Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is a common variety of chronic autoimmune thyroiditis. This is an auto-immune disease of the thyroidea in which the body produces auto-antibodies directed against healthy thyroid cells, destroying them. As a consequence of this, thyroid hormone production decreases substantially (thyroid hypofunction or hypothyroidism).
The disorder was named after the Japanese physician Hakaru Hashimoto (1881–1934), who was the first to describe it in 1912. It is not only the most prevalent autoimmune disorder in humans, but also the most frequent reason of primary hypothyroidism.
The rarer Graves' disease is associated with the production of antibodies directed against a signaling molecule on the thyroid cells’ surface. This causes the thyroid cells to produce an excessive amount of thyroid hormones (thyroid hyperfunction or hyperthyroidism). In the long run, however, many patients experience thyroid hypofunction as well.
Impairment of Fertility
This malfunction of hormone production can impair fertility substantially: patients experience problems conceiving and the risk of miscarriage is increased as well. Whereas in the general population the disorder has an incidence of approximately 5-10 %, up to 25 % of female patients seeking treatment in fertility clinics are diagnosed with Hashimoto’s disease. Fortunately, fertility treatment can help to achieve a healthy pregnancy.
The Patient Can Support the Treatment
The patient herself can improve success rates of fertility treatment by making healthy lifestyle choices and maintaining a healthy diet that takes into account some specifics of the disease.
A Diet Low in Iodine
According to scientific studies excessive iodine exposure worsens the progress of the disease. A diet low in iodine on the other hand has been reported to result in an improvement. Hence patients with autoimmune thyroiditis are recommended to abandon iodized table salt. Any dietary supplements should be free of iodine as well
Soils in Europe are poor in selenium. Consequently plants grown in this soil and thus food produced there have a low selenium content. Studies have shown that supplementing selenium in patients with autoimmune thyroiditis can improve symptoms.
Oxidative Stress and Anti-Oxidants
Even though the reasons for the onset of the disease are not quite understood, recent research has revealed oxidative stress to be an important contributing factor. It can also compromise oocyte quality and is detrimental to embryonic development. Hence, experts recommend to make sure that there is an adequate supply of anti-oxidants.
Stress, smoking and poor eating habits present situations during which supplementing antioxidants is advisable and can have a positive impact on the symptoms of autoimmune thyroiditis.
Patients with autoimmune thyroiditis also have an increased risk of having a vitamin B12 deficiency. Particularly when planning for conception this can be a problem, because vitamin B12 is not only important for cell division, but – together with other B-vitamins - is also vitally needed for homocysteine metabolism. Therefore experts recommend that thyroiditis patients supplement B-vitamins.