Is there a natural approach for hypothyroidism (low thyroid)?
Hypothyroidism, or underactive thyroid, means the thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough hormones. It’s a condition that affects about 5 percent of the population, according to the National Institue of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. The thyroid helps control energy use, so when it doesn’t work right, it impacts every organ. For most people, hypothyroidism requires them to take synthetic hormones but is there also a more natural way to approach this disease?
What are the Signs of Hypothyroidism?
It starts with a proper diagnosis and testing. A doctor will look for specific symptoms when diagnosing hypothyroidism including:
- Changes in mood like depression
- Hair loss
- Weight gain
- Dry skin
- Sensitivity to cold
- Slow heart rate
- Goiter, or swelling of the gland
- Puffy or moon face
- Muscles aches
- Impaired memory
There are many reasons that the thyroid gland might stop producing the right amount of hormones. The most likely cause is an autoimmune disease like Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. Some medications can lead to hypothyroidism, as well, such as lithium.
What Foods can Help With Hypothyroidism
You should follow your doctor’s recommendations to treat your condition, but there are things you can do on your own to control it. Diet, for example, can have an impact. Certain foods work to promote healthy thyroid functioning because they are rich in essential elements like zinc, tyrosine and selenium. For example:
- Seaweed, sea vegetables and eggs for natural sources of Iodine
- Tuna, cod sea kelp, bananas, and avocados for tyrosine
- Tuna, sardines, salmon, turkey, cod, chicken, lamb, beef, Brazil nuts for selenium
A proper hypothyroidism diet might also include:
- Wild-caught fish that are rich in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids like Alaskan salmon or Pacific sardines
- Coconut oil for the medium-chain fatty acids
- Probiotic foods like kefir or sauerkraut
- Sprouted seeds like flax or hemp for the ALA, a type of omega-3 that help balance hormones and thyroid function
Also, you want to focus on fruits and vegetables that provide antioxidants along with high fiber foods such as beans, lentils and seeds.
What Foods to Avoid
The foods you don’t eat are just as important as what you do if you have hypothyroidism such as:
Goitrogen foods – Although this is not a major concern, there are vegetables that contain goitrogens that can impair thyroid functions. If you choose to consume these vegetables and have hypothyroidism, it would be best to lightly steam these foods prior to consumption. This list would include:
- Brussels sprouts
Tap water – In most cities, the tap water contains added fluoride and chlorine, both of which can interfere with thyroid functioning.
Gluten – People with hypothyroid are sometimes sensitive to gluten, proteins found in some grains.
Traditional dairy products – A person with thyroid trouble might also be sensitive to dairy.
Sugar – Sugar can wreak havoc on an already poorly functioning metabolism. It’s best to avoid processed sugar altogether
Refined flour – Processed flour is another problematic food source. Look instead for whole grain foods like quinoa and buckwheat.
Natural Supplements for Hypothyroid
Combined with the proper diet, certain supplements can help manage hypothyroidism like:
- Ashwagandha – This is a natural herb helps modulate certain hormone levels.
- Iodine – Iodine should be used with caution and only if iodine deficiency is adequately documented. Taking too much iodine can actually worsen certain cases of thyroid disease.
- Selenium – Selenium is a necessary component for the production of one of the thyroid hormones. Selenium supplementation should be avoided if you live in an area with selenium rich soil, such as North and South Dakota.
- L-tyrosine – This amino acid is also critical for the creation of a thyroid hormone.
- Fish oil – A fish oil supplement is another way to get the much needed omega-3 fatty acids.
- B-complex vitamin – One capsule daily generally provides the necessary amount of B12 and thiamine for thyroid health.
- Probiotics – Having a healthy microbiome is important for both thyroid and general health. For the general population, probiotics with high bacterial diversity and high CFU count are better products to consume. A functional physician can help determine if a certain brand or strain is better for your individual condition.
Some cases of hypothyroidism can be corrected by improvement of diet and certain supplements that help with thyroid production. Conversely, there are cases where taking a thyroid hormone replacement is unavoidable depending on the severity and context of the individual’s illness. We recommend that you speak to your medical doctor regarding both natural and/or thyroid hormone replacement therapies.