How to Treat Hypothyroidism
Hypothyroidism is a condition that occurs when your thyroid gland can no longer produce the amount of thyroid hormone your body needs. If you have subclinical (minor) hypothyroidism, you can usually rely on natural home treatments to keep the condition in check. If you have severe or clinical hyperthyroidism, however, you will need to take a medical synthetic hormone to replenish the missing hormone.
Part 1 of 2: Natural Home Treatments
Consume fewer foods that decrease thyroid function. A number of foods can block natural thyroid hormone as well as artificial thyroid hormone and should be avoided as much as possible. Other foods have no direct impact on thyroid hormone production, but some trigger autoimmune responses that could aggravate your condition.
- Caffeine and sugar should be minimized, including grain-based and starchy carbohydrates. These foods can cause sudden spikes in your blood sugar levels, and since hypothyroidism tends to affect your blood sugar levels, these sudden spikes can further destabilize your levels and leave you feeling ill and fatigued.
- If you have Hashimoto’s thyroid disease, you should also skip the gluten. Gluten has a molecular structure similar to thyroid tissue, and if you have Hashimoto’s disease, your immune system will attack your thyroid whenever it detects more thyroid or possible thyroid. Gluten can also trigger such attacks.
- Goitrogens block real and artificial thyroid, especially when eaten raw. Limit foods rich in goitrogens to once every four days, at most, and try to eat them cooked instead of raw. Such foods include almonds, cauliflower, millet, pears, turnips, brussels sprouts, corn, mustard, pine nuts, broccoli, cabbage, kale, kohlrabi, rutabaga, strawberries, watercress, radishes, peaches, soy, canola oil, peanuts, and spinach.
Eat more protein. Among its many benefits, protein transports thyroid hormone from the glad and out to your bodily tissues. Eating a little healthy protein at each meal can help distribute thyroid hormone more regularly.
- Good sources of protein include nuts and nut butter, as well as legumes. Avoid almonds, pine nuts, and peanuts, though, since these three nuts contain goitrogens that can actually lower thyroid function.
- Quinoa and antibiotic-free animal products, including eggs, fish, and grass-fed poultry and meat, are typically great sources of protein.
- Avoid soy products since soy can block feedback throughout your endocrine system, thereby deregulating your hormone function.
Get more fat. While convention holds that food products high in fat contribute to health problems, healthy fats and HDL (“good”) cholesterol are necessary if you want to establish and maintain hormonal pathways in your body.
- Good sources of fat and cholesterol include olive oil, ghee, avocados, flax seeds, fish, nuts, nut butter, full-fat dairy products (cheese, yogurt, cottage cheese), and coconut milk.
Stock up on nutrients. A lack of nutrients may not be the main cause of hypothyroidism, but if you lack certain minerals and vitamins, you could worsen your condition. Treating your condition, therefore, requires you to have ample amounts of vitamin D, iron, omega-3 fatty acids, selenium, zinc, copper, vitamin A, and the B vitamins.
- In particular, your vitamin D levels should be between 50 and 80 ng/mL. If your levels are below 32 ng/mL, you could be greatly disruption the pathways used by your body to transport hormones.
- Omega-3 fatty acids are an essential element involve in hormone creation, especially for those hormones that control your immune system and your body’s ability to grow cells. Good sources include fish, animal products, flaxseeds, and walnuts.
- Note that it is usually best to rely on natural food sources of vitamins and minerals rather than supplements, but if all else fails, nutritional supplements might be better than nothing.
Look for sources of natural iodine. Iodine can actually help enhance your thyroid gland’s ability to function, so as long as you still have your thyroid and are not relying completely on artificial thyroid hormone, iodine-rich foods can be an important part of your treatment plan.
- Note that it is far better to consume natural sources of iodine rather than relying on iodine supplements, which can be especially risky if you have Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism.
- Primary sources of iodine include sea vegetables like kelp, dulce, and nori, as well as seafood, including both saltwater fish and shellfish.
- Secondary sources of iodine include eggs, asparagus, lima beans, mushrooms, spinach, sesame seeds, summer squashes, Swiss chard, and garlic. Dairy products, like cheese, cow’s milk, ice cream, and yogurt, can also help your iodine levels.
Strengthen your body with glutathione. This substance is a natural antioxidant, so it strengthens your immune system and proves especially helpful if you have Hashimoto’s. It can protect your thyroid tissue while regulating the immune system.
- There are only a few foods that contain glutathione. These foods include avocado, garlic, squash, asparagus, and grapefruit.
Get plenty of probiotics. Up to 20 percent of thyroid function is thought to depend upon an ample amount of healthy bacteria in the intestines. Probiotics are live, beneficial bacteria and live in your intestines once you ingest them.
- Probiotics can be consumed through certain foods, like yogurt, or you can take a probiotic supplement.
Take herbal supplements. While herbal supplements may not be able to treat your hypothyroidism on their own, some clinical herbalists and nutrition specialists do believe that a couple such supplements can at least help.
- Eleuthero is used to treat both hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism. It helps the body adjust to physical stress while strengthening the immune system.
- Echinacea is somewhat controversial, and some nutritionists believe it should be avoided as a treatment for hypothyroidism in the early stages. It has been known to boost the immune system, though, so talk to a nutritionist for a professional opinion before taking it or ruling it out completely.
Exercise. Cardiovascular exercise that gets your blood pumping can help you regulate thyroid function. Try to exercise at least three days each week for 40 minutes per workout.
- You can go for a fast-paced walk or run, ride your bicycle, go swimming, play basketball, or do nearly anything else that makes your heart beat a little faster. Even pushups, lunges, and sit-ups can do the trick.
Relax. While many hormone-producing glands influence and are influenced by stress, the thyroid gland is especially sensitive to it. Finding ways to reduce stress can help treat your hypothyroidism.
- Try to get eight hours of sleep at night to limit the amount of fatigue-related stress you face.
- Practice meditation, yoga, or any other practice that naturally calms you down.
Part 2 of 2: Medical Treatments
Take a prescribed thyroid medication. Hypothyroidism is almost always treated with levothyroxine (T4), a type of synthetic thyroid hormone. The medication is taken orally. When working right, it restores your thyroid hormone levels to the correct balance and reverses the symptoms of hypothyroidism.
- If the dosage is correct, you should start feeling less fatigued within one to two weeks.
- The medication should also help lower cholesterol levels that might have been raised by your hypothyroidism, and it has also been known to reverse weight gain related to the disease.
- Note that most patients will need to be treated for the rest of their lives. You will likely have your thyroid hormone levels checked on a yearly basis to determine if the dosage is correct or needs to be altered.
Work with your doctor to determine the right dosage. It can a few months before your doctor can determine the right dosage. The doctor will likely measure your elevated TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) level via a blood test before prescribing an initial dosage. Six to eight weeks after you start your medication, another similar test will be performed to determine if the dosage is right.
- If the dosage is too low, symptoms associated with hypothyroidism might still persist, including constipation, feeling cold, feeling sluggish, and gaining weight.
- If the dosage is too high, you might feel excessive nervousness, have problems sleeping, and suffer from shaking or tremors.
- Note that a doctor will usually prescribe a small dosage if you have severe hypothyroidism or some form of coronary artery disease.
Watch for signs of worsening hypothyroidism. Even though you will typically have your thyroid hormone levels checked yearly, there is some chance that your thyroid levels can drop again before your yearly check-up comes along. Watch for signs of hypothyroidism, including sluggishness, constipation, confusion, and a frequent feeling of being cold.
- If you develop a bowel disease or take medicine that affects your intestinal tract, your thyroid medication may not be getting absorbed correctly. The condition will either need to be treated or your thyroid medication will need to be increased.
- Similarly, your doctor may increase your thyroid medication dosage if you are taking estrogen or phenytoin.
- You also need to make sure that you are not taking too much thyroid medication. Over time, an excess can cause irregular heartbeats and osteoporosis.
Discuss possible drug and nutritional interactions. Before starting your thyroid medication, you should ask your doctor about any foods, supplements, or medications you need to avoid. Likewise, you should also talk to your doctor before starting any new supplement or medication to make sure that it will not interfere.
- As far as dietary concerns go, you should see your doctor if you consume a high level of soy-based products or foods high in fiber.
- You should also talk to your doctor if you take iron supplements, cholestyramine, aluminum hydroxide (found in several antacids), or calcium supplements.
- Generally, calcium supplements should be taken at least four hours before or after taking your thyroid hormone to prevent possible interactions.
Ask about a prescription natural extract as an alternative. Before synthetic levothyroxine was developed, doctors used to prescribe desiccated thyroid tablets with thyroid obtained from animal thyroid glands. Since these lacked consistency and potency, such extract is rarely used today, but you can still opt for it if you prefer a natural alternative.
- These extracts contain thyroxine and triiodothyronine, two types of thyroid hormones. Synthetic medication, in contrast, only offers a supply of thyroxine, but the triiodothyronine you need can be derived from the thyroxine.
- Note that you should only use extracts prescribed by a doctor and not a glandular concentrate sold over-the-counter at a natural food store.
- Get a thyroid collar when you get an x-ray. If you are going to the dentist or the doctor and are told to get an x-ray of your head and/or neck, ask for a thyroid collar to be put around your neck to protect the sensitive gland. Radiation can weaken the thyroid and worsen hypothyroidism.
- Understand that the only way to treat severe hypothyroidism safely is to get professional medical treatment. Natural home treatments should be relied upon if you have minor or subclinical hypothyroidism, or in conjunction with medical treatment for severe/clinical hypothyroidism.
Things You’ll Need
Foods rich in protein, fat, iodine, glutathione, probiotics, and other nutrients
Prescription desiccated thyroid tablets