Can you Heal Hashimoto’s?

This article is the third in a series of three articles all about Hashimoto’s disease and will cover how Naturopathic treatment can help alleviate symptoms, improve thyroid function, and over time reduce autoimmunity to heal Hashimoto’s. If you haven’t read the first two articles yet, check out What is Hashimoto’s? (And how to find out if you have it) and What Causes Hashimoto’s?

My personal Hashimoto’s history

I am careful to only share my personal experience with patients when I know it can be helpful (or entertaining!). I am a firm believer that:

  1. What works for someone else is not a reliable guide to what will work for YOU. There is no “one-size-fits-all” solution because every person’s health issues do not arise from one singular identical cause.
  2. My patients’ time should be spent focused on their needs and discovering what is best for them. I never want to shift attention away by sharing information about my own specific situation which is likely quite different.

However, my professional interest and experience has grown out of my personal experience since I developed Hashimoto’s 10+ years ago. I have since spent a great deal of time, energy, and money learning how to treat myself and my patients most effectively. So, I want to save you stress, time, and money by sharing what I have learned!

How I developed Hashimoto’s

Line of dominos beginning to fall

In 2005 I got very sick with what I thought was the flu. It started with a huge enlarged and tender lymph node on the back of my neck. Then I got sicker than I had ever been in my life! So sick I could barely lift the phone to call my boss to tell her I was sick! After recovering enough to return to work, I was still fatigued for weeks. Maybe it was just the flu after all, but I suspect that could have been Epstein-Barr virus (aka mono), which can be a trigger for Hashimoto’s.

In 2007 I travelled to India and ate bread every day at every meal for a whole month! After mostly avoiding gluten for the previous few years (I felt much better not eating it!), this was a major change in my diet. I now know based on testing that I am sensitive to gluten. If I didn’t already have intestinal permeability when I went on that trip, I certainly did after eating so much gluten!

During that month I also lost a bunch of weight unintentionally and in the week before I came home I got sick with what I think was “walking pneumonia,” a less severe type of pneumonia often caused by Mycoplasma pneumonia, another possible trigger for Hashimoto’s!

I probably had other triggers in my history too: poor diet, less-than-optimal liver detoxification, estrogen dominance, chronic stress, and countless other minor health issues that had already led me to start working on my health and go back to school to become a Naturopathic Doctor.

In late 2007 or early 2008 I had a regular checkup with my medical doctor. That was the first time my TSH was abnormal (but my thyroid hormones were normal and I did not have thyroid antibodies, yet).

It was the very early stages of Hashimoto’s. If I had known then what I know now, I would have been more aggressive in addressing it and may have better protected my thyroid!

At the time I was still a Naturopathic student, so I started studying Hashimoto’s on my own free time, consulted with my medical doctor, and sought Naturopathic treatment. In those first few years I made some changes that helped a lot (going gluten-free, reducing stress, some supplements, etc) but I also got bad advice at times, including from medical professionals who should have had better knowledge than I about Hashimoto’s and thyroid health.

Why I’m passionate about treating Hashimoto’s

"It's not my work, it's my passion"

I can personally attest that much of the thyroid information on the internet and from some health care professionals is at best useless, and at worst harmful.

Over the past 10 years I have learned a great deal more about how to heal Hashimoto’s. And I have worked on improving my own health as well as working with patients in practice on a huge variety of health issues, including Hashimoto’s. So what are the most important things I’ve learned?

1. Every Hashimoto’s case is unique

Each patient has a different health history and specific factors that have lead to a diagnosis of Hashimoto’s. Looking at your individual story is key to understanding your unique case and treating appropriately.

2. Hashimoto’s is a whole-body disease

Hashimoto’s is NOT a disease specific to the thyroid gland, it is a malfunction of the immune system that happens to target thyroid cells. It cannot be effectively treated by focusing on the thyroid gland alone.

3. Hashimoto’s has no quick fix

Autoimmune disease is not easy to treat. Developing autoimmunity is usually not simple and straightforward. Most chronic diseases, including autoimmunity, arise over a long period of time from several factors. Some of those factors may be the way you have always lived your life day to day. This can be difficult to change quickly!

4. But, you CAN heal Hashimoto’s

When you engage in the right treatment for you step-by-step, autoimmunity CAN be reduced, the thyroid gland CAN heal to some degree, and you CAN change important lifestyle factors to improve your health.

How I treat Hashimoto’s: The Hashimoto’s Protocol

Text "Where Do I Start" with hand drawing a question mark next to it

After studying Hashimoto’s for the past 10 years, the way I currently treat Hashimoto’s in my practice is based on protocols from the book Hashimoto’s Protocol by Dr. Isabella Wentz, PharmD. I’ve taken the information from that book and created clear, organized, and easy to follow treatment plans with adjustments and updates based on current research, my clinical experience in practice, and the needs of individual patients.

Dr. Wentz is a major leader in compiling and summarizing the huge volume of data about Hashimoto’s and creating a usable structure to approach assessment and treatment. Her approach is the only framework I’ve encountered that both addresses health needs common to all patients with Hashimoto’s AND accounts for the wide variety of presentations of Hashimoto’s to develop a treatment plan tailored to each patient.

Through what I’ve learned about my personal triggers and how to heal Hashimoto’s from Dr. Wentz’s work I’ve personally been able to reduce my thyroid antibodies significantly and improve my thyroid function.

Before treatment:

Smiling female doctor writing notes on a clipboard

Before we begin the Hashimoto’s Protocol, we review your health information in detail:

  • Health history
  • Current symptoms, medications, and supplements
  • Recent comprehensive thyroid testing (see my article What is Hashimoto’s (and how to find out if you have it) for details on which labs I like to see)
  • Other testing to rule in or out common nutrient deficiencies: CBC, Ferritin, Vitamin B12, Vitamin D

If you do not have recent thyroid testing, I can order it for you so we have a baseline evaluation of thyroid function and confirm that you do have Hashimoto’s disease. If you are taking thyroid medication, I will review with you the optimal way to take your medication.

Step 1: Liver Support Protocol

Photo of a green drink with wheatgrass lying next to it

Usually in the same visit during which we complete the above intake, I will start you on the first step in the Hashimoto’s Protocol, the Liver Support Protocol.

Liver support is the best place to start when treating Hashimoto’s because it begins to gently reduce your toxic burden and supports your body’s own detox pathways. Starting this way reduces reactions to medications, supplements, and foods, which are a problem for most patients with Hashimoto’s. This protocol can also improve the conversion of T4 to T3 (for more about thyroid hormones, see my article What is Hashimoto’s (and how to find out if you have it).

This protocol usually lasts about 2-3 weeks but may take a bit longer depending on your case. During this protocol, you will:

  • Remove triggering foods and add supportive foods
  • Reduce your toxic exposures
  • Add supplements and herbs to support liver detoxification and thyroid function

Step 2: Adrenal Recovery Protocol

Compass showing "relax" and "stress" in place of north and south

Once you have completed the Liver Support Protocol, the second step in the Hashimoto’s Protocol is the Adrenal Recovery Protocol.

As discussed in my article What Causes Hashimoto’s?, chronic stress and adrenal dysfunction are an important contributor when someone develops Hashimoto’s. All patients can benefit from this protocol which helps to shift the body into healing mode, reduce inflammation, balance blood sugar, and replenish nutrients.

This protocol usually lasts about 4 weeks but may take as long as 8 weeks depending on your case. During this protocol, you will:

  • Remove inflammatory foods and increase proteins and fats in your diet
  • Increase sleep and reduce daily stress
  • Add supplements and herbs to support adrenal function and replenish key nutrients depleted by chronic stress

Step 3: Gut Healing Protocol

Photo of woman's hands over her stomach in the shape of a heart

The third step in the Hashimoto’s Protocol is the Gut Healing Protocol.

As discussed in my article What Causes Hashimoto’s?, intestinal permeability is a required condition to develop an autoimmune disease such as Hashimoto’s, so gut health must be addressed. This protocol starts the process of healing the digestive system and laying the foundation to address your specific triggers in the next step.

This protocol lasts anywhere from 6-12 weeks depending on your case. During this protocol, you will:

  • Move to an autoimmune paleo diet to further remove inflammatory and reactive foods
  • Add supplements and herbs to reduce digestive stress, balance the intestinal flora, and heal intestinal permeability (leaky gut)

Step 4: Identifying and resolving your triggers

Review progress so far:

At this point 3-4 months have passed since we began treatment, you have completed the first three steps in the Hashimoto’s Protocol, and it’s time to review your progress both subjectively and objectively:

  • Review current symptoms
  • Repeat comprehensive thyroid testing to compare to your baseline before starting treatment (see my article What is Hashimoto’s (and how to find out if you have it) for details on which labs I like to see)
  • Repeat other testing to re-evaluate nutrient deficiencies that were previously identified: CBC, Ferritin, Vitamin B12, Vitamin D

Many patients can already see an improvement in their thyroid function via symptoms and thyroid lab testing and some may require an adjustment to reduce thyroid medication dose.

Identify your triggers:

I also have you complete a couple of questionnaires to determine in which areas you still need support and to hone in on your specific triggers that led to you developing Hashimoto’s. We do this after your have completed the first three steps in the Hashimoto’s Protocol which prepare your body for more advanced treatment. In many cases some of your symptoms will have resolved or changed so we can now see more clearly what your specific triggers or “barriers to cure” are.

Create a personalized plan for further healing:

1. Diet and supplements to continue to support thyroid function and reverse nutrient deficiencies

Your symptoms and lab testing provide important information on which aspects of thyroid function need the most support at this time and which nutrients you can personally benefit from supplementing.

2. Further testing to rule in or out your suspected triggers

This can include testing for the most common infections that can trigger Hashimoto’s, food sensitivity testing, adrenal function testing, liver function testing, and/or more advanced nutrient testing relevant to thyroid function

3. Personalized treatment to address your specific triggers and current symptoms

Hand holding a yellow domino, stopping a row of red dominos that are knocking each other down

As discussed in my article What Causes Hashimoto’s, triggers will usually fall into the following categories:

  • Infections
  • Chronic stress
  • Food sensitivities
  • Toxins
  • Estrogen dominance

We create a treatment plan based on the triggers that are relevant for you. Your treatment will depend on your specific triggers. The goal at this stage is to move toward complete healing of autoimmunity, minimizing the need for thyroid medication, and preventing future illness.

Are you Ready to get Started?

If you have Hashimoto’s and would like to work with me to feel better, reduce autoimmunity, and prevent future illness, contact me at one of my practice locations.

Sources:

  1. Christianson, Alan. (2013). Healing Hashimoto’s Physicians’ Training.
  2. Wentz I. (2017). Hashimoto’s Protocol. New York, NY. HarperOne.
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