January 4


Here’s the Truth About How You Got Hashimoto’s Disease

By Sunny Brigham, MS, CNS, LDN

January 4, 2021

minutes read time


So, you’ve been diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Disease. Also, called Autoimmune Thyroiditis. Or, Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. Or, you’re here because a loved one has received a Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis diagnosis and you want to learn more to help them.

Either way…welcome my friend and fellow truth seeker.

It can be upsetting getting this diagnosis. But it can also feel very freeing in that now you know your symptoms are real. It gives you validation. It can also be confusing as well as you wonder how you got Hashimoto’s and what it all means.

In this blog, I’ll be sharing how Hashimoto’s progresses (also called etiology). And what factors are needed for a diagnosis. Let’s dive in!

Two Factors Needed for Development of an Autoimmune Disease

Let’s talk some autoimmune basics first. Did you know there are 24 recognized autoimmune diseases today? There’s a long list of other diseases that clinicians are working through to determine if they qualify as autoimmune diseases.

Over 23.5 million Americans have an autoimmune disease of some kind. Autoimmune diseases progress (mostly…there are exceptions) in the same way…through internal and external environmental factors.

So, what exactly is an autoimmune disease?

It’s where your body attacks itself. Something has happened that causes your immune system to attack very specific parts of your body. For Multiple Sclerosis, it’s your brain and nerve function. For Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, it’s your thyroid.

Basically, you need two things to develop Hashimoto’s disease:

  • Internal environmental factors
  • External environmental factors

The internal environmental factors are things like:

  • Genes passed on to you
  • How your cells function
  • Basic functions of human anatomy
  • Etc

And the external environmental factors are things like:

  • Stress
  • Location that you live
  • Foods you consume
  • Medication you’re on
  • Infections you contract
  • Exposure to chemicals (not the good kind) and toxins
  • Etc

What’s important to note here is that the external environment has a strong impact on the behavior of the internal environment. So how does this equal Hashimoto’s Disease?

Great questions. Let’s chat about that. But know this, it’s not just one thing that causes Hashimoto’s…it’s several acting together.

External Environment

If you think about your external environment, this is essentially the way that you live. Your lifestyle, if you will. Obviously, there are things that happen you may or may not be able to control. So, let’s focus on the things you can control.

We could probably boil this down to 3 major influences on the internal environment:

  • Sleep
  • Stress
  • Food

I know it seems like you can’t control all of these things, but I promise you that you can. It just takes time, effort, and patience. You have to be on top of you like you’re on top of your employees, kids, the house, your job(s), etc.

Food & Hashimoto’s

The very food that you eat can create digestive inflammation. Since 70-80% of the immune system lies within the digestive tract, it gets angry at times and revolts. Knowing what foods don’t sit well with you are key. Here are some tell-tale signs that your food doesn’t agree with you:

  • Pain in the lower belly hours or days
  • Bloating that’s random and annoying
  • Burping after a meal
  • Acid reflux or heart burn
  • Eczema or itching of the skin
  • Feeling like your nose runs constantly
  • Leans towards constipation or diarrhea
  • Headaches
  • Unexplained joint pain
  • General feeling of unwell after meals

There are more symptoms as well; these are the most common. And you don’t need every single one of these to say a food doesn’t agree with your body. You just need one!

When you discover a food that doesn’t agree with you, it’s important that you cut it out for a while. This doesn’t mean that you can never have that food again. It just means you need a break. Rather, your body needs a break.

After some time (and super important healing), we can work to add the foods back in. Here are the most common offenders to those with Hashimoto’s Disease.

  • Dairy
  • Grains
  • Legumes
  • Nightshades
  • Nuts/Seeds
  • Processed foods
  • Sugar
  • Fried foods

I know…it feels like I just listed your entire list of foods you love. Just remember…it’s all temporary! Start slow!

Stress & Hashimoto’s

People who know me know I talk about stress a lot. Why? Because it’s insanely prevalent today. And it creates the ideal breeding ground for disease to grow in the body. The problem with stress is that we’ve been taught to work hard…all the time. Heck, we have to work hard for survival.

But we’ve never been taught how to handle the stress of working that hard. Or the stress of everyday life. Or the impact that stress has on our health. Now is the time to learn and implement some change.

Stress is a factor in the onset of an autoimmune disease like Hashimoto’s Disease. Because stress is an external influence on our internal environment.

Stress has an impact on the following body systems:

  • Hormones (insulin and cortisol)
  • Blood sugar regulation (insulin and diabetes)
  • Cardiovascular system (high blood pressure and heart attack)
  • Digestive tract (inability to digest food/ nutrients when stressed)

And that’s not all of them! Bloated? Could be stress. Gaining weight? Could be stress. Diagnosed with high blood pressure? Could be stress.

It could also be other things but I think you get the picture here. But what do you do about stress? You can’t quit your job or sell your kids.

It comes down to managing it better. You can’t control the stress but you CAN control your response to it.

In the past, I’ve written blogs on reducing stress. When you’re done reading this blog, jump over to that one to learn what you can start doing now.

Stress & the Body – Reduction Techniques

Ok…now that we’ve beaten that horse…on to sleep!

Sleep & Hashimoto’s

Although food is a GIANT factor, it’s not the only thing to think about. Your sleep habits have an impact as well.

In today’s world, we don’t emphasize quality sleep enough. In fact, some brag about how they can “function” on limited sleep. Thinking back to what we just reviewed on stress, lack of sleep causes stress in the body.

When you’re tired, your body needs energy. And a quick source is cortisol. But having high cortisol for long periods of time leads to disease.

You need to prioritize sleep. I get it…there’s a lot to get done. The to-do lists are never ending. Someone needs help somewhere. Social media is so enticing and you’re caught reading a 300-comment thread on a neighborhood page to see what happens next. But here’s the deal…

If you don’t take care of yourself, you may not be around to take care of others. Self-care isn’t selfish. Here are some tips to get better sleep:

  • Move your bedtime back 5 minutes each week until you’re getting 7-9 hours nightly
  • A good gauge on sleep time needed is how you feel in the morning
  • Read, meditate, or pray before bed – this helps shut down the brain
  • Enforce a “no electronics in the bedroom” policy – because blue lights effects your melatonin levels
  • Create a bedtime routine that’s soothing

If you’ve followed me for any length of time, you know I always say “small sustainable changes are key!” Pick something to work on and go from there!

Okay…so let’s move on.

Hypothyroid vs Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis

I’m going to get on my soapbox here for a minute.

They are not the same. Period. However, many people have been diagnosed with hypothyroidism and actually have Hashimoto’s. Because the leading cause of Hypothyroidism is Hashimoto’s.

I work with many clients that have hypothyroid. In one week, I pushed three new clients to get tested for Hashimoto’s. Guess what…all 3 had it. This really isn’t a surprise though. As I noted before, Hashimoto’s is the leading cause of hypothyroidism.

If you’re here because you want answers and you’ve never had Hashimoto’s ruled out through testing, get tested. Ask your doctor. Or pay for them yourself. Treatment for each is different…not with medications but with food.

Okay…no more soap box.

That’s the gist of how you developed Hashimoto’s Disease. I’m sure in a million years you never thought this would happen. I get it. And I’m so sorry you’re here. But you can FEEL better. It’s possible!

In the comments, tell me what surprised you the most about Hashimoto’s!


Eschler, D. C., Hasham, A., & Tomer, Y. (2011). Cutting edge: the etiology of autoimmune thyroid diseases. Clinical reviews in allergy & immunology41(2), 190–197. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12016-010-8245-8

Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid). (2020, November 19). Retrieved December 18, 2020, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hypothyroidism/symptoms-causes/syc-20350284

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