Autoimmune disease happens when the body's defense system cannot tell the difference between its local cells and foreign cells. It begins to attack the body's healthy cells. Many researchers believe this response occurs after an infection or injury.
Hashimoto's thyroiditis is an autoimmune disorder where the body produces antibodies that attack the thyroid. Thyroid autoimmunity is the leading cause of hypothyroidism in the United States.
An autoimmune flare-up is a period of worsening and intensification of symptoms due to an added stressor (even something minor) on an already compromised immune system.
Ahead, five of the top triggers of autoimmune flare-ups, and how to avoid them.
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, barley, and other grains.
There is an association between celiac disease and Hashimoto's disease. While the research is inconclusive, a gluten-free diet may benefit those with Hashimoto's.
Gluten may irritate the small intestine, causing intestinal permeability (a.k.a leaky gut). Leaky gut weakens the junctions in the intestines, allowing toxins to escape from the gut into the bloodstream. Your immune system sees these as invaders and begins to attack the body, including the thyroid gland.
Many food items may contain gluten, often in hidden or unexpected ways:
This list is not exhaustive. You may choose to work work with a thyroid nutritionist to determine if gluten is a dietary trigger for you.
Dietary stress can lead to increased gastrointestinal (GI) distress, chronic inflammation, and a possible elevation in thyroid antibodies that indicate the presence of Hashimoto's disease. Exposure to reactive food may cause symptoms like diarrhea, bloating, acid reflux, gas, or cramping in the GI tract. You may also experience respiratory, muscular, or skin symptoms.
A registered dietitian nutritionist can help you experiment with an elimination diet to identify your dietary triggers.
Stress affects your thyroid function. When your body is stressed, your adrenal glands produce cortisol. Studies suggest that elevated levels of thyroid-stimulating hormone are associated with high levels of cortisol. Managing stress is essential to protect or calm your body from an autoimmune flare-up.
To reduce stress:
Viral infections (like rubella, mumps, or Epstein Barr virus) are one such environmental factor that may induce an autoimmune flare-up. This response happens because viruses cause inflammation as your body tries to fight.
Use these tips to prevent a virus:
Getting enough sleep is vital to improving thyroid health. If you have a hard time falling asleep, staying asleep, or get low quality sleep, you could be setting yourself up for an autoimmune flare-up.
Use these tips to improve your sleep:
Learning to recognize your triggers for an autoimmune flare-up will help you navigate Hashimoto's disease. Schedule a free call with a care advisor to determine if Paloma Health can help you identify and manage your condition.
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