Improving immune tolerance

How to stop Hashimoto’s?

An underactive thyroid is one of the consequences of Hashimoto’s — an autoimmune condition in which our own immune system mistakenly marks our thyroid as an intruder in our own body.

What researchers know is that to develop Hashimoto’s there needs to be a genetic predisposition, meaning the code for developing the disease is written in our genes, and we have likely inherited it from our genetic predecessors. But in the addition to this genetic component, the environment in which we live is actually the factor activating the disease.

Why does it happen so often to the thyroid gland?

Because the three proteins (big molecules) in your body that are necessary for conveying information from the outside to the thyroid are quite big.

The bigger the protein, more problems it usually causes with autoimmunity, and there are a lot of them. More abundant proteins are more likely to cause an autoimmune response. These proteins are called thyroid peroxidase (TPO) and thyroglobulin (Tg), and when they break our self tolerance (the property of our immune system to attack only foreign bodies like bacteria and viruses, while letting our organs alone), we start producing antibodies called anti-TPO and anti-Tg. The only function of these antibodies is to seek and destroy anything containing TPO and Tg proteins, which is mostly the thyroid gland and cells it contains.

Medications, foods, and treatments increasing autoimmune response

There are certain medications used for other diseases that temper with your immune system and may cause autoimmune flare-ups:

  • Treatment for hepatitis C with interferon (1). Treatments for multiple sclerosis (2) or some surgical treatments for type 1 diabetes (3)

  • Excess iodide (4)

  • Microorganisms, possibly including some found in probiotics

  • Low level radiation (5, 6)

  • Pregnancy and a certain period after pregnancy can induce autoimmunity (7, 8)

  • Foods such as cassava, cabbage, and raw bok choy can cause thyroid problems and autoimmune flareups (9, 10). Breakdown products in these foods include molecules called thiocyanates, which inhibit thyroid function.

  • Viral and bacterial infections, especially the ones causing digestive problems (11–14)

What can we do?

The “hygiene hypothesis” claims that people regularly exposed to viruses and bacteria develop less autoimmunity and allergy than people living in “clean” environments (15, 16). Some researchers claim that this can lead to a less active or trained immune system, leading the immune system to start reacting to the own body.

  1. Training one’s immune system is individual, and should be done under medical doctor supervision only.

  2. Take your colds and other infections seriously. The clean environment might not be a culprit for all of Hashimoto’s flareups. Prolonged infections caused by viruses and bacterias can seriously affect the immune system. Make sure you recover fast — low down if needed and take the time to heal.

  3. Avoid foods that specifically cause you any kind of digestive problem: bloating, flatulence, diarrhea, or constipation. Food sensitivities are very individual, but there are some common patterns.

Track your symptoms with BOOST Thyroid to discover your health patterns and predict when flareups might come.


  1. Prummel MF, et al. Interferon-α and autoimmune thyroid disease, 2003

  2. Coles AJ, et al. Pulsed monoclonal antibody treatment and autoimmune thyroid disease in multiple sclerosis, 1999

  3. Gillard P, et al. Graves hyperthyroidism after stopping immunosuppressive therapy in type 1 diabetic Islet cell recipients with pretransplant TPO autoantibodies, 2009

  4. Carayanniotis G. Molecular parameters linking thyroglobulin iodination with autoimmune thyroiditis, 2011

  5. Eheman CR, et al. Autoimmune thyroid disease associated with environmental thyroidal irradiation, 2003

  6. Pacini F, et al. Prevalence of thyroid autoantibodies in children and adolescents from Belarus exposed to the Chernobyl radioactive fallout, 1998

  7. Weetman AP. Immunity, thyroid function and pregnancy: molecular mechanisms, 2010

  8. Morshed SA. Delineating the autoimmune mechanisms in Graves’ disease, 2012

  9. Chesney AM, et al. Endemic goiter in rabbits, 1928

  10. Chu M. Myxedema coma induced by ingestion of raw bok choy, 2010

  11. Prummel MF, et al. The environment and autoimmune thyroid diseases, 2004

  12. Burek CL, et al. Environmental triggers of autoimmune thyroiditis, 2009

  13. Tomer Y, et al. Infection, thyroid disease, and autoimmunity, 1993

  14. Hammerstad SS, et al. Inflammation and Increased Myxovirus Resistance Protein A Expression in Thyroid Tissue in the Early Stages of Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, 2013

  15. Wills-Karp M, et al. The germless theory of allergic disease: revisiting the hygiene hypothesis, 2001

  16. Yazdanbakhsh M, et al. Allergy, parasites, and the hygiene hypothesis, 2002