Autoimmune Thyroid Disorders
Updated: Jun 26, 2020
Our bodies are great at fighting off foreign invaders, but in select individuals, this immune response can malfunction. In other words, the body is fighting the body. This condition is called an autoimmune disorder. Some examples of autoimmune disorders are Hashimoto’s, lupus, Grave’s disease, type I diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis. When looking at the thyroid, we are mainly concerned with two autoimmune disorders: Hashimoto’s and Grave’s disease. In regards to thyroid autoimmune conditions, your “good” fighters in the body are attacking your thyroid, causing a whole slew of problems.
Hashimoto’s disease is an autoimmune disorder associated with hypothyroidism. Remember, this means your body produces small amounts of thyroid hormones. On the other hand, Grave’s disease is associated with hyperthyroidism, or when your body produces too much thyroid hormones.
Anytime a diagnosis of hyper or hypothyroidism is made, the patient should always be assessed for Hashimoto’s or Grave’s disease. If there is an autoimmune component with the thyroid disease, this will help with disease management.
Two major factors play a role in the development of an autoimmune disease: 1) genetics and/or 2) environmental. Possible environmental factors include: nutrient deficiencies, chemical exposure, infections, medications, or radiation, can all play a role in the development of an autoimmune disorder.
To assess for autoimmune disorders, doctors will order a test to assess the patient’s thyroid antibodies. If the results report high levels of thyroid antibodies, this could be a sign of a thyroid autoimmune condition. However, high thyroid antibody levels can also indicate another autoimmune condition not related to the thyroid. Due to this, the results of free T4, free T3, and TSH levels will help to determine which thyroid or autoimmune condition is present.
Autoimmune thyroid disease can be improved with medication, herbal therapies, dietary and lifestyle recommendations, and environmental counseling.
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Bennet, J. (n.d.). How do naturopathic doctors treat hypothyroidism? Institute for Natural Medicine. https://naturemed.org/faq/how-do-naturopathic-doctors-treat-hypothyroidism/.
Friedman, M. (1 Aug, 2013). Autoimmune thyroid disease: treating with nutrients and botanicals. Naturopathic Doctor News & Review.