Contributed by-Dr. Snehal Singh
If you experience constant exhaustion, painful goiters, unexplained weight gain, depression, joint pains, brittle hair, you might be a victim of autoimmune thyroiditis.
A lesser known thyroid disorder, also known as Hashimoto’s disease, is the most common cause of hypothyroidism. An autoimmune disorder is a condition in which the immune system mistakes the healthy cells of the body as outsiders and attacks to destroy such cells. It is a condition which hampers the body’s ability to distinguish between it’s own cells and foreign invaders.
It is only natural to be confused and ponder over questions like:
- What is autoimmune thyroiditis?
- What are the causes of Hashimoto’s disease?
- What can be done to avoid this condition?
Let us discuss in detail about the autoimmune thyroiditis and all the questions related with it.
What causes autoimmune thyroid disease?
Thyroid is a butterfly shaped gland which has the massive responsibility of producing, storing and maintaining the balance of hormones in the body. Autoimmune thyroiditis is a condition that affects the thyroid gland causing altered levels of thyroid hormones. It is an autoimmune disorder where the immune system starts attacking the thyroid glands and causes hormonal imbalance in the body.
Autoimmune thyroiditis is an autoimmune condition in which your immune system launches an attack on the thyroid glands resulting in thyroiditis (inflammation of the thyroid glands). Commonly known as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, such attack on the thyroid glands destroys the normal thyroid cells and results in reduced functioning and lesser production of thyroid hormones. While the exact causes are not known, some genetic influences and environmental causes are often noted.
Does autoimmune thyroiditis increase the risk of other autoimmune disorders?
In autoimmune disorders, the body’s defence system recognises normal cells as a threat and hence attacks to destroy them. It can affect the glands, nerves, skin, tissues or organs as well. Some autoimmune disorders are rare, while others can occur simultaneously and affect various organs. While, generally people with an autoimmune disorder can be at slightly greater risk of having other autoimmune disorders, most people with autoimmune thyroiditis will have only thyroiditis and it can lead to hypothyroidism.
What are the symptoms of autoimmune thyroiditis?
Thyroid regulates metabolism, body temperature and growth. Decreased thyroid levels can cause disturbances in the normal functioning of the body and disturb the hormonal balance as well. The symptoms of Hashimoto’s disease might be dormant initially or take years to develop. Some of the most common signs include:
- Enlarged thyroid called goiter
- Weight gain
- Dry skin
- Hair loss
- Muscle pains
- Swelling and stiffness in joints
- Increased sensitivity to cold
What triggers autoimmune thyroiditis?
Some of the factors that often act as triggers in autoimmune thyroiditis include,
- Infections – Infections can trigger an immune attack and worsen thyroiditis. Prevent infections and take timely treatment to avoid complications. Digestive problems too can trigger such condition
- Stress – Excessive stress that causes release of stress hormones is linked to worsening of many autoimmune disorders. Hence it is important to manage stress and find out ways to stay calm and relaxed
- Artificial sweeteners – While artificial sweeteners are popularly used in many food preparations, their use can trigger autoimmune thyroiditis in some people
- Food additives – Food additives and preservatives too can increase the risk of worsening autoimmune thyroiditis
How is autoimmune thyroiditis diagnosed?
Autoimmune thyroiditis has symptoms similar to hypothyroidism which should be taken seriously and proper medical consultation is necessary. Proper diagnosis includes clinical examination and patient’s health history. Autoimmune thyroiditis diagnosis largely depends on the blood tests that check the thyroid levels. The important tests include:
- TSH – TSH is thyroid stimulating hormone released by pituitary gland. When thyroid hormone production reduces, TSH level increases to make up for the deficit.
- Thyroid hormones test – T3 and T4 are thyroid hormones, which may be low, suggesting that thyroid gland is not producing enough hormones.
- Anti-thyroid antibodies tests – These tests determine the presence of antibodies, which is usually seen in autoimmune disorders.
Autoimmune thyroiditis can be managed with appropriate treatment, regular monitoring and lifestyle modifications. Get yourself tested for thyroid problems and autoimmune thyroiditis with these tests incase of doubt.
Is there any treatment for autoimmune thyroiditis?
Autoimmune thyroiditis treatment depends on the stage of the disease and might include proper medications as per the condition. Synthetic thyroid hormones are often given as replacement to manage thyroid hormone deficiency in the body. The dosage is adjusted as per requirement, taking into account the overall health status. Symptomatic treatment may be given as well in appropriate situations. With treatment to manage thyroiditis the levels of thyroid hormones can be maintained, which then brings relief in symptoms. But it is always wise not to depend on the medication entirely. Dietary and lifestyle changes are also required to support the medication.
Does diet help in autoimmune thyroiditis?
Yes, diet plays an essential role in the treatment of Hashimoto’s disease. The recommended diet for autoimmune thyroiditis should mainly focus on thyroid friendly foods and healthy food options. Avoiding certain foods are as important as eating healthy. Certain foods can worsen the condition and add to the suffering, thus it is important to plan and avoid harmful foods.
Foods to avoid:
The main foods that are capable of worsening thyroid problems are best avoided. Include the below mentioned steps to control your thyroid problems:
- It is better to avoid vegetables like cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, particularly in raw form
- Avoid gluten rich products made from wheat, barley and rye
- Avoid any food that can worsen your symptoms like processed foods and follow a healthy diet plan
- Excess iodine in diet is also related to increased occurrence of the condition, so control salt intake
Foods to have:
It is good to have foods that soothe your gut and do not cause inflammation. The best foods to include in your daily diet are:
- Fresh fruits
- Fresh veggies
- Nuts and seeds
- Fatty fish
- Probiotics like yogurt
- Green tea
Proper understanding of autoimmune thyroiditis helps in managing and monitoring the condition better. Also, screening with thyroid profile tests can give an idea of any possible thyroid problems. Early detection and timely treatment for autoimmune thyroiditis can help protect your health.