Hypothyroidism vs Hashimoto’s: Understanding the Difference

Hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s are two of the most common thyroid disorders. They both impact the thyroid, and they share many of the symptoms. This combination makes it hard to distinguish between the two. Most people diagnosed with hypothyroidism are, in fact suffering from Hashimoto’s. Although related to hypothyroidism, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is a different thyroid condition and requires different treatment. Fortunately, new research has helped doctors navigate key points surrounding how best to detect and treat thyroid disorders. 

Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism, also known as underactive thyroid, is when the thyroid gland doesn't produce enough thyroid hormones. The exact mechanisms that cause hypothyroidism are unknown, but potential causes include genetics, excessive iodine, pregnancy, and radiation exposure. Symptoms may vary from person to person, but often include:

  • Fatigue
  • Weight gain
  • “Puffy” face
  • Constipation
  • Dry hair
  • Thinning hair and eyebrows
  • Slowed heart rate
  • Goiter
  • Depression
  • Decreased sweating
  • Heavy or irregular periods

Hypothyroidism symptoms may present similar to other medical conditions, with the best way to diagnose hypothyroidism is to run a comprehensive thyroid panel. The conventional way to treat hypothyroidism is to regularly administer synthetic thyroid. Its effectiveness is debated, but even in cases where it does work, it's nothing more than a band-aid. To truly overcome hypothyroidism, you must address the imbalances that caused your thyroid to underperform in the first place.

Hashimoto's Disease

Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, on the other hand, is an autoimmune disease where the immune system mistakenly attacks the thyroid gland. Over time this autoimmune attack destroys thyroid tissue and reduces thyroid hormone production, which leads to hypothyroidism.

In order to understand autoimmunity, you have to understand that it is not a black and white condition; it's more accurately described as a spectrum. In autoimmune conditions like Hashimoto’s, antibodies can show up about 8 years before symptoms and diagnosis. By the time you have symptoms, you would’ve undergone subtle shifts for nearly a decade. In other words, if you’re experiencing symptoms, you have most likely spent years cultivating an environment that caused your body to produce the antibodies.

Often, one of the first physical manifestations of the Hashimoto’s is an enlarged thyroid, called a goiter. The condition causes the front of the neck to appear swollen. Other symptoms of Hashimoto’s include:

  • Fatigue
  • Weight gain
  • “Puffy” face
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Hair loss or thinning, brittle hair
  • Slow heart rate
  • Irregular or heavy menstrual periods

Considering the similarities, you can see why Hashimoto’s is often confused and used interchangeably with hypothyroidism. In reality Hashimoto’s is one of the causes of hypothyroidism. When either of these conditions is suspected, practitioners will usually order a TSH test, thyroid-stimulating hormone. Conventional doctors will typically use an elevated TSH level to diagnose hypothyroidism; but TSH alone doesn’t provide the complete picture.

High levels of TSH are often times the result of low thyroid hormone production. The body up-regulates TSH to signal the thyroid gland to make more thyroid hormones. But as mentioned before, this is only one of the basic scenarios. In clinical practice, blood panel results come in a variety of shapes and sizes. This is why our policy at Acufunkture is, “test, don’t guess,” and our team stays on top of the latest research.

What Can Acufunkture Do for Your Thyroid?

Functional medicine addresses the whole person rather than the disease, looking at key life events preceding disease symptoms. We treat the underlying root causes that contribute to a given condition, in this case Hashimoto’s and hypothyroidism. There are so many internal and external environmental factors that can aggravate thyroid conditions. This is why our treatments focus on removing pathogens, uncovering food intolerances, resolving nutrient deficiencies, and healing gastrointestinal issues.

At Acufunkture we perform high-quality functional tests to address underlying triggers preventing your thyroid from functioning normally. These tests will give a clear picture of your overall health so we can identify what is malfunctioning in the body and provide a thorough diagnosis, we then create a personalized treatment plan specific to your case to address those imbalances.

We provide an integrative approach to treating Hashimoto’s and hypothyroidism, employing minimally-invasive therapies to give your body its missing link. This enables your own body’s incredible ability to heal itself so you can enjoy a long and healthy life.



Posted in Autoimmune , Functional Medicine , Thyroid , Weight Loss
Kathleen Funk

Kathleen Funk, founder at Acufunkture, is a fourth generation healer and an industry leader in acupuncture for women's health. She received her BA at Baylor University where she studied Philosophy and Medicine and went on to receive her Master of Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine from the American College of Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine.

>