Hypothyroidism and Hashimotos


The thyroid gland is an incredibly important organ and influences your heart rate, digestion, mood, menstrual cycle, and energy levels—essentially various factors of your metabolism.

Thyroid problems are very common.  There are 2 specific conditions that are quite commonly under diagnosed, you may have one or the other or even both together.  However, they do require different treatments.

Hypothyroidism simply refers to a state of low thyroid function in the body. This state is almost always the result of decreased thyroid hormone production.  When this happens, you can experience symptoms like fatigue, cold intolerance, constipation, muscle weakness, hair loss, brain fog and poor concentration, a “slow metabolism” with weight gain and other hormonal issues.

Hashimotos is an auto-immune disease and may be associated with episodes of hyperthyroidism, normal thyroid function, and hypothyroidism. Hashimotos is when the immune system produces antibodies that attack the tissues of the thyroid gland.  These antibodies cause inflammation and destruction to the thyroid gland creating a much more serious and chronic thyroid condition, than hypothyroidism.

So, hypothyroidism is a thyroid gland issue and hashimotos is an immune system issue.

Quite often there can be the scenario of “one size fits all diagnosis”.  What I mean here is that the thyroid hormones may be within normal limits, but the antibodies were not checked (which you find later were raised).  Or, the TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) is high, Thyroxine (T4) is given, but the symptoms remain.  Or, the antibodies were raised, the thyroid hormones within the parameters (normal) but Thyroxine is given to “fix” the raised antibodies.  Again, the symptoms remain as the problem is actually with the immune system that is attacking the thyroid gland.  Confusing, right!

If you feel you may have a problem with your thyroid, which is actually extremely common, particularly in women, it is important to get the right tests done to accurately diagnose.  The most common test performed is TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone), the other hormones are not generally tested unless TSH is out of range.  Here lies another problem of course.  The actual thyroid hormones may be quite low or the antibodies quite high, or both.

The tests to ask for are:  TSH, FT4, FT3, RT3 + antibodies – TPOab (Thyroperoxidase), and TGab (thyroglobulin).  These tests may not be covered through Medicare but you can still request these if you pay for them yourself.

Perhaps the most important distinction between these two conditions is the fact that each one is treated differently.  The goal for hashimotos is to reduce the immune attack and damage to the thyroid gland.  With hypothyroidism the goal is to optimise thyroid hormones and function.

Of course, it is important to find out what is causing your thyroid to be out of balance as there are many different reasons which may require a different type of treatment.  These can include – chronic stress, infections, viruses, gut problems, toxicity and more!

If you do find you have a diagnosis of hypothyroidism and/or hashimotos, looking at the causes, supporting the thyroid and immune system through diet and lifestyle changes can lead to greatly improved thyroid and overall health.