The first step in natural treatment of hypothyroidism is to eliminate the causes of thyroid dysfunction, such as inflammation, overuse of medications, nutrient deficiencies and changes in hormones due to stress. The hypothyroidism diet eliminates foods that can cause inflammation and immune reactions and instead focuses on foods that help heal the GI tract, balance hormones and reduce inflammation.
It’s imperative dietitians have a good understanding of the metabolic changes associated with thyroid disease so they can set realistic goals and expectations for clients. Most people with hypothyroidism tend to experience abnormal weight gain and difficulty losing weight until hormone levels stabilize. Moreover, it’s common for patients with Graves’ disease to experience periods of high and low thyroid hormone levels, so it may take several months to achieve a balance. During this time, it’s essential clients focus on healthful behaviors such as eating nutritious foods, exercising regularly, managing stress, and sleeping adequately rather than focus on the numbers on the scale.
There is an association between vitamin D deficiency and Hashimoto's disease, the most common cause of hypothyroidism, according to a study in the issue of August 2011 issue of the journal "Thyroid". Fortified milk not only has added vitamin D, but also significant amounts of calcium, protein, and iodine. Because Hashimoto's may also lead to changes that contribute to gut issues like heartburn, foods such as yogurt with good bacteria may help regulate other bacteria, Dodell says.
Think milk, butter, cheese, and meat. If you buy the cheap, conventionally raised versions at the supermarket, those types of deliciousness can also disrupt all your thyroid’s hard work. You omnivores (like us) can avoid this dilemma by choosing organic, or at least antibiotic-free and hormone-free meats and dairy. It’ll save you in the end, with fewer medical costs down the line.
Thus, neither desiccated thyroid nor l-thyroxine monotherapy recreates a biochemical state of euthyroidism as defined by the serum T4:T3 ratio. l-Thyroxine and l-triiodothyronine combination therapy theoretically could be titrated to restore this measure, but such a method would be challenging because of the frequent dosing schedule needed to achieve stable serum T3 levels (5). New technology is needed to allow for steady delivery of l-thyroxine; only then would high-quality clinical trials best investigate the utility of the serum T4:T3 ratio as an outcome measure in hypothyroidism.
These clinical trials also began to define the adverse-effect profiles associated with these agents; thyrotoxicosis was frequently encountered. Patients treated with l-triiodothyronine3 (100 to 175 mcg/d) normalized BMR faster than did those receiving desiccated thyroid (120 to 210 mg/d) or l-thyroxine (200 to 350 mcg/d) but were more likely to experience angina (32). Desiccated thyroid was also associated with adverse symptoms in other studies; muscle stiffness, psychosis, and angina all occurred (33). In a crossover study of l-triiodothyronine monotherapy (75 to 100 mcg/d), l-thyroxine monotherapy (200 to 300 mcg/d), and desiccated thyroid (1.5 to 3 grains/d), all of these therapies restored BMR and serum PBI; with l-triiodothyronine, however, angina and heart failure occurred. Dose reduction corrected these adverse effects, but authors concluded that l-thyroxine monotherapy or thyroid extract was preferred (34). In a trial of l-thyroxine monotherapy at doses of 200 to 300 mcg/d versus l-thyroxine (80 mcg) plus l-triiodothyronine (20 mcg) daily, patients receiving the combination had such symptoms as palpitations, nervousness, tremor, and perspiration (35). Some early proponents of l-thyroxine monotherapy emerged because of less frequent thyrotoxic effects (24), but it is difficult to determine whether such adverse effects were related to the agent used or its high dosage. Thyrotoxic adverse effects were typically remediable by simple dose reduction (36), so desiccated thyroid remained the preparation of choice (37).
Giving appropriate doses of T3 is trickier than appropriately dosing T4. T4 is inactive, so if you give too much there is no immediate, direct tissue effect. T3 is a different story, though, as it is the active thyroid hormone. So if you give too much T3, you can produce hyperthyroid effects directly—a risk, for instance, to people with cardiac disease.
The first essential step in a thyroid diet plan is to normalize sugar cravings, hypoglycemia and/or insulin resistance. Without fixing your sugar issues, your thyroid will never improve. This is because the pancreas is responsible for sugar metabolism and because, like the thyroid, the pancreas is part of the endocrine system. As you can imagine, these glands are all intricately interconnected. A few tips for you here on how to adjust your diet for thyroid health:
Clara Schneider, MS, RD, RN, CDE, LDN, of Outer Banks Nutrition and author of numerous books, including The Everything Thyroid Diet Book, says, “The No. 1 priority is to get the thyroid disease under control. Clients need to have labs and medications addressed first. Weight changes are just not going to happen before all of that is under control.” She notes that Hashimoto’s typically occurs around menopause, which compounds the weight gain issue that many women experience during that time.
Goitrogens are naturally occurring substances in certain foods that interfere with the production of thyroid hormones (the hormones that people with hypothyroidism lack). They include some of the most commonly consumed foods of the health-conscious community: broccoli, cauliflower, kale, spinach, radishes, soybeans, peanuts, pine nuts, peaches and millet. The good news is that many health professionals believe that cooking may inactivate goitrogens.
Traditional Chinese Medicine: Although not well studied in addressing hypothyroidism, TCM can have positive effects on imbalances in the immune system, and is useful in treating other autoimmune conditions. It may be helpful early in the course of Hashimoto’s, but TCM should not be used in place of conventional therapy when thyroid replacement is indicated.
Limit or eliminate junk foods and highly processed products: This plan focuses on whole, unrefined foods as they are fundamental to a healthy diet. Realistically it’s very difficult to eliminate all highly processed (often pre-packaged) foods, but just be mindful of cutting down. Likewise, snacks listed are optional depending on your regular eating habits, and there are bonus snack recipe ideas if you scroll to the bottom.
If you have hypothyroidism or a family history of goiters, you can reduce your risk by mixing up your choice of vegetables so you aren’t eating a lot of the same vegetable day in and day out, cooking your vegetables and chewing them thoroughly which helps to break down the worrisome substances, says Dr. Leung. And, it wouldn’t hurt to avoiding eating cruciferous vegetables raw; even lightly steaming then will deactivate the thiocyanates enough to assure that you aren’t eating more than your thyroid can handle.3
In developing countries, insufficient amounts of iodine in the diet account for most cases of hypothyroidism. Iodine is necessary for the production of the two main thyroid hormones, thyroxine (T-4) and triiodothyronine (T-3). In the U.S. – where salt is iodized, and most Americans get plenty of iodine from table salt – an autoimmune condition known as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is the most common cause. Hashimoto’s is more common in women and in those with a family history of autoimmune diseases. It involves immune-related inflammation and destruction of the thyroid gland, which reduces proper functioning and production of thyroid hormone. The exact cause and triggers of Hashimoto’s still remains unknown.
Of course not everyone is a candidate for natural hypothyroid treatment methods. However, many people assume they aren’t a candidate because they have had their condition for a long time, or perhaps they received thyroid surgery or radioactive iodine treatment. While these factors can definitely make it more challenging to restore one’s health back to normal, and in some cases impossible (for example, someone who has had their thyroid gland completely removed), many people who fall under this category can be still benefit from following a natural hypothyroid treatment protocol.
The normal values for the serum T4:T3 ratio are seldom discussed in the literature because measurement of serum T3 levels is not a recommended outcome in hypothyroidism (1). In a large study of approximately 3800 healthy individuals (4), the serum free T4:free T3 ratio was around 3, as opposed to a ratio of 4 in more than 1800 patients who had undergone thyroidectomy and were receiving l-thyroxine monotherapy. The corresponding serum free T4:free T3 ratio in patients continuing to receive desiccated thyroid is not well-defined, but the serum total T4:T3 ratio is known to be low (28, 50). In one study, the serum total T4:total T3 was about 40 in patients receiving desiccated thyroid and about 100 in those taking l-thyroxine monotherapy (60). Of course, this is affected by the timing of blood collection in relation to the timing of l-triiodothyronine administration, which is not commonly reported. Other key factors are the well-known poor reproducibility of the serum total T3 assay (61) and the interferences with direct measurement of free T3 (5).
Like many people living with thyroid problems, you may wonder what the best thyroid diet to follow is. The truth is that the ideal diet for those who are living with a thyroid condition depends on personal needs and goals. If your goal is weight loss, you will want to optimize your blood sugar and leptin levels and eliminate toxins and allergens, among other things. If your goal is to support your thyroid health but not necessarily lose weight, there are some foods (such as goiter-producing vegetables and soy) that you may wish to minimize or avoid.
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Please Note: The material on this site is provided for informational purposes only and is not medical advice. Always consult your physician before beginning any diet or exercise program.
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