Estrogen triggers Hashimoto’s in many women after pregnancy. It happens because of the extreme shifts of hormones and the immune system. It is the fluctuations of estrogen that can trigger the gene expression of Hashimoto’s disease, especially when other risk factors such as immune irregularity, inflammation and genetic susceptibility are present.
Perimenopause, a short period of time before menopause, is another susceptible period. This is also caused by estrogen surges and dips. This can become confusing as symptoms of Hashimoto’s mimic those of perimenopause. When an autoimmune attack destroys some of the thyroid tissue, a large amount of thyroid hormone enters the bloodstream. When that happens, symptoms such as hot flashes, nervousness, insomnia, and irritability happen.
In addition to turning on the genes associated with Hashimoto’s, estrogen surges have been shown to worsen the autoimmune attack on the thyroid. This can explain why the expression of Hashimoto’s is so common during pregnancy and perimenopause; both times when estrogens are fluctuating wildly.
Autoimmune diseases are more common in women than men. And it is the hormones that play a big role in turning on the autoimmune genes. We have touched briefly on the effects after pregnancy. Now let’s look at the changes that happen during pregnancy. During the third trimester, a pregnant woman becomes TH-2 dominant, and then right after having a child she becomes TH-1 dominant. Just to clear things up a bit, TH-1 and TH-2 are the immune system’s pathways. The TH-1 pathway is the immediate immune response. And the TH-2 pathway is the delayed response.
There are many women who complain that their thyroid problems started after they had their children. But when combined with other risk factors such as stress, gut infections, insulin surges, gluten intolerance, and environmental toxins, pregnancy can indeed trigger Hashimoto’s disease.
Datis Kharrazian shares an example with one of her own patients. “A patient asked me to evaluate her thyroid condition, because she had Hashimoto’s and wasn’t feeling better under her physicians’ care, which involved monitoring her TSH levels every month and adjusting her medication accordingly. This went on for four years, during which time she became pregnant and had a baby. Looking at the lab tests done over those years, I was fascinated to see how her immune system shifted during and after the pregnancy. In the first half of pregnancy, a woman is TH-1 dominant. My patient’s Hashimoto’s had gone into remission during those months. Towards the second half of pregnancy women shift into TH-2 dominance, and this woman’s TSH peaked at 58 during this stage. She was obviously TH-2 dominant. While the TH-1 dominance of early pregnancy tamed her autoimmune thyroid condition, the TH-2 dominance of later pregnancy kicked it into high gear. Blood tests of her immune system confirmed that her TH-2 pathway was dominant.”
“By taking sufficient emulsified vitamin D and fish oil, applying a liposomal glutathione and superoxide dismutase cream, and sticking to a gluten-free diet, this patient was able to get off her thyroid medication and live a symptom-free life. However, when she eats gluten, her symptoms return.”
-For more information on Hashimoto’s Disease check out our last blog post, ‘If Hashimoto’s is an immune disease, then why does it affect my Thyroid?’
Written by: Colbi Judd
Datis Kharrazian Quote: Why Do I Still Have Thyroid Symptoms? When My Lab Tests are Normal (2010) pg. 51 2nd and 3rd paragraph.
Datis Kharrazian, DHSc, DC, MS: Why Do I Still Have Thyroid Symptoms? When My Lab Tests are Normal (2010), pg 21-65.
Chris Kresser: Basics of Immune Balancing for Hashimoto’s (2010). www.chriskresser.com