One example of this connection is found in relation to vitamin D and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. Research suggests that reduced levels of vitamin D may have significant importance regarding the occurrence of an autoimmune thyroid disorder known as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.
Recognizing and appreciating the relationship between Hashimoto’s and vitamin D deficiency may help you better protect yourself against severe dysfunction.
Immune Function and Hashimoto’s
The immune system is the body’s first line of defense. When working properly it identifies potential threats including pathogens, viruses, and bacteria then releases antibodies to eliminate them. Typically, this process effectively protects the body from all sorts of ailments. However, if the immune system becomes stressed, overworked, or exhausted, it can begin making critical errors that prompt the development of chronic malfunction. Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is one possible outcome of such dysfunction.
Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is a condition wherein the immune system misidentifies healthy thyroid tissue as a threat. The immune system handles the situation by releasing antibodies to seek out and destroy the offending substance. However, in this case, the “threat” is healthy thyroid tissue.
As the Hashimoto’s progresses, the thyroid gland is relentlessly assaulted by the body’s own defenses. This causes a continuous decline of thyroid function ultimately ending in a case of severe hypothyroidism. However, when thyroid tissue is destroyed, it releases the hormones contained within resulting in a sudden surge of thyroid hormone circulating through the bloodstream. This simulates sudden but temporary periods of accelerated thyroid activity promoting symptoms more akin to hyperthyroidism. Because of this, Hashimoto’s patients tend to alternate between symptoms of both slowed and hastened thyroid activity.
There are several potential causes of Hashimoto’s including genetic predisposition, chronic immune activation, or other forms of chronic illness. However, recent research suggests that various nutrient deficiencies, particularly vitamin D, may have a prominent role regarding the development of Hashimoto’s.
An Introduction to Vitamin D
Many may already be familiar with vitamin D as the “sunshine vitamin”. It has earned this title because our bodies acquire it primarily through exposure to direct sunlight. Vitamin D is responsible for regulating various areas of wellness including bone and heart health, memory retention, and cancer prevention. It is also well-established that vitamin D is an important regulator of both immune activity and hormone function.
Without an adequate supply of vitamin D, the immune system becomes increasingly likely to become imbalanced, overactive, and dysfunctional. This subsequently increases the risk of developing autoimmune disease such as Hashimoto’s.
Identifying the Connection Between Vitamin D Deficiency and Hashimoto’s
Multiple scientific studies have presented data suggesting a strong relationship between reduced vitamin D levels and the occurrence of Hashimoto’s.
One Chinese study found that patients with autoimmune thyroid disease exhibited notably lower levels of vitamin D when compared to a control group. Additionally, patients with elevated thyroid peroxidase antibodies, a significant indicator of Hashimoto’s, had notably low levels of vitamin D3. These findings suggest that reduced levels of vitamin D may be associated with an increase in thyroid antibodies and by extension increased risk of Hashimoto’s.
In 2011, a study composed of 161 Hashimoto’s patients found that over 92 percent had a deficiency of vitamin D. The researchers further categorized the rates of deficiency among specific forms of Hashimoto’s:
- 94 percent of participants with overt hypothyroidism Hashimoto’s (elevated thyroid antibodies, elevated TSH, symptoms of reduced thyroid function) were deficient in vitamin D
- 98 percent of participants with subclinical hypothyroidism Hashimoto’s (elevated thyroid antibodies, elevated TSH, no symptoms of reduced thyroid function) were deficient in vitamin D
- 86 percent of participants with euthyroid Hashimoto’s (elevated thyroid antibodies accompanied by nominal thyroid lab results) were deficient in vitamin D
These findings strongly suggest that a lack of vitamin D is a common trait among those with any form of Hashimoto’s.
Another small study composed of 92 patients with autoimmune thyroid disease found that 72 percent of test population had a deficiency in vitamin D. This contrasted the control group wherein only 31 percent of the participants had reduced levels of vitamin D. A similar study composed of 218 Greek participants also found a strong connection between Hashimoto’s and vitamin D deficiency. More than 85 percent of the participants with Hashimoto’s exhibited low vitamin D values accompanied by elevated anti-thyroid antibodies.
The Common Occurrence of Vitamin D Deficiency
Unfortunately, research suggests that many people in the United States are deficient in vitamin D. It is estimated that upwards of 40 percent of adult men and 50 percent of adult women do not maintain proper serum levels of vitamin D. Worse still, studies suggest that 25 percent of all adults in the United States suffer from severe vitamin D deficiency. This prolific problem may be dramatically increasing our individual risk for autoimmune thyroid disease without us even being aware of it.
Safely Combating Hashimoto’s with Vitamin D
As we now know, the vast majority of patients with Hashimoto’s also suffer from a lack of vitamin D. The obvious solution would be to simply improve vitamin D levels through supplementation and/or dietary changes. However, autoimmune disease such as Hashimoto’s are complex and reckless treatment of any sort may actually make the condition worse. Therefore, before beginning any Hashimoto’s related treatment, including vitamin supplementation, speak with a doctor who is knowledgeable of autoimmune thyroid conditions and chronic illness.
Making Vitamin D a Part of Your Hashimoto’s Treatment Protocol
As an important regulator of immunity and hormone activity, vitamin D is an essential part of our overall wellness. A deficiency of vitamin D may result in severe immune malfunction in the form of autoimmune disease, specifically Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. Sadly, many individuals are unwittingly living with a deficiency of vitamin D, which may be increasing their risk of developing autoimmune thyroid disease. However, our increasing understanding of autoimmune thyroid disease and its relationship with vitamin D may facilitate better prevention and treatment specific chronic illnesses in the future.
At Holtorf Medical Group, our physicians are trained to provide you with cutting-edge testing and innovative treatments to properly diagnose and treat your autoimmune thyroid disease. If you have been diagnosed with Hashimoto’s, but aren’t getting the treatment you need or if you have symptoms associated with thyroid dysfunction, call us at 877-508-1177 to see how we can help you!
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