Hashimoto’s and Hypothyroidism – Are Stress and Emotional Triggers the Cause? (Part 1)

And is there correction part of the “cure”. And the answer to both questions is yes.

First a very brief primer on hypothyroidism in Hashimoto’s. Hypothyroidism is diagnosed when your thyroid hormones are low. Hashimoto’s is defined by the fact that the immune system is killing the thyroid itself or attacking the enzyme that makes the thyroid hormone T4. It is now estimated by credible groups from the Mayo Clinic to LabCorp at 70% to 95% of “hypothyroidism” is actually caused by immune responses and are actually misdiagnosed Hashimoto’s.

Causes of hypothyroidism in Hashimoto’s continue to be researched especially now that Hashimoto’s is understood to be so widespread and related to many other chronic conditions. The research was published in 2008 (Journal of Thyroid) establishing a positive connection between gluten in Hashimoto’s. Subsequent studies in 2012 were published regarding viral causation’s. Doctors started observing that patients would have cold sores and then would develop Hashimoto’s. So this phenomenon was investigated and human herpes virus six (HHV-6) was found to be present in the thyroid of about 80% of Hashimoto’s patients. Further research on this matter found Epstein-Barr virus also in about 80% of Hashimoto’s patient’s thyroid tissue. Vibrio viruses were confirmed to be present as well. There are probably others. Only time will tell.

Genetics can be a causative factor as well. If several of your family members have thyroid problems the likelihood of you developing a thyroid problem is substantially increased. Possibly some of the genetics are related not only to gluten-related reactions but also to how the body combats the above referred to viruses.

But viruses, gluten, and genetics do not account for all of the potential causes of Hashimoto’s as we are seeing an explosion of Hashimoto’s. So what’s happening? We think it’s stress. But not just any stress. We think emotionally traumatic stress responses are the number one cause of Hashimoto’s. Let’s explore this further.

The research literature in terms of stress causing thyroid dysfunction favors it more toward helping to develop hyperthyroidism. The research clearly supports the fact that when you’re stressed stress hormones affect your immune system. Research also has confirmed that when people are under stress you get a shift toward the dominant side of your immune system (the one that pathologically increases the number of antibodies you make to a level that they start attacking your tissues) and away from the side of the immune system that directly kills bacteria and viruses.

Further research indicates that when you’re stressed the integrity of your intestinal barrier can break down (leaky gut) from the increase in the hormone cortisol. Back to gluten. It’s been found that if gluten gets through your leaky gut, the immune cells that attack the gluten from the inside lining of the intestines also get out and – attack your thyroid causing Hashimoto’s. This is called molecular mimicry. And if your intestines are breaking down, potentially that can lead to more undigested food molecules getting through and into your bloodstream where they don’t belong, causing your immune system to identify them as foreign objects and attacking them, and then your thyroid. Thus the Hashimoto’s connection to food sensitivities.

Back to stress. It turns out its not actually everyday stress that raises the stress hormone enough to wreak this type of havoc on our gut and immune system. It’s chronic stress. This is a different kind of stress. We’re talking about chronic fight/flight syndromes caused by emotional traumas. In our patients, most of whom are in this chronic stress pattern and present with symptomatic physical and neurological signs of being, in effect, in PTSD many will often say “I’m not stressed – my life is great” or “I’m handling it”. But their neurological examination findings say otherwise. These are patients who can’t go to sleep, sleep late, wake up and can’t go back to sleep. They usually are experiencing brain fog and/or short-term memory loss and may experience anxiety or panic attacks “for no good reason”. What we see over and over and over again is that in their case histories they been exposed to emotional traumas. Most often they are childhood traumas. And that trauma could be physical, verbal, or sexual abuse. Could be seeing a parent or sibling die, a divorce, or growing up with an alcoholic parent. There are many other triggers (traumatic divorces, surgeries, injuries, pregnancies) of stress hormones – but they’re mostly triggers for chronic stress fight/flight, PTSD type conditions that were already present in that patient. Presently in the literature researchers say there is a relationship between stress and Hashimoto’s, but they don’t know the clear mechanism. Unfortunately, in the research field, researchers don’t want to say what the “clear” mechanism is until their 100% sure which sometimes is never. But we can say it. Because we see it every day. And it’s emotional traumas. In part two we’ll talk more about the specific mechanisms causing your thyroid condition, why the adrenals are the wrong target to treat and how to genuinely address your unstable or unresponsive Hashimoto’s condition.


One Comment

  1. I’ve had a traumatic life, in fact I did not have much memory of years of my life and I now know my brain was trying to keep me from stressing out about my childhood. Stress has been a huge part of my entire life and trying to hide it to deal with it. I recently retired and soon after had two bouts with vertigo for days the first time and weeks the second time. Anxiety, tinnitus, high blood pressure, possibly insulin resistance and now diagnosed with hypothyroidism and starting to overthink it into Hashimotos because that’s my brain doing its thing. I have an appointment on September 19 after starting a thyroid medicine 2 and a half months ago. I’m worried my doctor wil think I’m over reacting if I suspect I might have Hashimotos.

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