CONTRIBUTED CONTENT — Brain symptoms are very common among Hashimoto’s disease and autoimmune patients. That’s because Hashimoto’s can impact the brain in various ways.
What is Hashimoto’s?
Hashimoto’s is an autoimmune disease that damages the thyroid gland. More than 90% of cases of hypothyroidism are caused by Hashimoto’s. It is identified by positive TPO and/or TGB antibodies on a lab test.
Do any of these symptoms resonate with you?
- Brain fog.
- Slow mental speed.
- Poor brain endurance, meaning you tire easily from reading, driving, working, noisy areas, et cetera.
- Worsening memory.
- Sleep problems.
- Low motivation.
- Irritability and grouchiness.
- Worsening balance.
- Dropping things easily.
- Worsening handwriting.
- Worsening muscle function.
- Brain symptoms after eating certain foods.
- Chronic gut symptoms.
These are just a few symptoms of declining brain function that we commonly see in our Hashimoto’s and autoimmune patients at RedRiver Health and Wellness Center.
There are several reasons why your brain might not be working well – and they can vary from person to person – however, there are some things you can do about it.
How Hashimoto’s can cause poor brain function
When a patient with Hashimoto’s comes to our office, they’re inevitably suffering from brain-based symptoms: depression, fatigue, brain fog, loss of motivation, anxiety, memory loss and more.
Unmanaged Hashimoto’s has a severe impact on brain health for several reasons:
- The brain depends on sufficient thyroid hormone to function and is not getting enough, or levels fluctuate.
- The autoimmune mechanisms that damage the thyroid gland can also attack the brain.
- The inflammation that goes along with autoimmune Hashimoto’s inflames the brain, causing symptoms.
- The person is having immune reactions to undiagnosed food and chemical sensitivities, which inflames the brain and impairs brain function.
Thyroid levels and the brain
If you think you might have low thyroid problems or still have thyroid symptoms despite taking thyroid meds – or if it seems like the doctor has to constantly increase your dose – your brain’s neurons may not be getting enough thyroid hormone to function.
This means each neuron is not going to be able to function optimally, and overall brain function slows down and becomes less efficient. This is one reason symptoms like depression, fatigue and brain fog are so common with Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism.
Every cell in the body needs thyroid hormones
Every cell in the body needs thyroid hormones to function properly, and the brain’s neurons are no exception. An unmanaged or undiagnosed thyroid condition can mean your brain is not receiving enough thyroid hormone. This can accelerate the degeneration of your brain.
This also impacts how well your organs work. That’s because of a large nerve called the vagus nerve that runs between the brain and the organs. When brain function declines, so does vagal nerve activity. As a result, the organs do not receive sufficient stimulation from the brain.
This means the stomach does not make enough stomach acid, and the pancreas does not make enough enzymes to digest foods. The liver does not make enough bile, so fat digestion suffers. The large intestine is not activated to move food through the colon, leading to constipation. These are just a few examples of how compromised brain activity can diminish function throughout the body.
Why the right thyroid medications matter for your brain
To optimize your brain function, you need to be aware of several things.
First, while you may need thyroid hormone medication, if your thyroid autoimmunity is out of control, you’ll never find balance with thyroid function. This means you need to stabilize your thyroid function by managing your autoimmune thyroid condition.
Next, it means you need to find the right kind of thyroid medication and a dose that works for you. Please refer to the articles and guides on my clinic website for more information about that.
For instance, many doctors only prescribe a synthetic T4-only medication. However, your body must convert T4 to T3 for it to be usable by the cells. Many people cannot do this efficiently.
Many patients do better with the addition of a T3 thyroid hormone replacement. Some do better with bioidentical thyroid hormone replacement versus synthetic.
Also, be aware that some brands of thyroid hormone medications have fillers such as cornstarch that you may have a sensitivity to. Luckily, there is now a thyroid hormone on the market called Tirosint that is free of fillers. It may be a good fit if you react to the fillers that are commonly used in medications.
Work with your prescribing physician to find the best thyroid medication option for you while also working on taming inflammation and thyroid autoimmunity.
I’ll be addressing how to tame inflammation and autoimmunity in upcoming articles. If you’d like all the information right away, download my free guide, “12 Ways to Improve Brain Function When You Have Hashimoto’s or Autoimmunity,” available online here.
We work with your prescribing physician for optimal results. Do not discontinue medication or hormone replacement therapy without consulting your prescribing physician. Visit our website to learn more about our services and schedule a free consultation.
Written by JOSH REDD, chiropractic physician at RedRiver Health and Wellness Center.
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About Josh Redd
Josh Redd, MS, DABFM, DAAIM, is a chiropractic physician and author of the Amazon bestselling book “The Truth About Low Thyroid.” Redd owns seven functional medicine clinics in the western United States and sees patients from across the country and around the world who are suffering from challenging autoimmune, endocrine and neurological disorders. He studied immunology, virology and epidemiology at Johns Hopkins where he is a MaPHB candidate. He also teaches thousands of health care practitioners about functional medicine and immunology, thyroid health, neurology, lab testing and more.
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