What do women with Hashimoto’s disease have in common when they come to my office?
They are often struggling with infertility and miscarriage. By addressing the potential immune dysfunction upon the T-cells, we aim to rebuild new uninfected T-cells with our Immune Balancing Protocol that have improved fertility outcomes from 42% to 65% without moving to IVF and getting 96% of recurrent miscarrying patients to carry to term. As a sideline, patients have related improvement in their Inflammatory Bowel Disease, Primary Biliary Cirrhosis, Chronic Urticaria, Migraines, and FMS. Hashimoto’s thyroiditis or chronic lymphocytic thyroiditis is thought to be an autoimmune disease in which the thyroid gland is attacked by a variety of cell- and antibody-mediated immune processes. It was the first disease to be recognized as an autoimmune disease but this presumes the immune system is the primary inciting event. It was first described by the Japanese specialist Hakaru Hashimoto in Germany in 1912.
This disorder affects women, 7x more than men and in women who develop hypothyroidism in pregnancy, 20% of these women will manifest Hashimoto’s disease years later. The hallmark of Hashimoto’s islymphocytic infiltration and injury to cells with replacement by fibrosis. Although thyroid antibodies with elevated TSH are the most commonly used criteria these days, thyroid ultrasound is useful for the enlargement and fibrosis that comes on slowly. In the early days, thyroid biopsy was needed to confirm the high lymphocytic infiltration. For most patients, normal thyroid levels and size will persist for many years, and yet they consider this to be “hypothyroidism”. In essence, elevated TSH with normal free T3 and T4 is called subclinical hypothyroidism, but whatever doctors wish to call it, they still treat the TSH with thyroid replacement to normalize this number. Many people with Hashimoto’s disease develop an underactive thyroid. They may have mild or no symptoms at first. But symptoms tend to worsen over time. There may be no symptoms to symptoms of low thyroid levels such as Fatigue; Weight gain; Pale, puffy face; Feeling cold; Joint and muscle pain; Constipation; Dry, thinning hair; Heavy menstrual flow or irregular periods; Depression; A slowed heart rate; Problems getting pregnant or adverse pregnancy outcomes.
The literature has suggested causes of Hashimoto’s to be related to genes, gender, pregnancy, exposure to iodine or some drugs, radiation exposure and viruses such as HHV6. At IVF Phoenix™, I have been associating herpes viruses with adverse pregnancy outcomes since 2002. There are 9 viruses in the human family. HSV1 and 2 are well known to the public, but the most common herpes virus is varicella or chickenpox. (99.9%). The fourth virus is Epstein-Barr (EBV) or Mono and 95% of patients over 30 will have been exposed.
The fifth virus is Cytomegalovirus, (CMV) and 80% of the population will be exposed. I find it no fluke that we tend to see clusters of infertile and miscarrying patients to be in healthcare and teaching and airlines and feel strongly that this is associated with viral exposure earlier than most. The sixth virus is called Human herpes virus-6, (HHV6) and there are two variants. Type B is associated with high fever in childhood, roseola exanthem and Type A is considered adult associated and may be a chimera. While HHV-6 was strictly latent in positive samples from controls, a low-grade acute infection was detected in Hashimoto’s thyroiditis samples. HHV-6 variant characterization was carried out in 10 HT fine needle aspirate samples, determining that all specimens harbored HHV-6 Variant A. CMV and HHV6 are associated with vascular inflammation independently and synergize when active together.
I have been measuring antibodies to these viruses in my patients since 2002, over 2000 patients, and have never seen a patient have positive anti-thyroid antibodies without having positive HHV6 Abs. I suspected that HHV6 has a predilection for the thyroid tissues and injures the tissues and this has been confirmed in the literature. This creates damage, as well as tissue ischemia due to associated vasculitis.
This thyroid tissue damage initiates an immune response to scavenge the good parts of the damaged cells to be used in making new cells. These thyroid antibodies have been interpreted to be an initial inciting event, but I disagree. Components of several viruses such as hepatitis C virus, human parvovirus B19, coxsackievirus and herpes virus are detected in the thyroid of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis patients. Bystander activation of autoreactive T cells may be involved in triggering intrathyroidal inflammation. Signaling molecules associated with antiviral responses including Toll-like receptors may participate in Hashimoto’s thyroiditis induction. However, studies have provided insufficient direct evidence for the viral hypothesis in Hashimoto’s thyroiditis until a recent article, Caselli et al. (Oct 2012).* Preliminary studies have suggested a correlation between Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis and Celiac sprue. 
While it has not been rigorously explored, there is anecdotal evidence that a gluten-free diet may reduce the autoimmune response responsible for thyroid degeneration. A study published in January 2012 compared a group of confirmed celiac patients to a control group of healthy individuals, starting a gluten-free diet and continuing for one year.  While there was a higher occurrence of thyroiditis found amongst the Celiac group, there was no reduction in their level of anti-TPO antibody, improvement in thyroid function, or change in thyroid volume reduction after one year without gluten. The study mentions that its results disagree with other studies, such as a prospective study published in August 2000 with 90 celiac patients, which found that thyroid-related serum antibodies tended to reduce during a gluten-free diet. 
The paradigm that we at IVF Phoenix™ have been working under, considers a virally induced, T-cell
mediated dysfunction. One good article that I have come across touches on many of the connections
that I have been suggesting, and provides a coherent scientific background of support.** The viruses are cousins of the human herpes virus family, specifically VZX, EBV,CMV and HHV6. As a later part of the dysfunction, women can manifest thyroid antibodies, and progression into Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. It is understandable that pregnancy is highly related with future HT, given the immunosuppressed nature of pregnancy and likelihood of herpes virus accumulation and progression during this susceptible time. At this stage, simple exposure to antivirals is not fully optimal given that these viruses have been shown to create chronic mild immunosuppression.
Physician Bio: Dr. John Couvaras is double Board Certified in OBGYN & in Reproductive Endocrinology &
Infertility. He founded IVF PHOENIX™ and has served as its Medical Director for more than 20 years. In 2012, he was recognized as being in the Top 10% for Reproductive Endocrinology by US NEWS. He was awarded & recognized by his peers as a TOP Doctor (Phoenix Magazine) multiple times. He is an active member of the American Society of Reproductive Medicine. He is past director of Reproductive Endocrinology and Assisted Reproductive Medicine and past chairman of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Paradise Valley Hospital. He is certified in CO2 and YAG laser surgery, operative laparoscopy and hysteroscopy, and microsurgical tubal and pelvic surgery. His expertise includes all aspects of female reproductive medicine and surgery.
*”Virologic and immunologic evidence supporting an association between HHV-6 and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis”. In Moore, Patrick S.
PLoS Pathogens 8 (10): e1002951. doi:10.1371/journal.ppat.1002951. PMC 3464215. PMID 23055929