Hashimoto’s is a disease that a lot of people are confused about and this includes both doctors and patients.
As a result, there are a whole lot of patients out there running around with continued low thyroid symptoms because they are given bad advice.
The saddest part about this is that much of the information that these patients are given is just plain wrong.
I’ve been helping thyroid patients for years and, by far, these are the most common lies that doctors tell patients with Hashimoto’s.
If you have Hashimoto’s, don’t fall for these lies!
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Lie #1. Your TSH is “Normal”
TSH is the test that most doctors use to diagnose and manage hypothyroidism.
They use this test to both determine if you have hypothyroidism and to determine if your treatment is “sufficient”.
The only problem?
It’s definitely not as accurate as most doctors like to pretend.
Yes, the TSH is accurate for what it tests for, but it’s not a very accurate test for assessing thyroid function.
In other words, a normal TSH doesn’t mean that your thyroid is normal.
It just means that your TSH is normal.
But there’s a big difference between having a normal TSH and having normal thyroid function.
Having normal thyroid function means that all of your low thyroid symptoms are completely controlled.
This means you won’t have weight gain, you won’t have hair loss, you won’t be cold, and so on.
How many of you have been told that your TSH is normal only to continue to experience these very symptoms?
It’s very common.
Even though TSH isn’t the best way to assess thyroid function, it still has value.
Most thyroid patients feel their best with a TSH of around 1.0 miu/L.
Getting your TSH to this level doesn’t guarantee that you will feel better, but there’s no way you should consider your TSH normal if it’s higher than 1.0.
A better way to examine your thyroid function is by getting several lab tests all at once.
There’s no one perfect thyroid lab marker, but when they are taken together they can give you much more information about your thyroid than any single test can by itself.
At baseline, make sure you are testing your free thyroid hormone levels (both free T3 and free T4) every time you get your TSH drawn.
Putting your TSH into context with your free thyroid hormones will give you information about how much thyroid hormone is being produced, activated, and used by the body.
And if you have Hashimoto’s, it’s also a very good idea to keep an eye on your thyroid antibodies as well.
You can track your treatment and your progress by keeping an eye on these markers.
Lie #2. Changing Your Diet Won’t Help Your Thyroid.
Doctors know a lot about prescription medications, but they are nowhere near as knowledgeable about nutrition and diet.
This stems from the fact that most of their post-residency education comes from pharmaceutical companies.
And these pharmaceutical companies spend most of their time convincing doctors that patients need more medications, not less.
But the truth is that diet has always been important for treating pretty much any disease that you can think of, including Hashimoto’s.
More and more research is showing that specific diets can and do exert a powerful impact on the immune system.
And when it comes to Hashimoto’s, if you can target your immune system then you can treat the underlying cause of the disease.
This study, for instance, showed that the AIP diet significantly improved quality of life measurements in patients with Hashimoto’s (1).
This is just one research study but there are plenty of anecdotal stories of patients who have put their disease into remission by changing their diet.
I have personally seen it time and time again.
Will changing your diet cure your Hashimoto’s?
Probably not by itself, but changing your diet definitely won’t hurt and only has the potential to help.
Based on my own experience (and from what I’ve seen and heard from other patients), here is a list of diets that have worked:
- Whole 30
- The carnivore diet
- The ketogenic diet
- The AIP diet
- Low FODMAPs
- The Elimination Diet
Altering your diet does two important things for your thyroid:
The first is that it provides your body with a rich source of nutrients that you weren’t otherwise getting from processed foods.
And the second is that it reduces your body’s exposure to foods that result in inflammation and immune dysfunction.
There’s pretty no world in which you can argue that diet doesn’t have some impact on your health so I don’t know why doctors try to convince patients with Hashimoto’s of this.
Surely, you’ve felt the impact that a single processed meal can have on your health.
Have you ever gone to eat out only to feel terrible immediately after?
This is not an uncommon occurrence for many thyroid patients.
Now just take this feeling and multiply it by hundreds of times.
It’s easy to see how low-quality processed meals can stack up and result in chronic inflammation and gut problems for certain individuals.
Lie #3. You’ll Have to Take Thyroid Medication Forever.
This one frustrates me more than any other because there’s the idea out there that once you start taking thyroid medication, you’ll have to take it forever.
And this is just plain wrong.
Yes, it is true that Hashimoto’s can be a progressive disease that ultimately destroys your thyroid gland.
If this happens, you will have to take thyroid medication forever.
But just because it can happen doesn’t mean that it always does.
There are definitely people out there who have succeeded in putting their Hashimoto’s into remission through the use of natural treatments.
And if you can put your Hashimoto’s into remission then taking thyroid medication forever may not be necessary.
We also have newer studies that show that there are a lot of thyroid patients who can get off of their thyroid medication for unknown reasons.
The estimated number is around 30% or so which is not insignificant (2).
Hashimoto’s patients will see this and retort back with something like this…
“How can this be? Did the disease magically go away?”.
The answer to that question isn’t known, but it’s very likely the case that some people were improperly diagnosed.
It’s also likely the case that there are plenty of situations where Hashimoto’s does go into remission for unknown reasons.
Whether it’s from an intentional effort on your part or from an unknown cause, does it really matter?
Real-world data and research is showing us that not all patients have to take thyroid medication forever and it’s my belief that everyone should think about pursuing this option.
The reason for this will be born out with more research, but it doesn’t make sense to ignore it right now just because we don’t understand it.
The bottom line? Starting thyroid medication doesn’t doom you to take it forever for reasons we don’t completely understand.
Lie #4. The Best and Only Treatment for Hypothyroidism is Levothyroxine.
Another incredibly frustrating lie perpetuated by doctors is that levothyroxine is the best and only treatment for hypothyroidism.
Hypothyroidism is the state of low thyroid function typically caused by Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.
So most people with Hashimoto’s will end up with hypothyroidism which is why they will ultimately end up on levothyroxine.
But don’t get confused: Hashimoto’s and hypothyroidism are two separate diseases.
Yes, they often go together but that isn’t always the case.
Doctors are obsessed with using levothyroxine even though there are so many other thyroid medications available.
The biggest problem with levothyroxine has to do with the thyroid hormone that it contains.
Levothyroxine and Synthroid both contain an inactive form of thyroid hormone called T4.
Other thyroid medications, like liothyronine, contain the active thyroid hormone T3.
And other thyroid medications, like Armour thyroid, contain a combination of both T4 and T3.
Most thyroid patients agree, and I agree as well, that taking a combination of both T4 and T3 thyroid hormones results in better control of their symptoms (3).
So don’t think that levothyroxine is your only choice.
Many times, just making a small switch from one thyroid medication to another can help you feel a whole lot better.
And if you want to go crazy, you can add additional thyroid hormones to your regimen like T2.
Taking a combination of T4, T3, and T2 can more closely mimic the thyroid hormone production of the healthy thyroid gland and is probably the ideal replacement regimen.
Lie #5. Your Thyroid is “Normal” So Your Symptoms Are All in Your Head.
Have you been told this lie before?
There’s this idea that if you are taking levothyroxine and your TSH is normal that your thyroid is normal and any other symptom you are experiencing MUST be related to some other cause.
This is incredibly frustrating for patients with Hashimoto’s because it’s very often the case that they continue to feel terrible despite having “normal” labs.
But the reality is that their symptoms ARE related to their thyroid and that their labs are NOT normal.
We have a very good understanding of what happens to the body when the thyroid is low (4) and the symptoms associated with this condition are very well documented.
If you have these symptoms AND they are not resolved with your thyroid medication then one of two things is true:
The first is that you are NOT taking enough thyroid medication (this is most common).
And the second is that your symptoms overlap with other medical conditions (this also happens but is not as common as the first).
Do not accept that lingering symptoms that coincide DIRECTLY with those of hypothyroidism are in your head.
They are VERY likely to be caused by your thyroid or some other medical condition.
If your doctor tries to convince you otherwise then it’s time for a second opinion.
My final tip for you is to never stop experimenting and working on your health.
No matter what, you will find all sorts of information on the internet that appears conflicting and the reason for this is simple:
What works for one person will most likely not work for the next.
This can be so extreme that two people can react in the completely opposite way.
But this doesn’t invalidate the treatment that worked for one person, it just means the next person has to put in the work for themselves.
While it may be frustrating being a patient with Hashimoto’s, there are plenty of things that you can do right now to improve your situation.
You can learn more about natural therapies which may help you put Hashimoto’s into remission in this article.
Now I want to hear from you:
Have you been told any of these lies?
Did you fall for them when you were first told them? Do you know better now?
Do you have any other lies to add to this list?
Leave your questions or comments below!