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:

  • slowness.
  • constipation.
  • 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.

Hazardous labels

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.

Brain book patient raising awareness about brain injuries

Cavin Balaster’s story was in the brain book under the name Colin in Chapter Two. Cavin fell 20 feet from a water tower onto a roof top. Although he did not fracture his skull, he suffered a significant traumatic brain injury (TBI). Brain MRIs revealed diffuse axonal injury and bruising of the left temporal lobe. While recovering in the hospital, he suffered a stroke on the right side of his brain, resulting in paralysis of the left side of his body. (Read his review here.)

After exhausting conventional approaches, Cavin consulted with Dr. Thomas Culleton, DC, DACNB, FACFN, a functional neurologist and teacher of my seminars. Using functional neurology and functional medicine approaches, Cavin beat the odds to regain function-90 percent of people with this injury do not recover.

Today Cavin is working to spread awareness about TBI. Watch his video and check out his Kickstarter Campaign.


New advanced brain seminar for health care professionals

I have recently updated a three-day course, Mastering Brain Chemistry, for health care professionals. The course expands on concepts in Why Isn’t My Brain Working? and reviews the current literature on brain health and clinical applications. Due to the content of the course and guidelines for university-sponsored continuing education, this course is limited to licensed health care professionals. For more information and dates please go to

Upcoming conferences

I have been invited to speak at the International Association of Functional Neurology conference this October and to participate in panels with leading international researchers and clinicians.

New faculty appointment

I recently accepted a faculty appointment for the Institute for Functional Medicine (IFM) and will present course modules on energy. The IFM is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME®) to provide continuing medical education for medical physicians. I will also continue my teaching schedule at Bastyr University, California.


(1) Li X, Sundquist J, Sundquist K. Subsequent risks of Parkinson disease in patients with autoimmune and related disorders: a nationwide epidemiological study from Sweden. Neurodegener Dis. 2012;10(1-4):277-84.

(2) Kacem I, Gargouri A, Ben Djebara M, Khamassi N, Cherif W, Gouider R. [Parkinson’s disease following hypothyroidism: clinical and therapeutic implications]. Tunis Med. 2013 Feb;91(2):168-70.

(3) Suhanov AV, Pilipenko PI, Korczyn AD, Hofman A, Voevoda MI, Shishkin SV, Simonova GI, Nikitin YP, Feigin VL. Risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease in Russia: a case-control study. Eur J Neurol. 2006 Sep;13(9):990-5.

(4)Tan ZS, Beiser A, Vasan RS, Au R, Auerbach S, Kiel DP, Wolf PA, Seshadri S. Thyroid function and the risk of Alzheimer disease: the Framingham Study. Arch Intern Med. 2008 Jul 28;168(14):1514-20. doi: 10.1001/archinte.168.14.1514. PubMed PMID: 18663163; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC2694610.

(5) Ghenimi N, Alfos S, Redonnet A, Higueret P, Pallet V, Enderlin V. Adult-onset hypothyroidism induces the amyloidogenic pathway of amyloid precursor protein processing in the rat hippocampus. J Neuroendocrinol. 2010 Aug;22(8):951-9.


  • Lisa April 27, 2014 at 9:48 pm

    I have been diagnosed with Hashimoto’s by a doctor who uses your research as a base for decisions concerning my treatment. I am going into my 6th month of a very strict Hashi diet with little to no improvement in number levels on bloodwork although I do feel much better.

    My doctor uses Brain Core Therapy – what is your opinion of this treatment? I have my mapping scheduled for May 12…

    I have not had a chance to get your brain book to see if Brain Core Therapy is mentioned.

    • Brain Health Book May 5, 2014 at 8:56 pm

      It looks like Brain Core is neurofeedback therapy, which has a good track record, although he does not talk about it in the book. It’s good you feel much better, that’s important. The lab numbers can take some time to adjust.

    • soldmen November 25, 2014 at 6:35 pm

      Greetings Lisa,

      I read your comment about your lab levels not changing. I have Hashi’s and have received treatment for the last 8 months. I am on strict Hashi diet too and have had marked improvent, but have a ways to go yet. My functional medicine dr. discovered one thing that has been slowing down my recovery is that I am still taking rx med for anxiety/depression for the last 2.5 years from conventional medicine prescription. The effect of the rx has been inhibiting my liver function. Currently, between conventional dr. and functional dr. assistance, I am in the process of weaning off the medication with the hope that when it is out of my system the liver will kick in and run efficiently. Thought this may be something that may skew your labs if you were taking rx too.

  • soldmen November 25, 2014 at 6:25 pm

    I was recently diagnosed with “sub-clinical” Hashi’s by a functional medicine Dr. who studies Dr. Datis’s protocol. (I also think my mom has Hashi’s – she hasn’t been diagnosed, but many of her and my health issues are the same. Her mom died of Alzheimers.) I have been sick for years, am now 50. Before getting treatment the last eight months, pain had become hard to bear, but the worst and most frightening symptom I developed was brain degeneration. I couldn’t get out the word I wanted to say, etc. Scary! This was the turnaround moment for me. My husband and I turned to functional medicine and finally found someone who could put the pieces of my health puzzle together, giving us answers and hope. It hasn’t been easy and I have a ways to go yet, but am thankful for “functional medicine” practitioners! I think Hashi’s symptoms have been noticeable since my late 20s. My son, who is now 20, was diagnosed with ocd when he was 18. He takes an rx to help with this. I now realize ocd symptoms in myself since his diagnosis and have been rx’d by conventional medicine for anxiety and depression since my late 20s off and on – never diagnosed with ocd. I have observed “possible” auto-immune symptoms he has. Low blood sugar symptoms- tremors, dizziness – neither very often; brain fog too at times – following directions, remembering directions; and he is always tired. My question for you is: Is OCD a possible symptom of the auto-immune reaction? What is your experience with patients who have auto-immune disease and OCD; and then, Hashi’s and OCD? Looking for answers for my son especially – I want to do all I can to help him feel better mentally and to get earlier management of auto-immune too. Am also asking for myself about Hashi’s/OCD. What recommendations would you give for where to start looking for answers for my son? Are there specific tests – you would start with?

  • Luverne December 6, 2014 at 2:34 am

    I first heard you speak on the Thyroid Summit this summer and ordered and read your brain book. I need a referral to someone in my area in central Michigan. I am on a downhill slide and desperate for help. I have not been able to get better and am instead getting worse with a progression of neuro symptoms that are frightening.
    In august an ultrasound showed no detectable thyroid tissue and my PA just said he never seen that before. there is a lot more to my story but can you help me find someone here in Michigan. I am a nurse who has had to be on medical leave and cannot work any longer due to all that has happened. Thank you for any insight or help you can give.

  • Kathy March 15, 2015 at 7:46 pm

    I have been struggling with fatigue and increasing number of food allergies for the last 4 years. I was diagnosed with low thyroid function. Taking different medications has not improved my thyroid levels noticeably. I have altered my diet to avoid all food allergies as much as possible. The key ones include Garlic, Gluten sensitivity, dairy, cashews, hazelnuts, peanuts, peas, green beans, pineapple, cherries, amaranth, kidney beans. Over the last 6 months I have also cut out all grains, all beans. My cortisol levels are high, as well as high levels of inflammation in my liver. I have been working with a functional medicine doctor who is also a gastroenterologist. I don’t feel that I am making any real progress. Can you recommend a functional doctor to work with in San Diego CA that is trained in your thyroid and brain function course work?

    • Tiina December 15, 2017 at 2:47 pm

      Hi Kathy, did you receive any recommendations? I’m also in the San Diego area and would love to know as I’m just now learning about some of the extended brain degeneration. Here I’ve been beating myself up for the last couple of years about my lack of motivation and drive and it could be because of the Hashimoto’s that I’ve just recently finally gotten a doctor to prescribe low dose of thyroid med to help support. Not to mention how scared I’m getting of my memory loss and inability to find words. Who is your functional dr./gastro that you’re seeing?
      Thank you,

      • Susan (admin) December 19, 2017 at 1:45 am


        Kathy’s post was back in 2015, so she may or may not see your reply. Dr. Kharrazian has a practitioner referral list here: Some of them are willing to practice remotely.

        For the motivation/drive and memory (all brain-related) symptoms, I’d recommend seeing a practitioner trained in functional medicine. They are good at piecing together the factors at play.

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