So what exactly is Autoimmune Thyroiditis?
Residing behind the breastbone is the thymus gland, a component of the immune system. It produces T-cells which are designed to protect us from infection. There are two types of protective cells – TH1 and TH2 cells (T Helper cells, type 1 and 2). The TH1 cells work directly against pathogens. They are like foot soldiers on the front line grappling with the enemy.
The TH2 cells work differently by stimulating other cells to produce antibodies, as if working behind the scenes, and sending supplies to the front line. The TH2 antibodies generated are also needed to defend against invaders. It’s when these two systems are in harmony that all is well, and the immune system functions as it should.
A problematical autoimmune response results when toxic elements interfere with the equation causing disequilibrium. The immune system becomes misaligned, and the delicate interplay between TH1 and TH2 cells becomes skewed. Toxins, such as heavy metals like mercury or lead, overstimulate the TH2 system, causing too many antibodies to be produced. Allergies are an example of antibodies gone wild. The overactive antibodies confront substances that don’t need to be attacked such as wheat, milk and eggs, causing allergic discomfort.
Eventually, an overheated immune system leads to chronic inflammation, and other challenges too. While the TH2 system goes haywire, the body itself is seen as the enemy, and ends up being attacked. In Hashimoto’s thyroiditis that means the immune response is trying to destroy thyroid tissue by producing antibodies against the thyroid itself. Obviously this is not a good situation.
The key is to calm down the hyperactive immune response and to begin supporting stressed out glands, organs and tissues. In the case of allergies it helps to avoid or remove offending triggers such as foods or toxins. This settles the agitated immune response and allows for cell damage to be addressed.
There are several ways to start on the journey of recovery. One is to implement a detoxification program to remove offending toxins. For many with hypothyroidism this can make a significant difference. The other piece of the puzzle is to begin to sooth the TH2 overreaction through diet and nutritional supplements. The most successful diet for supporting thyroiditis, and which affects the largest number of people, is one that eliminates both gluten and casein products. A gluten free diet has many benefits, and has been shown to bring about a significant reduction in the number of circulating thyroid antibodies. Results can take up to six months. That is dramatic proof that going off wheat is very helpful for anyone with Hashimoto’s.
A recent study examined the cord blood of pregnant women and found it to contain over 200 known toxins, 7 of which had been banned over thirty years ago. Clearly children are being birthed with toxic loads from the outset. More vaccinations are given to children now as well. Some surmise that vaccines may cause us to overdevelop antibodies and skew the TH2 response to substances which may include pollen, wheat and milk. There is evidence that children who are allowed to develop measles naturally have a 50% lower rate of asthma and allergies, suggesting that childhood conditions like measles can be beneficial because they strengthen the immune system.
Solving the autoimmune puzzle is complex. The answer for all these various “epidemics” of the 21st century leans towards cellular detoxification, maintaining health by choosing organic foods and supporting our selves with natural supplements, thus helping our body regain its balance. If you have an autoimmune condition it is best to consult a qualified integrative physician trained in this area.