The most common thyroid condition is hypothyroidism, or underactive thyroid. In the United States, hypothyroidism usually is caused by an autoimmune response known as Hashimoto’s disease or autoimmune thyroiditis. As with all autoimmune diseases, the body mistakenly identifies its own tissues as an invader and attacks them until the organ is destroyed. This chronic attack eventually prevents the thyroid from releasing adequate levels of the hormones T3 and T4, which are necessary to keep the body functioning properly. The lack of these hormones can slow down metabolism and cause weight gain, fatigue, dry skin and hair, and difficulty concentrating (see table).2 Hashimoto’s affects approximately 5% of the US population, is seven times more prevalent in women than men, and generally occurs during middle age.3
In other words, taking supplements and herbs alone is usually not the solution. Plus, while nutritional supplements can help, one must remember that different people will need to take different types of supplements, take different dosages, etc. Plus the quality of the supplements you take is important, and the truth is, many supplements are of low quality. So just taking a general thyroid support formula is usually not the answer to restoring your health back to normal. Doing so not only can worsen your symptoms, but often times taking this approach will be a complete waste of money. In most cases it takes a combination of different factors to restore one’s health back to normal. This includes eating well, doing a good job of managing stress, getting sufficient sleep, improving the health of the gut, minimizing your exposure to environmental toxins, etc.
Taking synthetic thyroid hormone can make up the difference and make you feel more like yourself. But eating certain foods—and limiting your consumption of others—can also help your thyroid function at its best, explains Hong Lee, MD, a double board-certified internist and endocrinologist with AMITA Health Adventist Medical Center Hinsdale in Illinois. That could allow you to avoid having to take higher and higher doses of synthetic thyroid hormones, and eventually end up relying on them completely in order for your thyroid to function.
High-fat fried foods, like mozzarella sticks, jalapeno poppers and um…fried chicken and French fries can contribute to inflammation in the body, says Blum. Inflammation from Hashimoto’s disease, also known as chronic lymphocytic thyroiditis, often leads to an underactive thyroid gland. Hypothyroidism primarily affects middle-aged women, according to the Mayo Clinic, but it can target anyone at any age.
Although the implementation of sensitive TSH assays resulted in dose reduction, it also fueled the discovery of subclinical states of hypothyroidism (i.e., serum TSH <10 mIU/L and normal serum free T4); this state is 20 times more prevalent than overt hypothyroidism (64). Hence, many patients with vague symptoms, such as depressed mood and fatigue, are commonly screened and found to have subclinical hypothyroidism. In many cases, this finding prompts the conclusion that the subclinical hypothyroidism is the cause of the nonspecific symptoms, and thyroid hormone therapy is initiated. The patients in whom the cause–effect relationship was incorrect contribute to the increasing number of euthyroid but symptomatic patients (57). The marked increase in prescribing of thyroid hormone with decreasing TSH thresholds amplifies this problem (47).
In humans, a factor associated with response to combination therapy in a large clinical trial is the Thr92Ala polymorphism in the type 2 deiodinase gene (DIO2), wherein the subpopulation of patients with this genetic alteration had improved well-being and preference for combination therapy (7). This has led investigators to consider whether this polymorphism could confer a defect in the D2 pathway, but normal Thr92AlaD2 enzyme kinetics have been demonstrated (73). Only recently has the Thr92AlaD2 protein been found to have a longer half-life, ectopically localize in the Golgi apparatus, and significantly alter the genetic fingerprint in cultured cells and in the temporal pole of the human brain without evidence of reduced thyroid hormone signaling (74). The significance of these studies transcends the thyroid field—this polymorphism has now been associated with a constellation of diseases, including mental retardation, bipolar disorder, and low IQ (75). If hypothyroid carriers of Thr92AlaD2 benefit from alternate therapeutic strategies in replicate studies, then personalized medicine—based on genotype— may have a role.
Constipation is a common symptom of hypothyroidism. Whole-grain foods such as cereal, bread, pasta, and rice are high in nutrients in addition to fiber, which can help with bowel regularity. However, fiber can interfere with synthetic thyroid hormones, cautions Turner. Some people with hypothyroidism choose to avoid whole-grains altogether, but if you do choose to eat them, "the recommendation is to take your thyroid medication several hours before or after eating foods rich in dietary fiber," she says.
One of the fastest rising health conditions in the US is hypothyroidism. The most common symptoms experienced are lethargy, depression and weight gain. More than 12% of the US population will develop a thyroid condition during their lifetime with most of these being hypothyroidism (1). In this article, I take a deep dive into thyroid physiology and go over 18 strategies to beat hypothyroidism naturally.
Cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli and cabbage, are full of fiber and other nutrients, but they may interfere with the production of thyroid hormone if you have an iodine deficiency. So if you do, it’s a good idea to limit your intake of Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, turnips, and bok choy, because research suggests digesting these vegetables may block the thyroid's ability to utilize iodine, which is essential for normal thyroid function.
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