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Living with Autoimmune Conditions: Hashimoto’s Disease

December 9, 2021
Written by
Team NutriSense
Reviewed by

Living with an autoimmune disease isn’t easy, but according to the National Institutes of Health, a significant amount of Americans live with one—up to 23.5 million, in fact. The same report also found that they disproportionately affect women and that (for unknown reasons) their prevalence is rising. So, before we dive in to tell you more about this specific one, let’s spend a little time on what autoimmune diseases are.

Simply put, these diseases occur when your immune system begins to attack the organs, tissues, and cells in your body. It can be because of genetics or other underlying causes. And while some of these, like Kawasaki disease, are pretty rare, others are more common. Type 1 diabetes, Graves’ disease, Rheumatoid arthritis, and Celiac disease are some you may recognize. 

Because autoimmune diseases affect everything from blood glucose levels and thyroid glands to insulin levels and obesity, it’s worth spending some time understanding the specifics of a few common autoimmune conditions. We’re going to start with one that affects thyroid function, called Hashimoto’s disease. 

What is Hashimoto’s Disease?

Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, or Hashimoto’s disease, is an autoimmune condition that affects your thyroid health. Just in case you don’t already know: your thyroid is a gland that’s part of your endocrine system. The endocrine system is made up of glands that control hormone function. 

Hashimoto’s disease is one of the most commonly diagnosed forms of hypothyroidism. When you have hypothyroidism, the secretion and production of thyroid hormones in your body begin to decrease. Your thyroid eventually begins to under-produce and release these thyroid hormones into your bloodstream. Essentially, if you have a form of hypothyroidism, you have an underactive thyroid. 

Hashimoto’s leads to white blood cells and antibodies attacking your thyroid and healthy tissues instead of defending them like it is supposed to. This causes inflammation in the thyroid. If left untreated, Hashimoto’s may damage your thyroid health enough for you to develop a more permanent form of hypothyroidism. Your thyroid then begins to cease producing enough thyroid hormones for your body to function, and you will need medication to make up for that lack.

Although endocrinology and functional medicine researchers are still studying the autoimmune condition, there’s currently no cure. So healthcare providers will usually focus on disease management here as they do for most thyroid disorders. In some (rare) cases, Hashimoto’s disease can also lead to hyperthyroidism, or an overactive thyroid. 

12 Common Symptoms of Hashimoto’s Disease

Hashimoto’s and hypothyroidism can cause many, many symptoms. Every case is different, which is why hypothyroidism is often misdiagnosed. One of the overarching issues of thyroid dysfunction is that it affects adrenal glands, causing everything from fatigue to brain fog and cravings. It can also increase cortisol levels in your blood. Here are some of the most common symptoms found in those suffering from Hashimoto’s disease:

  1. Inflammation or Goiter: One of the most telling symptoms of Hashimoto’s is a goiter. A goiter is basically an irregular swelling of your thyroid gland. This is at the front of your throat, just below the Adam’s apple.
  2. Fatigue: People who suffer from hypothyroidism or any thyroid problems that are left untreated are highly likely to feel fatigued even when they are getting a healthy amount of sleep. This can lead to oversleeping and difficulty waking up in the mornings. 
  3. Brain Fog: Brain fog is essentially a mental “fuzziness” that makes it difficult to concentrate or commit any information to memory. When you experience brain fog, you may not be able to think clearly or make decisions easily. 
  4. Constipation: Hashimoto’s can cause digestive issues and slow down the digestion of food moving through your intestines, causing constipation. 
  5. Weight Gain: Hypothyroidism causes your metabolism to slow down, resulting in weight gain if you don’t adjust your diet and exercise to make up for the lethargy your body feels, thanks to your thyroid condition. 
  6. Joint Pain: Joint pain caused by Hashimoto’s is most often found in the wrists and ankles. 
  7. Sensitivity to Cold: Feeling cold even on a relatively warm day? Because your metabolism is slowing down, Hashimoto’s can also cause sensitivity to cold. 
  8. Thinning Hair and Brittle Nails: Hypothyroidism may cause your hair to start thinning [all over your body] and make your nails brittle. 
  9. Mental Health Problems: This autoimmune thyroid disease causes dips in your hormone levels, which can often lead to depression, anxiety, sadness, and mood swings. 
  10. Bloating: Food moving more slowly through your stomach and intestinal tract can lead to bloating and discomfort in your stomach.
  11. Weakness: When thyroid hormone production dips, it can lead to muscle weakness and other aches and pains. This may lead to difficulty completing daily tasks.

How to Detect Hashimoto’s Disease

Hashimoto’s is one of the most common causes of hypothyroidism in the U.S. But, if you detect it early enough, you can prevent the development of symptoms that accompany the condition. If you think you may have Hashimoto’s symptoms, your next step is to consult with a healthcare professional and run some blood tests.

The blood tests that need to be run examine the TSH levels and your TPOab [or thyroid peroxidase antibodies] in your bloodstream. When Hashimoto’s begins to progress, the thyroid peroxidase antibodies are the ones that attack your thyroid gland. If the antibodies are found in your blood along with high TSH levels and low thyroid hormone levels, you likely have Hashimoto’s disease.

The leading causes of developing Hashimoto’s are pre-existing autoimmune disorders, including type 1 diabetes and Celiac disease. Some genes may also be risk factors for the autoimmune condition. 

Some Facts About Hashimoto’s Disease

Are there risk factors? Are some people more likely to develop this thyroid condition than others? Here’s what you need to know:

  1. Women are seven times more likely to develop Hashimoto’s than men. 
  2. Selenium has been linked to thyroid peroxidase antibody reduction. 
  3. Radiation exposure can make you more prone to developing Hashimoto’s disease.
  4. Hashimoto’s is most commonly diagnosed in middle-aged people but is found in people of all ages. 
  5. Hashimoto’s can be passed down hereditarily. You are more likely to develop the condition if it’s in your family and should notify your doctor if that is the case. 
  6. Undiagnosed Hashimoto’s disease has been linked to birth defects. Doctors have linked developmental problems to children born to undiagnosed mothers. If you’re pregnant or planning to become pregnant, it may be wise to check your levels if you have any symptoms that suggest thyroid dysfunction. 
  7. Too much iodine consumption may lead to developing Hashimoto’s.
  8.  Thyroid disorders like Hashimoto’s can increase your risk of developing other conditions like coronary heart disease

How to Treat Hashimoto’s Disease

There is no known cure for Hashimoto’s disease, but some treatments prevent worsening symptoms and treat current symptoms. Once a healthcare professional has reviewed your symptoms and bloodwork, they may prescribe a hormone replacement pill that must be taken daily on an empty stomach. There are different strengths of these medications, and what you’re prescribed will depend on your blood levels, age, the severity of Hashimoto’s, your weight, and other health conditions that you may have.

Even after you are diagnosed with this autoimmune condition and prescribed medication, you will need regular blood work. Monitoring your symptoms and visiting your doctor regularly to discuss your treatment is also a good idea, as you may have to change the dose of your hormone replacement several times throughout your life. Remember that it will take time for your body to readjust to having the right level of hormones to work with, and you will need to be patient as your symptoms begin to subside. 

Can Blood Sugar Affect Hashimoto’s Disease?

Blood sugar imbalances are associated with thyroid disorders, and chronically high blood sugar levels can lead to inflammation. Abnormal inflammatory responses have been associated with many autoimmune diseases.  Low blood sugar or hypoglycemia may also occur

Your diet is an excellent way to help regulate and manage the symptoms of Hashimoto’s. While everyone’s body is different and diets to treat Hashimoto’s can vary from person to person, some of these dietary changes can help improve your condition. 

  1. Talk to your doctor about reducing or removing gluten from your diet. Hashimoto’s disease has been linked to Celiac disease, so even if you don’t have Celiac disease, a gluten-free diet may help reduce symptoms in the digestive tract for some people. It may help boost metabolism for these people as well. 
  2. Avoid dairy products. Many people diagnosed with Hashimoto’s disease have also been diagnosed with lactose intolerance. Removing or reducing your intake of dairy products may help your symptoms if you have symptoms affecting your digestive system.
  3. Anti-inflammatory diets have been found to improve Hashimoto’s symptoms. 
  4. Reduce your carbohydrate consumption. Carbohydrates are what your body breaks down into sugar, and overconsumption can often cause high blood sugar levels and blood sugar spikes. Avoiding a primarily high-carb diet may reduce inflammation for some people.
  5. Use caution when consuming foods rich in iodine. Consuming too much iodine may make hypothyroid conditions worse.

Manage Blood Sugar Levels and Optimize Your Health with NutriSense 

Because blood sugar levels and diet have been found to help treat autoimmune conditions like Hashimoto’s, you may want to consider using a Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM) to collect data on your blood sugar levels. The programs from NutriSense provide you with CGM sensors as well as an innovative app that helps you track and monitor your blood sugar levels in real-time. 

You also have access to continued support from a team of licensed dietitians who will be able to help you interpret that data and make healthy changes to improve your blood sugar levels and optimize your health. Remember that it’s a good idea to continue working with your doctor while making healthy lifestyle adjustments when managing a condition like Hashimoto’s. 

Click here to listen to the podcast.
Listen to the full podcast:
Living with Autoimmune Conditions: Hashimoto’s Disease
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Low Glycemic Index Recipe Ideas Everyone Will Enjoy
Low Glycemic Index Recipe Ideas Everyone Will Enjoy

Whether you're looking for low GI summer snacks or healthy sweet treats, this post has got you covered. Here are tasty low glycemic index recipes everyone will enjoy!

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Do Grapes Raise Blood Sugar Levels?
Do Grapes Raise Blood Sugar Levels?

Wondering if grapes are safe for people with diabetes to include in their diet? Read on to find out.

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7
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The Relationship Between Cholesterol and Blood Sugar
The Relationship Between Cholesterol and Blood Sugar

Cholesterol plays a very important role in the human body, contributing to the structure of the cells, helping with vitamin D synthesis, and also promoting the production of steroid and sex hormones, like cortisol, aldosterone, testosterone, and estrogen. But how exactly is cholesterol connected to blood glucose levels?

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11
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20 Questions to Ask Your CGM Provider (with Kara Collier)
20 Questions to Ask Your CGM Provider (with Kara Collier)

We sat down with Kara Collier, our co-founder and VP of Health here at NutriSense, to take a closer look at how CGMs work and what you need to know about these devices before using one.

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7
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Are Carbs and Sugar the Same? 
Are Carbs and Sugar the Same? 

Are carbs and sugar the same? In this post, we break down the key differences between the two and share the benefits of complex carbohydrates.

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9
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Best Recovery Breakfasts to Beat Post-Workout DOMS
Best Recovery Breakfasts to Beat Post-Workout DOMS

Read on to learn more about DOMS, how long it can last, and then pick from our list of the best breakfasts to help beat that post-workout soreness, support muscle building, and encourage fat loss.

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13
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7 Plant-Derived Supplements to Help Lower Blood Sugar
7 Plant-Derived Supplements to Help Lower Blood Sugar

When it comes to lowering blood sugar levels, not all supplements are created equal. From ginseng to aloe vera, here are some of the best supplements to help avoid high blood sugar and encourage blood sugar control.

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8
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Is Bloating After Surgery Normal?
Is Bloating After Surgery Normal?

Bloating that results from a surgery can sometimes be an unexpected part of the recovery process. Is there anything you can do to reduce bloating or prevent it from happening? And what causes this bloating anyway? Read on to find the answer to these questions and much more to help you combat your post-surgery swelling. 

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9
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Is Fiber a Carb? 
Is Fiber a Carb? 

Learn why fiber is classified as a carb and how to increase your intake of this health promoting nutrient.

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9
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Living with Autoimmune Conditions: Parkinson’s Disease 
Living with Autoimmune Conditions: Parkinson’s Disease 

Did you know Parkinson’s disease is the second most common neurodegenerative disease? Read on to learn what it's like living with PD plus discover treatment options.

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10
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An Expert Breaks Down 11 Viral Health Trends
An Expert Breaks Down 11 Viral Health Trends

From rosemary water to dry scooping, should you be trying every new trend that hits TikTok? How can you tell which ones may help and which ones to steer clear of?

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8
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Does Eating Too Much Sugar Affect Your Skin?
Does Eating Too Much Sugar Affect Your Skin?

As great as sugar tastes, including too much of it in your diet can lead to certain health problems. Read on to learn more about the role sugar plays in keeping your skin healthy.

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14 Health and Nutrition Podcasts Recommended by Dietitians
14 Health and Nutrition Podcasts Recommended by Dietitians

Read on to see which podcasts our dietitians recommend if you’re interested in learning more about nutrition and health.

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Does Nicotine Affect Blood Glucose?
Does Nicotine Affect Blood Glucose?

Nicotine is a chemical in tobacco that can affect your health in various ways. Read our article to learn how it impacts blood sugar levels and insulin sensitivity.

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9
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Why Everyone, Including Healthy People Should Use CGMs
Why Everyone, Including Healthy People Should Use CGMs

CGMs are now an excellent tool for anyone who wants to optimize their metabolic health. Read on to find out more about the benefits CGMs can have for healthy people!

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10
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Why Do People Need to Lose Weight Before Bariatric Surgery?
Why Do People Need to Lose Weight Before Bariatric Surgery?

Although bariatric surgery can be an effective way to lose weight and improve health for people who are obese, it’s a major decision. Find out what lifestyle changes you need to make before going under the knife.

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NutriSense Dietitians Recommend: Favorite Grilling Recipes
NutriSense Dietitians Recommend: Favorite Grilling Recipes

Excited to fire up the grill this summer? Read on to learn if grilling is healthy for you plus check out the NutriSense Nutrition Team's favorite grilling recipes for the season.

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How a Healthy Gut Improves Blood Sugar
How a Healthy Gut Improves Blood Sugar

Did you know that your gut health can impact your blood glucose levels? Explore ways to improve your gut health for optimal glucose levels.

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Living With Autoimmune Conditions: Rheumatoid Arthritis
Living With Autoimmune Conditions: Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory autoimmune disease that can cause swelling and joint pain. Learn more about how it develops and how other health conditions affect its onset.

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10
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13 Best Weight Loss Apps to Consider
13 Best Weight Loss Apps to Consider

We’ve hand-picked the best weight loss apps available. Here are the thirteen best weight loss apps.

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8
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What is Red Light Therapy?
What is Red Light Therapy?

An emerging treatment, red light therapy promises to prevent and treat the signs of aging and other skin issues. Read on to find out more.

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9
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Diets People are Most Likely to Give Up On [+Tips to Stick with Them]
Diets People are Most Likely to Give Up On [+Tips to Stick with Them]

Struggling to stick with a health-promoting diet? Here’s how to make it enjoyable so you can reap the benefits.

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Kara Collier on Optimal Health Through Blood Sugar Regulation
Kara Collier on Optimal Health Through Blood Sugar Regulation

VP of Health and co-founder of NutriSense Kara Collier discusses reaching optimal health through blood sugar regulation, what a continuous glucose monitor is, and who might benefit from using it.

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16
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How to Turn Your Idea into a 120 Person Team with Dan Zavorotny
How to Turn Your Idea into a 120 Person Team with Dan Zavorotny

In this episode of Zero to CEO, Jason Sherman talks to Dan Zavorotny about how to turn your idea into a 120 person team in 2.5 years.

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A Breakdown of Body Mass Index (BMI)
A Breakdown of Body Mass Index (BMI)

Body mass index is a term you may have seen tossed around quite a bit in the health world. You may know that it’s a way to measure body fat, but with so many new tests for measuring overall fitness and health, is BMI still reliable?

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Glucose-Friendly Recipes to Enjoy This Memorial Day
Glucose-Friendly Recipes to Enjoy This Memorial Day

If you're watching your glucose levels, traditional BBQ staples may not be the best choice. Here are some recipes that will help you enjoy a Memorial Day meal without a blood sugar spike.

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Taking Mental Health Online: Tips & Tools for Self-Care
Taking Mental Health Online: Tips & Tools for Self-Care

Mental health has a significant impact on your overall health; here are tips, tools, and apps to improve your mental wellbeing.

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8
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Can You Check Your Blood Sugar at Home Without a Meter
Can You Check Your Blood Sugar at Home Without a Meter

Living with diabetes can be a challenge, especially when it comes to keeping your blood sugar levels regulated. Learn if you can check your blood sugar at home without a meter.

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NutriSense Dietitians Recommend: Best Sunscreen for all Skin Types
NutriSense Dietitians Recommend: Best Sunscreen for all Skin Types

With summer right around the corner, it’s time to make sure you have the tools you need to protect yourself from sunburn and sun damage. But how do you choose the right one for adequate sun protection?

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8
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Japanese Water Therapy & Weight Loss: What’s the Deal? 
Japanese Water Therapy & Weight Loss: What’s the Deal? 

Learn how Japanese water therapy can help with weight loss, energy levels, and detoxification.