Going “natural” is an evolving trend in healthcare. Even hypothyroid patients are exploring their options outside of synthetic thyroid hormone. One such option is a so-called natural thyroid supplement made from dried animal thyroid glands. These are usually derived from pigs (called Armour Thyroid) but are also sometimes made from dried cow thyroids. (3)
In areas of the world where there is an iodine deficiency in the diet, severe hypothyroidism occurs in about 5% to 15% of the population. Examples of these areas include Zaire, Ecuador, India, and Chile. Severe iodine deficiency occurs in remote mountain areas such as the Andes and the Himalayas. Since the addition of iodine to table salt and to bread, iodine deficiency is rare in the United States.
Gluten is the common protein found in wheat, barley, & rye. Gluten is a sticky, storage protein that is challenging for the digestive tract because it binds to the small intestinal wall where it can cause digestive and immune system disorders. Gluten sensitivity is an epidemic that is a major contributing factor with inflammatory and autoimmune diseases (61, 62).
• Vitamin B12: Studies have shown that about 30% of people with ATD experience a vitamin B12 deficiency. Food sources of B12 include mollusks, sardines, salmon, organ meats such as liver, muscle meat, and dairy. Vegan sources include fortified cereals and nutritional yeast. Severe B12 deficiency can be irreversible, so it’s important for dietitians to suggest clients with thyroid disease have their levels tested.16
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.
Thyroid disease presents unique challenges due to undesired weight changes, significant cardiovascular risks, and symptoms such as fatigue, mood changes, and gastrointestinal upset, which can hinder the development of healthful behaviors. It’s vital that dietitians focus on setting realistic goals for heart-healthy changes and regular exercise when counseling clients. With so many potential nutrient deficiencies and interactions with medications and supplements, it will be important for dietitians to coordinate with their clients’ healthcare team for optimal health outcomes.
Why does this happen? The immune system mistakenly thinks that the thyroid cells are not a part of the body, so it tries to remove them before they can cause damage and illness. The problem is that this causes widespread inflammation, which can result in many different problems. 90 percent of people with hypothyroidism have Hashimoto’s that inflames the thyroid gland over time, but this isn’t the only cause of hypothyroidism.
You need to reduce the toxins you ingest from additives, preservatives, artificial sweeteners (!), excessive sodium, and trans-fats and try to eliminate toxins hiding around your house. Water toxicity is a HUGE problem in thyroid conditions. Most public water systems in the US have fluoride added, which is now linked to slowing down the thyroid; fluoride is believed to be leaching on to the thyroid cells inhibiting the uptake of iodine, hence the altered production of the thyroid hormone (T4).
Seaweed — Good seaweeds are some of the best natural sources of iodine and help prevent deficiencies that disturb thyroid function. I’d recommend having some every week as part of your hypothyroidism diet. Try kelp, nori, kombu and wakame. You can look for dried varieties of these at health food stores and use them in soups, with tuna fish or in fish cakes.
1. Jonklaas J, Bianco AC, Bauer AJ, Burman KD, Cappola AR, Celi FS, et al. American Thyroid Association Task Force on Thyroid Hormone Replacement. Guidelines for the treatment of hypothyroidism: prepared by the American Thyroid Association Task Force on Thyroid Hormone Replacement. Thyroid. 2014;24:1670–1751. [PMID: 25266247] [PMC free article] [PubMed]
The diagnosis of “subclinical” hypothyroidism that I discussed last week depends on having a TSH level higher than 5 m IU/ml and lower than 10 m IU/ml. As I mentioned above, new guidelines suggest anything over 3 is abnormal. While an improvement, practitioners following these guidelines may still miss many people who have normal test results and a malfunctioning thyroid system.
A clinical trial investigating symptoms found that patients receiving l-thyroxine monotherapy, even with a normal TSH, displayed substantial impairment in psychological well-being compared with controls of similar age and sex (3). Because some hypothesized that this phenomenon came about only after adoption of l-thyroxine monotherapy, a study assessed combination therapy with l-thyroxine and l-triiodothyronine. Remarkably, the latter study showed that psychological measures improve in patients receiving combination therapy until serum TSH level is normal (6). In another study comparing l-thyroxine monotherapy versus desiccated thyroid, in which both groups had a normal TSH, many patients preferred desiccated thyroid and lost weight (60). Unfortunately, the solution to this complex problem is not as simple as reverting to combination therapy; the more than a dozen clinical trials on the subject have not shown benefit of superiority and preference for combination therapy, as previously reviewed (1, 3, 70).
But determining the correct dosage isn’t a quick process — you will need a blood test between six and eight weeks after you first start taking your medicine to see if your hormone levels are normalizing. If your doctor thinks you need a dosage adjustment, he or she will do so and recheck your hormone levels after another six to eight weeks. Once your thyroid hormone levels stabilize, you won’t need another thyroid check for six months. (5) Controlled hypothyroidism requires only an annual checkup. (3)
The thyroid gland, situated just below the Adams apple on the low part of the neck, produces the thyroid hormones in the body. The thyroid gland is shaped like a butterfly and wraps itself around the trachea with two lobes attached to a central isthmus. When you eat foods containing iodine such as salt and seafood, this thyroid gland uses the idodine to produce the thyroid hormones. There are two important types of thyroid hormones produced which would be T4 or Thyrozine and T3 or Triiodothyronine (T3). These account for most of the thyroid hormones present in the bloodstream. T3 is the more active of the hormones and it affects cellular metabolism.
Another great source of selenium, nuts make a handy snack that you can take anywhere. They also go well in salads or stir-fries. Brazil nuts, macadamia nuts, and hazelnuts are all particularly high in selenium, which helps the thyroid function properly. With Brazil nuts, you only need to eat one or two; with other nuts, a small handful is enough to get your daily nutrients — and be sure to keep an eye on portion size, as nuts are also very high fat.
Hyperthyroidism, or overactive thyroid gland, is another common thyroid condition. The most prevalent form is Graves’ disease in which the body’s autoimmune response causes the thyroid gland to produce too much T3 and T4. Symptoms of hyperthyroidism can include weight loss, high blood pressure, diarrhea, and a rapid heartbeat. Graves’ disease also disproportionately affects women and typically presents before the age of 40.4
90% of all hypothyroid conditions are autoimmune in nature. In other words, most people with hypothyroidism have the condition Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. But what causes this condition? Numerous factors can trigger an autoimmune response and result in the elevated thyroid peroxidase (TPO) and/or thyroglobulin antibodies you see with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. These antibodies will damage the thyroid gland, which is what leads to the decreased production of thyroid hormone. And while taking synthetic or natural thyroid hormone might be necessary for someone who has low or depressed thyroid hormone levels, this won’t do anything to improve the health of the immune system. So the goal is to detect and then remove the trigger which is causing the autoimmune response, get rid of the inflammation, and suppress the autoimmune component of the condition.
As for what’s causing your condition, this of course can vary. Many times it is caused by lifestyle factors, such as poor eating habits, lack of sleep, not handling stress well, etc. Other times it can be environmental toxins or an infection causing or contributing to such a condition. Genetics can also be a factor, although research shows that lifestyle and environmental factors play a much greater role in the development of these conditions. In fact, many people with a genetic marker for hypothyroidism or Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis can be helped a great deal by modifying some of their lifestyle factors, which is great news.
The amount in broccoli, cabbage, and kale in a usual diet is considered of minimal risk. For example, there was no adverse effect on thyroid function from consuming five ounces of cooked Brussels sprouts every day for four weeks.5,6 One note of caution, if you have a thyroid disorder, it's important to realize that juicing concentrates the amount of thiocyanate, on the order of 2000 mcg per glass.7
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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