brazil nuts are an excellent source of selenium.
Vitamin D has immune-modulating activity, and deficiency is associated with autoimmune conditions including Hashimoto. Vitamin D supplementation has been shown to decrease TPO antibodies in Vitamin D deficient populations. Vitamin D is fat-soluble and stored in the body, so it’s important to have personal levels tested in order to determine safe and effective dosing.
The most influential dietary change in addressing Hashimoto is gluten avoidance. Gluten is pro-inflammatory and avoiding it can lead to decreased activity of inflammatory cells. A gluten-free diet has been shown to reduce TPO antibodies and increase Vitamin D levels. There are further beneficial dietary regimens in addition to gluten avoidance that can assist in reducing inflammation and supporting healthy immune function that should be explored on an individual basis.