We receive lots of emails and messages from Hashimoto’s patients in need of support and many mention going gluten-free or making other dietary changes without much success. And we know from experience that because Hashimoto’s is an autoimmune condition, it’s easy to feel discouraged when you’re trying really hard to make changes but you’re not seeing any results.
Is it possible to put Hashimoto’s into remission with diet changes alone? The answer for some people is yes, but for a lot of us it’s unequivocally no. Our immune systems are being triggered to attack the thyroid gland but the trigger isn’t a single food or a single lifestyle issue – it’s a complex list of things that trigger autoimmunity and then Hashimoto’s flare ups.
And a growing body of studies (e.g., 1, 2, 3) is showing a possible strong link between autoimmune diseases like Hashimoto’s and a combination of environmental toxins and, surprisingly, the fact that we suffer from fewer infections in the modern world.
Some of the more obvious toxins that have been studied for their possible connection to autoimmunity are metals like perchlorates that have made their way into food, dioxins in meat and dairy, pollutants in the water we drink, pesticides, and additives in our highly processed food supply.
Unfortunately, avoiding the kinds of toxins that can trigger Hashimoto’s isn’t as easy as eating clean because these chemicals are also in our homes. Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) are the flame retardants that are used to treat furniture and mattresses, as well as TV and computer screens. In some studies, PBDEs have been found to disturb thyroid function. They’ve also been linked to behavioral and developmental issues in children.
Then there are plastics. The obvious environmental concerns aside, certain kinds of plastic may impact autoimmunity. Phthalates may decrease thyroid function. Bisphenol A (BPA) can decrease thyroid receptor site sensitivity, leading to thyroid resistance. And the perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) in food packaging and other products may affect thyroid function
Halogens like chloride and fluoride in the water supply can suppress thyroid function, decreasing iodine transport (by occupying iodine receptors) and blocking conversion of T4 to T3. And some of us have experience with heavy metal toxicity triggering antibodies that lead to full blown autoimmunity.
Then there are the scores of antibacterial products we encounter each day in kitchens and bathrooms. Triclosan was thought to be safe but was eventually found to be a potential endocrine disruptor – and less than useful as an antibacterial agent for human health. Simply vigorously washing hands was found to be safer and more effective!
So the question is, if you haven’t felt much better after giving up gluten and making other dietary changes, should you clear out your home and start fresh with natural products and plastic and glass instead of metal? Honestly, all of us would probably benefit from an environmental overhaul but it’s just not feasible for most households to replace everything but the kitchen sink all at once.
What you can do is start small. Get rid of that antibacterial hand soap and replace it with something natural but effective like Dr. Bronners. When you can, replace your old plastic food storage containers with non-reactive glass or metal ones. Look into natural options the next time you’re making a big furniture purchase. Baby steps are still steps in the right direction!
And finally, remember that everyone’s genetic tolerance is different. Just like some people will feel nearly 100% better after just giving up gluten, others will find a lot of relief when they avoid environmental triggers as much as possible. Some will need to do both, while some will always need medication to feel their best, too. Whatever works for you – even if it’s not what someone else is doing – own it because when it comes to Hashimoto’s, there’s no perfect one size fits all solution.