In this article we will discuss Hashimoto's Disease and what is going on with the signaling inside your body to create the picture and symptoms that occur with Hashimoto's. We won't discuss specific symptoms but more so what Hashimoto's is doing to your body. For instance, we will look at what's going on inside the thyroid cells, the thyroid gland, and how thyroid signaling works when thyroid antibodies are present. We will also look at what is going on over the long term and some natural treatment for thyroid strategies, like reducing Hashimoto's disease progression.
What Is Hashimoto's Disease Doing In Your Thyroid and Body
First things first, what is Hashimoto's disease? If you are reading this post you probably have some vague idea that it is a condition related to the thyroid. Hashimoto's Disease is basically a hypothyroid disorder created by your immune system making antibodies against your thyroid. As a result there is autoimmune activity against your thyroid gland. One problem with Hashimoto's is that it's not always just isolated to the thyroid tissue or the thyroid cells. The immune activity against your thyroid is coming from the immune system which is outside of the thyroid. This activity can also occurr against other parts of your body as well. The immune activity is specific to certain tissue types but it can occur in multiple tissues. We want to look at the where that stimulus for that increased immune activity is come from.
When it comes to Hashimoto's specifically, the immune system is creating antibodies to specific parts of the thyroid. The one most commonly associated with Hashimoto's is and antibody against the TPO enzyme also known as thyroid peroxidase enzyme. Another less common is an antibody against the thyroid globulin protein. Both, the enzyme and the protein, play an integral role in thyroid hormone production.
As you could imagine when you have Hashimoto's Disease your immune system is making these antibodies (sometimes one and sometimes both). Those antibodies and the immune system are then attacking the enzyme and thyroglobulin protein. By doing this, the immune system is basically limiting or reducing the amount of thyroid hormone that can produced.
Typically when we are evaluating someone with Hashimoto's, the labs will show a number for the antibodies. The higher the amount of antibodies, higher number on your lab test and the more immune activity you are having. Since the antibodies and immune activity are interfering with thyroid hormone production, the increased immune activity results in less output of thyroid hormone. Over the long term, higher amounts of these antibodies will cause more thyroid cell death leading to decreased size of the thyroid. The thyroid tissue actually shrinks over time and you can see this on ultrasound. This process usually takes many many years to show up but depends on the immune activity.
Signaling and Disruption of Thyroid Production
Now let's discuss in a little bit more detail what’s going on with Hashimoto's and how it is disrupting thyroid hormone production. The TPO enzyme production is being stimulated through nuclear transcription (inside the nucleus of the cell at the DNA level). This process occurs in the presence of a hormone called Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH), which comes from the pituitary gland in the brain. This Thyroid Stimulating Hormone will stimulate more TPO enzyme to be produced. When more TPO enzyme is around you get more thyroid hormone (T3, T4). That thyroid hormone then feeds back to the brain.
The pituitary gland has a sensor for thyroid hormone that is regulating this. When it senses more thyroid hormone, it will decrease the TSH production. When there's less thyroid hormone, it will increase the TSH. The TSH then stimulates the thyroid cells to make more TPO enzyme. The problem is that this can also increase the immune activity. With more TSH, there is more TPO enzyme being produced. Since the immune system detects the TPO enzyme as a foreign invader and it's going to attack it. This then creates more inflammation.
Over time the higher amounts of TPO can lead to more thyroid cell destruction. Some studies have suggested that keeping TSH levels lower by giving more thyroid hormone will preserve or limit the amount of destruction at the thyroid cells and limit the immune activity. This seems plausible and there are some studies that do verify that. However in my experience, the antibody levels are not necessarily affected by the lowering of the TSH. There is not always a clean correlation with lower TSH and lower antibody levels. Most of the time I don't see any change in the antibody levels when thyroid medication is raised to lower TSH. So mainly we want to focus on reducing the immune activity.
About now you may be asking yourself; how do I reverse this immune activity or how do I limit or decrease the amount of anti-TPO or anti-thyroglobulin antibodies that are being produced from my immune system? This will be the specific focus of another article that will be coming out soon, check out:
How To Cure Hashimoto's (Coming Soon)
You can also find information on natural hashimoto's treatment options here. Hopefully that gives you a little more insight on what's going on with your thyroid gland when you have Hashimoto's disease. If you want a customized plan to treat your Hashimoto's Disease, click on the link below to get started.