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Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis – What is the Latest Research for Better Treatments and Quieting Symptoms?

Fly, butterflyJanuary is Thyroid Awareness Month, so we are investigating the latest research studies in the two autoimmune thyroid conditions: Hashimoto’s and Graves’ Disease (learn about the latest in Graves’ disease research here).  The focus of this post is about Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, also known as chronic autoimmune thyroiditis.  In Hashimoto’s, the body’s immune cells mistakenly attack the thyroid gland, resulting in destruction of tissue and a hypothyroid state.  Because of its prevalence and impact, this disease attracts researchers interested in elucidating its mechanisms, finding new therapies, or both.  Below we discuss some of these research efforts, and what they might mean for you as a patient.

What are the latest results of research studies or clinical trials seeking better therapies for Hashimoto’s?

Yes there are, although a brief review online revealed that Hashimoto’s studies might occur with less frequency than those examining other autoimmune disorders, simply based on availability of information.  Research reports available online indicate an ongoing interest in finding the precise genetic and immune mechanisms involved in the disease, as well as potential new treatment options.

The National Endocrine and Metabolic Disease Information Service notes that it is only through research that patients and their families continue to remain hopeful for improvements.  Their website offers some good basic information on how to learn more about such research activities, and the NIH provides an overview of their autoimmune disease research plan, which contains general information on the directions they plan to take in the future regarding studies.  In addition, the International Scleroderma Network provides a very nice collection of various research involving Hashimoto’s, organized by medical category.

One specific area of interest is selenium supplementation, which has been shown to increase the conversion of T4 to T3 while simultaneously reducing thyroid antibody levels responsible for the autoimmune attack.  While initial work appears promising, the research is far from conclusive, and this approach needs considerably more study, according to write-ups of different studies in the European Journal of Endocrinology, the Journal of Endocrinology, Thyroid and the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.  Still, these investigations are good news for those patients seeking different treatment options.

Other work has focused on whether total thyroidectomy, where all thyroid tissue antigens (the proteins that trigger an immune response) are eliminated, results in permanent disappearance of corresponding antibodies.  Researchers have found this to be the case, which may have future implications for treatment decisions.  A related retrospective study reviewed thyroidectomy as a treatment option, and found that Hashimoto’s thyroid patients tended to have more complications during the procedure, which might impact therapeutic decisions.

And more recently, a plant alkaloid known as anatabine has been shown to be quite effective in reducing the inflammatory response seen in thyroiditis, via inhibition of immune response, though this research has yet to be peer reviewed according to research published in Endocrinology and via Reuters.

Some studies aim to examine the effects of other specific substances on thyroid function during Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, though these tend to be quite technical, are not yet testing on people and many are still in very experimental stages; for example this 2011 Japanese study on the onset of autoimmune thyroiditis in mice. While some have disproved certain hypotheses, others have shed light on possible mechanisms and treatments.  There are also studies involving genetics that seek further illumination into the pathology of Hashimoto’s, as well as potential future treatments.

How can I find out about Hashimoto’s thyroiditis clinical trials?

As for ongoing or future clinical trials, there are two reputable websites that serve as clearinghouses:  CenterWatch and ClinicalTrials.  ClinicalTrials is a national listing of studies available or taking place throughout the country and you can search for Hashimoto’s trials where current participants are needed.  Together with CenterWatch, the two are invaluable resources in this pursuit.  A brief online search revealed a past study examining laser treatment, as one example, and new research is being conducted all the time.  Another excellent resource is your local or regional major academic medical center.  Even if they aren’t running trials at the moment, chances are they can point you in the right direction.

Questions for your doctor:

  • Is there any new research being conducted to find alternative therapies for Hashimoto’s?
  • Can you recommend a good starting point if I’m interested in learning more about clinical trials (other than those above)?
  • Are there any therapies not approved in the U.S. but available elsewhere that are safe and effective?  Do you suggest looking into them?
  • Can I take selenium in over-the-counter preparations, or does this supplementation need to be prescribed by a doctor?  Do you recommend trying it?
  • Is there active research being conducted in the area of immunotherapy for Hashimoto’s hypothyroid?  Why or why not?  Where can I find more information?

 

About the Author
Dr. Rothbard is a professional medical writer and consultant based in New York City, specializing in medical education articles targeted at a variety of audiences, from children through clinicians.  After leaving medicine, he worked as a biology and medical science educator for several years, before deciding to pursue writing full-time.  He may be reached at [email protected].

 

This post contains opinions of the author.  AutoimmuneMom.com is not a medical practice and does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.  It is your responsibility to seek diagnosis, treatment, and advice from qualified providers based on your condition and particular circumstances.  Camino Real Ventures, Inc., the company that makes AutoimmuneMom.com available to you, does not endorse nor recommend any products, practices, treatment methods, tests, physicians, service providers, procedures, clinical trials, opinions or information available on this website.  Your use of the website is subject to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy

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Comments

  1. When I originally commented I clicked the “Notify me when new comments are added” checkbox and now
    each time a comment is added I get several emails with the same comment.
    Is there any way you can remove me from that service?
    Many thanks!

    • Katie Cleary says:

      Lucas, I was trying to find your user account to unclick that box, but I cannot find you – sorry about the issues with email notifications and thanks for letting me know.

  2. Great blog you have here but I was wondering if you knew of any message boards that cover the same topics talked about here?
    I’d really love to be a part of online community where I can get feed-back from other knowledgeable individuals that share the same interest. If you have any recommendations, please let me know. Thanks a lot!

    • Katie Cleary says:

      Well, this site has a Q&A section that might be of help for specific Hashi (and other autoimmune conditions) questions — click “questions & answers” at the top of any page of the site. Our Q&A was originally created to help those looking for folks with more than one autoimmune issue since many of us have multiple conditions, but of course many others care most about one issue such as Hashi’s.

      If you want a group that is only talking about Hashimoto’s, there are some Facebook groups for Hashimoto’s and hypothyroidism where you can join – sometimes you have to request to join and then the administrator will approve you. As for other websites devoted to Hashimoto’s, there are other thyroid message boards out there too, just search google for “Hashimoto’s forum” and you’ll see a good list that way. Take care and thanks for commenting!

  3. This is an unbelievable book for understanding Hashimoto’s disease and hypothyroidism. It has changed my life – I cried when I read. It finally explained that all of the issues I have been living with are a part of Hashimoto’s disease. It is an auto immune disease and should be treated as one. The Thyroid is the major symptom of the disease so it is commonly referred to as a thyroid disease and only the thyroid is treated.

    Why Do I Still Have Thyroid Symptoms? When My Lab Tests Are Normal by Datis Kharrazian, DHSc, DC, MS

  4. Oshalla Diana Marcus says:

    Thank you so much for your valuable reporting. I am in a most unique situation in that I have been repeatedly diagnosed with hypo-thyroid (very high (52 THS Level) and (Low T4- 0.5) ( T3- 1.7) I seem to remember that I also was positive for TPO enzymes in a lab taken in 2008. I was first diagnosed in 2008 with similar levels which I was able to bring into balance with dietary changes/yoga and homeopathic treatment. At that time I was insured and was able to monitor my levels but for the past 6 years I was not watchful and now upon taking another lab a few weeks ago the numbers have gone back to post 2008 levels. An ultra sound was taken of my Thyroid in 2008 and it was normal. My current provider found no nodes or abnormalities with manual manipulation. My energy is great, sleep normal, I am warm, slightly oily skin and healthy hair. I do have back aches which could be a symptom but that is usually after I am on my feet all day from working. I feel fortunate that I am mostly asymptomatic and for this reason feel I am a great candidate for alternative treatments. My current doctor is adamant that I begin taking 100mcg of Levothyroxin and test again in three months. I am more inclined to work with alternative treatments once again and re-test at that time to see if my levels balance out. This doctor’s phone staff has also called me with really scary scenarios that could happen to me if I do not begin medicating right away. I have since been referred to another doctor who may be more open to at least prescribing a TPO and Iodine level test (which the current MD has refused to do. Have you ever encountered a case such as mine?. I would appreciate any feedback. I am not ignoring these spooky lab results even though all seems well.

    • Katie Cleary says:

      Hi Oshalla,
      I’m not a doctor so PLEASE be sure to take this advice with a grain of salt, but if you aren’t having symptoms to go along with the labwork, I’d be inclined to get a second opinion and ask for a second blood draw to confirm the first set of results. If you TSH was that high, you would dragging and feeling horrible in most cases. So without the symptoms, I’d be reluctant to start taking thyroid replacement too. I think your gut is right to be leery but also to not want to reject the lab work. I’d find another endocrinologist or consider going to an integrative or functional MD if you can find one in your area (though many do not take insurance, some do). Good luck and keep us posted!

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