Hashimoto’s Auto Immune Thyroiditis
Hashimoto’s is an auto-immune condition. Where your body sees thyroid as “foreign” or “not self.” This stimulates production of antibodies against to your own thyroid. There are a host of auto immune conditions including Sjogren’s (Sicca Syndrome). Lupus, Scleroderma, CREST Syndrome and Rheumatoid Arthritis.
[Important note: It is vital to recognize that the TSH test is being used as a screening test. See previous blog. It will not diagnose Hashimoto’s. It will totally miss this condition for years.]
We measure two antibodies. Anti-thyroglobulin (matrix of the thyroid gland) and TPO (thyroid peroxidase). TPO is essential to the conversion of T4 to T3. Either of these can rise with Hashimoto’s. It is more common to see a rise in the TPO. This condition usually results in Hypothyroidism (under active thyroid) by interfering with the normal conversions. The normal flow is T4 converts to the active form T3. The more technical term is Hashimoto’s Autoimmune Thyroiditis. It can occasionally result in the opposite. That is, hyperthyroidism (over active thyroid) during a more acute or sub acute inflammatory phase. Thyroiditis means inflammation of the thyroid.
What causes Hashimoto’s? This is not really well known. There are various theories. You will read that there are genetic factors. And, it is far more common in women than men. It is quite unusual in men.
Speculative (unproven) theories
- Halides (group VIIa of the periodic chart) — bromine, fluorine, and Iodine. Iodine is the key constituent of thyroid. T4 (tetra-iodo-thyronine) has 4 iodine molecules. T3 (tri-iodo-thyronine) has 3 iodines. Bromide, Fluoride and Choline (all halides) might interfere with the actions of iodine. Bromide is found in bread, Fluoride is found in drinking water and toothpaste. Chorine and chloride are ubiquitous.
- Gluten sensitivity. This is empirically quite real. Every patient treated with a gluten free diet will experience a fall in antibodies levels. We theorize that gluten adheres to the gut enteric wall. This induces an auto immune response. The thyroid is a key target of all auto immune responses.
- Post-partum transfer of fetal blood during delivery. This was a common theory. Tiny amounts of blood from fetal circulation induce an auto-immune response. This does not explain why men develop Hashimoto’s
- Could estrogen play a role? It is far more common in women than men.
Treatment of Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis
The goal is “put the thyroid at rest.” A gluten free diet is essential And then aggressive thyroid suppression. Let’s define basic therapeutic forms:
Pure T4 (none of these are identical):
- levo-Thyroxine (generic)
- Liothyronine (Cytomel) — a synthetic
Mixed T3 and T4 (usually desiccated):
- Desiccated Thyroid (Avicel)
- Armour Thyroid
Antibody formation can be reduced by suppressing the TSH. This is done by increasing T4 and T3. That down-regulates the auto immune response. We can treat with a pure T4. Occasionally, treat with a combination T3/T4. Or a pure T3 (compounded tri-iodo-l-thyronine) . See previous blog discussion. This is based on absolute T3 values and the ratio of T3/T4. We reject by rigid orthodoxy or dogmatic thinking. Treating you, the patient, based on your own situation.
A New Novel Treatment – LDN
More recently, another more novel approach has proven successful. Low dose Naltrexone (LDN). At high doses, Naltrexone is an opioid and endorphin inhibitor. It reverses opioid over-doses. But at very low doses it has the opposite effect. It has a transient blocking effect. That causes a physiologic counter-reaction. So it increases endorphins (the feel good hormone neuro-transmitter). There seems to be a connection with increased endorphins and mitigation of auto-immune conditions. Hashimoto’s and Crohn’s are the most significant targets. Now here is some additional reading — The LDN Book.
How Does Reverse T3 Cause Hypothyroidism?
Reverse T3 is over expressed by stress or internal imbalances (selenium deficiency). The RT3 is a mirror image of T3. It can interfere (compete) with the physiologic action of T3. This can cause hypothyroidism even if the T3 appears to be normal.
Through empirical observation, we have found that treating abnormal RT3 with a pure T4 will only worsen the condition. It will increase the production of more RT3. So a pure T3 is a better and more rational approach. It by-passes this pathological conversion state.
This is another instance where a simple TSH screening is inadequate. It will fail to diagnose this condition. Therefore, we repeat again. Ask for a complete and comprehensive thyroid lab survey. What does that include? You want a free T4, free T3, thyroid antibodies and reverse T3. This concludes part 3 of our thyroid series.