Why You Should Get Tested for Hashimoto's if You Have Hypothyroidism
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If you’ve been diagnosed with hypothyroidism, you may be taking your prescribed thyroid replacement medication, monitoring your TSH levels with your doctor’s help, and going about your life. But there’s a critical piece of information about your health that you may be missing. Even your doctor may not be aware of how important this is.
Too many of us have gone years, unaware of this knowledge as our health gradually declined. Are you ready to know what it is?
In the United States, up to 95% of people with hypothyroidism have an autoimmune disease called Hashimoto’s.
That means that if you've been diagnosed with hypothyroidism and you live in the U.S., it’s almost certain that you also have Hashimoto’s. Let’s take a look at what that means for your health.
Hypothyroidism vs Hashimoto’s: What’s the Difference?
Hypothyroidism is the condition of having an underactive thyroid. Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis is an autoimmune thyroid disease and the leading cause of hypothyroidism in the United States and other developed countries. Hashimoto’s is most commonly associated with hypothyroidism, but can also cause the body to yo-yo between hypo and hyperthyroid conditions.
With Hashimoto’s, the body’s immune system attacks and destroys its own thyroid tissue. Over time, Hashimoto’s can lead to the destruction of the thyroid gland, the formation of thyroid nodules, thyroid cancer, and a host of other health issues.
With Hashimoto’s, you are also at an increased risk of other autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, Crohn’s, or ulcerative colitis. Your doctor might not tell you any of this, or even test you for Hashimoto’s because it doesn’t change the standard treatment protocol of synthetic thyroid hormone and monitoring TSH only.
You may be thinking, "I don't have that. Surely, my doctor would have tested me for Hashimoto's if they suspected I have it!"
I once believed that too. But as patients in the conventional medical system, that's often not the case. We can request the antibodies tests to diagnose Hashimoto's, and some doctors refuse to run them. If this happens to you, we encourage you to either find a doctor who will order the tests for you, order the tests yourself, or explore at-home thyroid test kits which can provide these answers.
Other Causes of Hypothyroidism
There are other causes of hypothyroidism besides Hashimoto’s, like iodine imbalance, surgery, or radiation. Knowing the root cause is crucial. In the words of our resident thyroid expert, Mary Shomon, “Understanding the ‘why’ behind a diagnosis of hypothyroidism is critical to moving forward with a treatment plan.”
Why Your Hashimoto's Diagnosis Matters
Even though it sounds scary, knowing that you have an autoimmune disease opens up a world of powerful information that can make all the difference to your health. One of the key facts to know about autoimmune disease, according to Terry Wahls M.D., is that "Autoimmunity has a significant diet and lifestyle component, with a significant portion of your risk coming from how you live, what you eat, and your environment.”
Dr. Wahls recommends a nutrient-dense diet, reducing toxic exposure, staying active, managing stress, and finding community support as some of the most potent preventatives you can adopt. These are the principles she’s used to beat progressive multiple sclerosis, another autoimmune disease.
These are the same principles I and so many other Thyroid Thrivers use to stay on the sunny side of health street. These diet and lifestyle changes are not only empowering, but they can help us reduce symptoms, feel our best, and safeguard our quality of life.
My Hashimoto's Diagnosis Story
I went four years from my original diagnosis of hypothyroidism hearing that word — Hashimoto’s — and thinking, I don’t have that. I just have hypothyroidism.
During that time, my health steadily declined. I was tired every day from the moment I woke up. I was battling multiple infections, sick for months at a time and on round after round of antibiotics. I also dealt with hair loss, weight gain, joint pain, chronic hoarseness, and a serious case of the blahs. My work as a chef, food writer, and cooking instructor was becoming noticeably compromised.
I also began noticing correlations between my diet and my well-being, even though my doctor assured me that diet wouldn’t make a difference for my thyroid condition. I was also raising my baby boy, struggling to be the mother he deserved.
Because I was feeling worse, I started to educate myself, and that’s when I learned that I needed a full panel of thyroid tests, including testing for Hashimoto’s.
A complete thyroid panel includes:
- Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH)
- Free Thyroxine (Free T4)
- Free Triiodothyronine (Free T3)
- Thyroid Peroxidase (TPO) Antibodies
(Note: Some practitioners also recommend Reverse T3 and TG antibodies, but for purposes of simplicity we'll keep it to the essentials.)
The first 3 tests would tell me if I was on the right amount of thyroid medication, and if that medication was being well-utilized by my body. The TPO antibodies test, if elevated above 35 IU/mL, would indicate positive thyroid antibodies, or in other words, Hashimoto's.
I called my doctor’s office to request the tests, and thankfully, they agreed.
“This is like déjà vu,” the nurse said as I rattled off the list of tests. “I just did all this for someone else.”
A week later she called with the results, informing me that my antibodies were elevated.
“So, I have Hashimoto’s?” I asked.
“Yes,” she said. “It's just as the doctor expected. Just continue taking your levothyroxine.”
Even though the doctor suspected I had Hashimoto’s, she hadn’t tested me, because it made no difference to her recommended treatment: levothyroxine and TSH testing only.
Although a Hashimoto’s diagnosis may not have changed my doctor's treatment plan, it certainly changed mine.
Knowing I had Hashimoto’s was a key to a whole new world of options to improve my health, and I pursued them! The first thing I did was find a new doctor, and then change my diet and lifestyle. I chose to work with a naturopath who helped uncover and address underlying issues, like imbalances in my intestinal bacteria (gut dysbiosis) and nutrient imbalances.
Today, I have lowered my thyroid antibodies by more than half, and they continue to go down. After years of feeling tired all day, every day, I now feel better and have my life and vitality back, thanks to getting my antibodies in check. According to thyroid health experts like Dr. Izabella Wentz, it also means that I may have lowered my risk for additional autoimmune conditions.
Your Next Steps
If you’ve been diagnosed with hypothyroidism, be sure to request that your doctor also test you for thyroid antibodies:
- Thyroid Peroxidase Antibodies (TPOAb)
You can request them as part of a full thyroid panel which also includes:
- free T3
- free T4
- And sometimes: TgAB and Reverse T3
If your doctor refuses to test you for Hashimoto's, consider finding a new doctor, or ordering the tests yourself through a company like Paloma Health. Their Complete At-home Thyroid Test Kit Includes all of these tests.
Get 30% OFF Paloma's Complete At-Home Thyroid Test Kit with the code: HYPOTHYROIDCHEF.
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