If you’re managing your Hashimoto’s yet still waiting for your depression to lift and your memory to return, you could be suffering from the beginning of a brain breakdown. Scientists call it accelerated brain degeneration, and it’s critical you know about it. Many symptoms of brain decline overlap with Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism so that patients—and their doctors—often ignore the symptoms, treating them as just one more thyroid issue to live with.
Unfortunately, this is a common mistake with regrettable consequences since researchers have found Hashimoto’s and hypothyroidism increase the risk of developing Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s disease. In fact, accelerated brain degeneration is one of the most severe consequences of poorly managed Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism.
The most common symptoms of early brain degeneration—depression, fatigue, and loss of motivation and drive—are identical to hypothyroid symptoms. Other familiar symptoms include brain fog, an inability to find the right words, memory loss, and slower mental speed. Fatigue is especially common, making reading, driving, or just carrying on a conversation exhausting.
Thyroid patients may also experience loss of balance, vertigo, numbness and tingling in different parts of the body, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), and other neurological symptoms. These are all complaints frequently expressed on thyroid internet forums, such as Facebook’s Hashimoto’s 411 group, and in the emails we receive.
The reality is that low thyroid function may be promoting brain degeneration. Possible mechanisms for this breakdown include:
- increased brain inflammation.
- altered brain chemical function (neurotransmitter activity).
- promotion of brain autoimmunity.
- loss of blood-brain barrier integrity (leaky brain).
- brain ischemia (lack of blood flow and oxygen to the brain).
- increased protein aggregation, a clumping together of proteins in the brain.
Hashimoto’s and increased Parkinson’s disease risk
Two recent papers, including one that evaluated more than 300,000 people, show hypothyroidism increased the risk of Parkinson’s disease. If you have Hashimoto’s you should be aware of early symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, including:
- decreased sense of smell.
Tremors usually occur later in the development of the disease, when it may be too late to reverse the damage.
Hypothyroidism and Alzheimer’s disease
Several papers have also found hypothyroidism associated with and increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Be aware of early symptoms, including:
- impaired memory.
- difficulty with directions.
- trouble learning new tasks.
- frequently losing everyday items, such as the car key or cell phone.
If you have been diagnosed with hypothyroidism and notice any of these symptoms, please immediately focus on improving your brain health.
Once a person is labeled a “thyroid patient,” doctors blame brain symptoms on hypothyroidism and ignore effective strategies that support brain health. One thing I have learned in teaching seminars to all kinds of health care practitioners, conventional and alternative, is that knowledge about the brain is limited to general recommendations, such as prescribing fish oil supplements or antidepressants. As brain degeneration goes unaddressed, symptoms worsen, causing considerable worry and stress for the patient.
Why Isn’t My Brain Working?
I recently published Why Isn’t My Brain Working?, a book about protecting the brain from degeneration. One reason I wrote the book was to help readers of Why Do I Still Have Thyroid Symptoms? understand the critical link between the thyroid and the brain and how to support healthy brain function wile managing their thyroid disorder. You have a window of time in which to turn brain degeneration around. I believe that knowing what to look for and what to do about it can help save your brain before it is too late. That’s why my brain book is a must-read for people with a thyroid condition, especially those who notice a decline in any aspect of their brain function.
Each chapter of Why Isn’t My Brain Working? begins with a symptom list associated with a neurologic mechanisms and includes strategies to support that particular aspect of brain health. This type of organization can help you identify which symptoms and signs apply to you and what to do about them.
If you are managing your autoimmune condition and taking thyroid hormone medication but still suffer from depression, fatigue, and loss of motivation, consider evaluating and supporting your brain health. I encourage you to read Why Isn’t My Brain Working?
At this point in my career, I realize I need to educate patients directly since so few practitioners can help them. I hope my brain book empowers you to improve your brain health and gives you the knowledge to take charge of it.