As we sit in the midst of 2014’s Thyroid Disease Awareness Month, it seems prudent to follow up on our article from last year detailing research and progress in the fight against Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. Last January 2013, we presented a brief overview on Hashimoto’s thyroid research, which covered all major research efforts to date. Below we continue this coverage by keeping our readers up-to-date on the latest investigatory happenings in the Hashimoto’s world, and the best places to get more information.
What research institutions in the world focus on progress for Hashimoto’s?
Thankfully, there is no lack of institutions around the globe that focus on Hashimoto’s news and developments. The NIH page on Hashimoto’s is a great place to start, as it offers a short basic review of the disease including research information, as well as contact information for several other organizations involved in similar work, thus providing additional resources for patients and families.
Another great site on which to begin a search for research advances is that of the Johns Hopkins Autoimmune Disease Research Center, which offers another overview of the disease on the Hashimoto’s section, as well as a very helpful link to “our center and lab” at the top of the page.
An excellent resource for information on all things research-oriented is the Mayo Clinic website. Whether there are any specific studies on Hashimoto’s at the time, the Mayo Clinic does a ton of research on all types of disease, and can likely offer information and/or point the patient in the right direction for further Hashimoto’s investigative efforts.
The American Thyroid Association covers the latest news and developments in the world of hypothyroidism, with specific pages dedicated to different diseases. And the site Allthyroid.org is a very comprehensive all-in-one space for all types of thyroid information; it should be approached from the main page and then explored from there, since the main page offers many excellent sections and links along the left side of the page. However, this site also seems to be somewhat out-of-date, so proceed accordingly.
Some other good resources focusing on thyroid research around the world include the British equivalent of the US thyroid association, providing study results for investigations old and new, a site called EndocrineWeb.com that offers some good information and links, and the Society for Women’s Health Research, a website that offers fairly comprehensive information on hypothyroid research.
In addition, the physician-founded National Academy of Hypothyroidism is a potentially excellent resource, as is the site for Florida Hospital, which provides an overview of research and clinical trials, with contact information.
Additional entities involved in hypothyroid studies are the NIH Office on Women’s Health, which offers great additional resources at the bottom of the page, as well as the National Organization for Rare Diseases, also providing more resources at the bottom of the page.
Finally, the Genetics Home Reference page from the NIH also gives a basic overview with many possible additional Hashimoto’s thyroiditis resources towards the bottom of the page. A Google search for “Hashimoto’s research” or similar should easily produce a few others.
Whether their efforts are specifically treatment-related, or based more in clarifying existing mechanisms of disease, all of these endeavors are ultimately being performed to improve the lives of sufferers through new and advanced (or revised) therapeutic avenues.
What are the latest results of research for Hashimoto’s disease, both traditional and alternative?
Encouragingly, there have been several findings and developments within the past year involving progress in understanding and treating Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism. While not all are entirely new or groundbreaking, the literature certainly supports the investigation of Hashimoto’s as a major priority in the endocrine community.
Supplementation with selenium was examined in several different studies, with the hope that this would help reduce the number of antibodies towards the thyroid tissue. While a few subjects did seem to experience minor benefits, more study is clearly needed to prove or refute the hypothesis; read more on the NIH website.
Another article in Total Health magazine covered this same topic of selenium and Hashimoto’s, with a focus on the inflammation that seems to trigger Hashimoto’s and the ways selenium may be able to help in this regard. Appropriately, The Wall Street Journal published an article to this effect last year, stating that additional investigation into hypothyroidism is definitely needed, despite those research efforts already underway.
The Thyroid Research journal published a very nice compact review (based on the findings of an annual Polish thyroid congress) of our understanding of current hypothyroidism issues, with implications for future research. Furthermore, the University of Maryland Center has a hypothyroidism page that, while not a great source of current progress, offers a list of supporting research that some may find beneficial.
The National Academy of Hypothyroidism has a recently published piece on the connection between vitamin D and Hashimoto’s, suggesting that vitamin D deficiency may lead to or be involved in this type of hypothyroidism. This same topic is also explored on the Vitamin D Council website and on Medscape.
Another site explores the various alternative treatments from the past year, focusing on traditional Chinese therapies that have seen success with Hashimoto’s disease.
Thyroid Change, a patient-centered website, reviews two recent studies that link Hashimoto’s to rheumatoid arthritis development and symptoms of depression (already known to a large extent.
And the Journal of Thyroid Research, a respected Indian research publication, has a recent review of our knowledge to this point regarding thyroid antibodies during pregnancy. There is also a host of websites purporting to have dietary answers for Hashimoto’s patients, though most if not all are scientifically unsubstantiated and should be run by a healthcare provider before beginning the regimen.
On the negative side of things, an Italian study recently suggested that there might be a link between levothyroxine (hormone supplementation) and the development of lung cancer through oxidative stress. Additionally, another site references several studies and presents a collection of potential problems experienced with Hashimoto’s and/or the treatment of the condition, including trouble with walking and balance, as well as nerve demyelination.
Finally, while none seemed to have any good current research findings at this time, several other websites/organizations appear to be good places to check often for new developments. These include:
- Medical News Today, a clearinghouse for all recent medical news
- Thyroid UK, which has a page dedicated to Hashimoto’s research and papers (though some seem quite old)
- News Medical, which aims to cover all recent research news and is searchable by disease or topic.
- Mayo Clinic news page in the Hashimoto’s section is also a potentially excellent source of current information
And checking and searching the “news” section of Medscape may also prove useful. Playing around with the wording used in a Google search will undoubtedly reveal other resources as well.
Is there any research looking at the gut microbiome and Hashimoto’s?
There does appear to be some interest in and findings related to this connection, though the sources of information are quite varied in detail and reliability. Still, researchers and clinicians seem to have identified several potential connections between Hashimoto’s disease and the gut microbiota, or gut flora (the microscopic bacterial contents of the intestines).
Discovery Medicine explores the possibility that the gut flora may be a trigger for Hashimoto’s, noting that the evidence at this point is quite weak and requires further research. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism presents a study that examines the reverse possibility, i.e., that having hypothyroidism may precipitate overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine. And another source describes the possibilities of treating various autoimmune conditions using fecal transplants, as a way of managing problematic gut microbiomes.
Other research has been completed examining the connections between the gut components and hypothyroidism in rat models, which generally indicates that human investigations are forthcoming. Additional studies demonstrating links between the gut bacterial community and other autoimmune disorders in human beings certainly indicate a high probability that the same links will be the subject of future investigations into hypothyroid mechanisms.
Questions for your doctor:
- What is your opinion on the connection between the gut flora and progression of Hashimoto’s or other autoimmune disease?
- Should I be taking any supplements or eating/avoiding certain foods to improve the bacterial makeup of my intestines?
- Can you offer highlights of any important new research findings related to my condition?
- What are the best places to look for reliable Hashimoto’s information, especially new developments?
- Am I a candidate for any current or future clinical studies regarding Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism?
- I’ve read that there may be some dangerous effects from taking levothyroxine. Is there anything to worry about?
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].