Hashimoto’s Disease: The Infection Connection
April 10, 2015 by 123 Comments
Have you been tested for common infections associated with Hashimoto’s disease? Dr. Nikolas Hedberg has discovered that chronic infections are the most common underlying cause of Hashimoto’s disease.
Written by Dr. Nikolas R. HedbergHashimoto’s disease is the most common autoimmune disease in the world and it is also the most common cause of hypothyroidism. Conventional medicine doesn’t offer treatment for Hashimoto’s other than prescription thyroid hormone which doesn’t address the autoimmunity. Autoimmune diseases are skyrocketing and one of the most common and overlooked causes of these conditions are infections.
Some of the most popular alternative treatments for Hashimoto’s disease include:
- Gluten-free diets
- Leaky gut protocols
- Vitamin D
- Paleo-style diets
In my clinical experience working with many Hashimoto’s patients I have found that the most common underlying cause of Hashimoto’s disease is a chronic stealth infection that has been overlooked by both conventional and alternative practitioners.
Infections trigger autoimmunity by what is known as molecular mimicry which basically means that your immune system is attacking a stealth microbe such as a virus or bacteria, but the infection looks like your own body tissue such as the thyroid so your immune system attacks it as well. As long as the infection is active, the immune system will continue to attack the gland.
One of the most common infection connections with Hashimoto’s disease is the Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV). EBV is actually a herpes virus that most people contract when they are young causing mononucleosis aka “The Kissing Disease” which results in swollen lymph nodes and fatigue. Normally, your body fights it off and your immune system controls it for life just like chicken pox for example. However, people with Hashimoto’s disease have been shown to have a genetic deficiency in the immune cells (CD8+) that control this virus. The virus then reactivates inside the thyroid gland inducing autoimmunity via molecular mimicry. As long as the EBV is active, the autoimmunity will persist.
I find a significant number of patients with Hashimoto’s disease have reactivated EBV which is identified through a simple blood test. I use the activity of the EBV as a guide to balancing the immune system and reducing the attack on the thyroid gland.
A number of alternative treatment methods for EBV include vitamin C, selenium, Reishi mushroom extract, curcumin, and Zinc. You will notice that selenium is on the list which is highly recommended for Hashimoto’s but I think that many practitioners are treating EBV without even knowing it and seeing good results.
The second most common infection involved in Hashimoto’s disease is the bacteria Yersinia enterocolitica. Yersinia pestis is the bacteria that caused the bubonic plague which was transmitted by rat fleas but Yersinia enterocolitica is transferred by contaminated food and water. Normally, a healthy gut immune system will fight off Yersinia enterocolitica and most people think they just had some mild food poisoning or a “stomach bug.” However, in some cases, Yersinia takes hold in the gut mucosal barrier and persists without GI symptoms. Yersinia has been shown to trigger Hashimoto’s disease via molecular mimicry because it’s surface proteins look identical to thyroid tissue to the immune system.
Yersinia can be identified on a functional stool test but this method will miss most of the chronic Yersinia infections. The proper testing is done through blood antibodies against this bacteria. If Yersinia is found in the functional stool test the lab will run what’s called a “sensitivity” to a variety of herbal medicines and medications that will kill the bacteria so we know exactly what to use. If it is only found to be active through blood testing then we use a variety of herbal medicines to address it that have been shown to be effective since we don’t have the sensitivity.
The third common infection connection is also a gut bacteria known as Helicobacter pylori. H. pylori is most well-known as a cause of stomach ulcers but it can also be involved in Hashimoto’s disease via molecular mimicry. H. pylori is an opportunistic bacteria in your stomach that can grow when your immune system becomes compromised due to stress, low stomach acid, food sensitivities and imbalances in your gut bacteria known as dysbiosis.
H. pylori can be tested through stool, blood and the preferred and most sensitive breath test. The focus in controlling H. pylori is identifying why the immune system is compromised but a variety of natural compounds have been shown to be effective against this bug. Mastic gum, buffered vitamin C, quercetin, fish oil, Zinc carnosine, DGL (licorice), Saccharomyces boulardii, probiotics, berberine, NAC and oil of oregano can all work well for H. pylori. Antibiotics are of course an option but we always have to remember that antibiotics can create more dysbiosis and drug-resistant bacteria.
The above infections are the most common however there are additional infection connections to note. Hepatitis C Virus has been shown to trigger Hashimoto’s and the thyroid has been found to be a reservoir for this virus if it leaves the liver.
Borrelia burgdorferi is the bacteria that causes Lyme disease which, although the research on the connection is limited, many Lyme disease doctors in the trenches will tell you that they see quite a number of Lyme disease patients who also have Hashimoto’s disease.
Additional but more rare infection connections include Cytomegalovirus, staph and strep, Rickettsia, Q fever, HTLV-1, Herpes 1,2, and 6, Rubella/Rubeola (measles), Cocksackie B virus, Parvovirus B-19, the flu and even HIV.
If you have tried all of the usual treatment methods for Hashimoto’s but you still don’t feel well and your antibody levels just won’t come down, be sure you get tested for an infection connection to your Hashimoto’s disease. I recommend the “Big Three” which include EBV, Yersinia enterocolitica and H. pylori for most people as a starting point and the other more rare infection connections are tested based on your unique health history.