Much of the iodine in the average American diet comes from dairy products, according to a 2008 study by researchers from the Food and Drug Administration. But our consumption of dairy has been on the decline for decades: During the years between 1970 and 2012, there's been a 60-gallon drop, largely because we're drinking milk less often, say the researchers.
Over my several decades working as a Functional Medicine doctor, I can assure you that even in the toughest cases, you can heal your thyroid. With some patients, I can do this through the dietary, nutrient, and lifestyle factors I’ve discussed here. For others, that healing requires trial and error using several medications and working closely with a physician.
Other causes of hypothyroidism include surgical removal of the thyroid (usually for cancer), radiation therapy of the head and neck, or complications of medical therapies for hyperthyroidism. (Patients with overactive thyroids are often treated with radioactive iodine or anti-thyroid medications that reduce thyroid functioning. These effects can be extensive and permanent, and thyroid supplementation is often required flowing these interventions.) Certain medications can worsen or promote hypothyroidism or interfere with thyroid replacement therapy. One such drug is lithium, used for treating psychiatric conditions such as bipolar disorder.
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)
The majority of people who have an underactive thyroid such as Hashimoto’s disease, have an autoimmune disease whereby the immune system attacks thyroid tissue. So, in order to find an underactive thyroid natural treatment it is important to address the autoimmune issue. Just taking prescription medication for low thyroid function will simply just mask the symptoms.
It is doubtful that nutritional deficiencies are the sole cause of an underactive thyroid, but not having enough of these micronutrients and minerals can aggravate symptoms of low thyroid function. Increasing the intake of; vitamin D, iron, omega-3 fatty acids, selenium, zinc, copper, vitamin A, the B vitamins, and iodine can help in natural hypothyroid treatment.
Thyroid surgery - Thyroid surgery may be performed if a patient is experiencing hyperthyroidism, goiters, thyroid nodules, or thyroid cancer. Thyroid surgery involves removing either all of the thyroid or a large portion of the thyroid gland, both of which diminish and/or halt thyroid hormone production. In this case, hypothyroidism will be a lifelong condition and the patient will need to take a supplemental thyroid hormone for the rest of their life.
Hypothyroidism is a very common condition. Approximately 3% to 4% of the U.S. population has some form of hypothyroidism. This type of thyroid disorder is more common in women than in men, and its incidence increases with age. Examples of common causes of hypothyroidism in adults include Hashimoto's thyroiditis, an autoimmune form of overactive thyroid, lymphocytic thyroiditis, which may occur after hyperthyroidism (underactive thyroid), thyroid destruction from radioactive iodine or surgery, pituitary or hypothalamic disease, medications, and severe iodine deficiency.
I suspect that there is actually enough iodine in the environment to go around, and that we actually need less than 150 micrograms per day of iodine. From the above list, you can see that animal foods are much richer in iodine than plant foods—so how do herbivores (animals which eat a plant-based diet, such as rabbits and deer) get enough iodine? I suspect that there is something about the human diet which interferes with our ability to absorb, utilize, and/or retain iodine, and that this is why we appear to be iodine-deficient compared to other animals. So, what might the possible culprits be? Hmmm….
In the past, doctors weren't able to detect hypothyroidism until symptoms were fairly advanced. But by using the sensitive TSH test, doctors are able to diagnose thyroid disorders much earlier — often before you experience symptoms. Because the TSH test is the best screening test, your doctor will likely check TSH first and follow with a thyroid hormone test if needed. TSH tests also play an important role in managing hypothyroidism. They help your doctor determine the right dosage of medication, both initially and over time.
I was concerned about an ongoing “mental fog” and forgetfulness I had – which is one of the symptoms of Hashimoto’s. I was having trouble losing weight and also felt very low in energy. Since following Dr. Osansky’s recommendations I have found that I have a greater sense of calm – something I didn’t expect from the treatment and changes in diet and lifestyle. In addition to getting my Hashimoto’s under control, I have enjoyed other health benefits as well. I no longer suffer from anemia, my Vitamin D levels are normal and my immune system is strong. My thyroid blood tests also improved. Although it’s a commitment and initial expense, it is completely worth it in the long run. Given the alternative (taking thyroid medication for the rest of your life), in my opinion it’s a no brainer. If you give a natural treatment protocol a fair chance you’d be surprised at how much more empowered you’ll feel about your illness and treating it. A natural treatment protocol is an effective solution that puts you in the driver’s seat when it comes to your health. Traditional methods do the exact opposite.
Compounded T3/T4: This is what I personally take, as I have low levels of T3 so taking a medication that only includes T4 would be totally useless to me. In fact, without getting too technical, T4 is not active in the body, it has to be processed and turned into T3. That’s why so many patients don’t find any relief from their symptoms when they’re put on Synthroid. And that’s why my naturopathic doctor put me on a compounded natural thyroid hormone that includes T3. Here’s why I love it: my dose is specifically tailored to my EXACT thyroid hormone needs and can be adjusted as time goes on. Compounded T3/T4 also is made without fillers such as lactose or gluten, or other harmful additives. Compounding pharmacists can also make sustained release versions so that the hormone is released continuously throughout the day, which is more beneficial. This is the most natural option for thyroid medication as it only contains porcine-derived thyroid hormones, which are the most similar to your body’s natural thyroid process.The downside: you have to go to a special pharmacy and it can be pretty expensive. I pay about $90 for a 90-day supply. But I’ve truthfully never felt better. Though I was doing all of the right diet and lifestyle changes to nourish my thyroid, my body still was not producing enough thyroid hormone and so I had lingering symptoms like anxiety, acne and constipation that I just couldn’t shake. Within a few weeks of taking my compounded thyroid hormone supplement, all of my symptoms disappeared and I’ve been totally symptom-free ever since!
As hypothyroidism becomes more severe, signs and symptoms may include puffiness around the eyes, the heart rate slows, body temperature drops, and heart failure. Severe hypothyroidism may lead to a life-threatening coma (myxedema coma). In a person with severe hypothyroidism, a myxedema coma tends to be triggered by severe illness, surgery, stress, or traumatic injury. Myxedema coma requires hospitalization and immediate treatment with thyroid hormones given by injection.
One of the most powerful things you can do to help your health and metabolism is to drink enough water. Water helps your metabolism function more efficiently and can help reduce your appetite, get rid of water retention and bloating, improve your digestion and elimination, and combat constipation. Some experts even say that we should drink one ounce of water per pound of scale weight.
l-Thyroxine was the first synthetic molecule used to treat hypothyroidism (23) and was shown to be efficacious as monotherapy for myxedema (24). Around that time, serum protein-bound iodine (PBI) emerged as a diagnostic test and therapeutic marker; serum PBI quantitation was the only valid way to biochemically assess thyroid hormone status (25). This tool was limited in terms of treatment monitoring because the effect on serum PBI varied by agent (26). For example, l-triiodothyronine corrected BMR without much increase in serum PBI, l-thyroxine increased serum PBI sometimes to above normal, and combination l-thyroxine and l-triiodothyronine and desiccated thyroid had the advantage of normalizing serum PBI (27). In addition to BMR and serum PBI, other surrogates for treatment response included cholesterol levels, symptoms, and deep tendon reflexes, but their lack of sensitivity was always recognized (28).
Ashwagandha is an adaptogen herb that helps the body respond to stress, keeping hormone levels better in balance. Adaptogens helps lower cortisol and balance T4 levels. In fact, in clinical trials, supplementing with ashwagandha for eight weeks essentially worked as thyroxine treatment, helping hypothyroidism patients significantly increase thyroxine hormone levels and thus reduce the severity of the disorder. (13) Also, try other adaptogen herbs like rhodiola, licorice root, ginseng and holy basil, which have similar benefits.
Coconut Oil – Provides medium-chain fatty acids in the form of caprylic acid, lauric acid and capric acid that support a healthy metabolism, increase energy and fight fatigue. A staple of the hypothyroidism diet, coconut oil is easy to digest, nourishes the digestive system and has antimicrobial, antioxidant and antibacterial properties that suppress inflammation. Coconut oil helps improve immunity and can increase brain function, endurance and your mood while stabilizing blood sugar levels.
Sprouted Seeds — Flax, hemp and chia seeds provide ALA, a type of omega-3 fat that’s critical for proper hormonal balance and thyroid function. Adequate levels of fats in your hypothyroidism diet support a healthy mood and brain function while helping to lower inflammation. Eating plenty of healthy fats also stabilizes blood sugar levels and can help you stay at a healthy weight.
Follow a Thyroid Diet: The consumption of sea food, shellfish and organic vegetables and fruits, rich in iodine content has proven beneficial in overcoming iodine deficiency. It is better to eat small meals rather than three large meals. Non-starchy fruits and vegetables and low-fat proteins should be consumed. Sugary and starchy food items like, pasta, desserts, sodas, white bread, rice, etc. must be avoided completely. An intake of at least 64 ounces of non-fluoridated water is necessary.
Do you see “gluten-free”, “dairy-free” etc. popping up at the health stores today? This is because many people get off the “big five” (gluten, dairy, corn, eggs and soy) and experience significant changes. To find the culprits, I always start off with an Elimination Diet (I teach how to do the Elimination Diet at this free workshop) and this produces clear, unbiased results. You can also get a food intolerance test (not allergy; it’s different) done but they are far from accurate. Gluten is an infamous food for contributing to thyroid conditions, and eliminating it is key. However, often times, you would need to cut out more than just gluten if you wish to shape your diet for thyroid fitness.
Probiotic-Rich Foods – These include kefir (a fermented dairy product) or organic goat’s milk yogurt, kimchi, kombucha, natto, sauerkraut and other fermented veggies. Part of your hypothyroidism diet, probiotics help create a healthy gut environment by balancing microflora bacteria, which reduces leaky gut syndrome, nutrient deficiencies, inflammation and autoimmune reactions.
AGEs cause massive destruction throughout the body and have an affinity for thyroid tissue. Elevated HgA1C (a measure of glycation) is correlated with increased TSH and decreased free T3 & T4 (57). When the blood sugar drops too low (hypoglycemia), it increases stress hormone (cortisol and adrenaline) to boost up blood sugar. Cortisol directly inhibits the enzyme (5’-deiodinase) which converts inactive T4 into active T3.
Large predator fish—tuna, swordfish, shark, kingfish, mackerel—often have more mercury than smaller fish, as they’ve lived longer and had more time to accumulate harmful chemicals. Don’t eat more than two to three servings of these fish a week, Blum says. Also, farmed fish like salmon can have higher levels of mercury because they’re often fed the chum of other fish. All fish have a little mercury, so don’t freak out about it. Just don’t order in sushi every weeknight.
According to some estimates, 40 percent of the population suffers with some form of low thyroid function. Women, especially older women, are the most susceptible group for developing hypothyroidism. People who are elderly or who have other existing autoimmune diseases – like type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and celiac disease, for example – are also at a higher risk.
T4 circulates through to the liver where 60% of it is converted into T3 through the glucoronination and sulfation pathways. If the liver is sluggish it will cause a problem in T4-T3 conversion (6). Another 20% is converted into reverse T3 which is permanentely inactive. The final 20% is converted into T3 sulfate and T3 acetic acid which can then be further metabolized by healthy gut bacteria to produce more active T3 (6).
Sprouted Seeds – Flax, hemp and chia seeds provide ALA, a type of omega-3 fat that’s critical for proper hormonal balance and thyroid function. Adequate levels of fats in your hypothyroidism diet support a healthy mood and brain function, while helping to lower inflammation. Eating plenty of healthy fats also stabilizes blood sugar levels and can help you stay at a healthy weight.
Making dietary changes is your first line of defense in treating hypothyroidism. Many people with hypothyroidism experience crippling fatigue and brain fog, which prompts reaching for non-nutritional forms of energy like sugar and caffeine. I’ve dubbed these rascals the terrible twosome, as they can burn out your thyroid (and destabilize blood sugar).
While you can’t control all the risks that come with hypothyroidism, experts recommend following a nutritious diet and loading up on a variety of nutrients. “Be mindful of what you’re eating, get in colors and organics and no artificial colors or flavors. It’s about balance, right?” says Marcelle Pick, a nurse practitioner of functional medicine in Falmouth, Maine, with a program for balancing hormones and reducing fatigue. Read up on the worst foods for hypothyroidism, and then check out these 15 Subtle Thyroid Disease Symptoms You’re Ignoring.
Wild-caught fish — These provide the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, essential for hormone balance and thyroid function. Balancing the level of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids in your hypothyroidism diet can reduce inflammation and support healthy neurological function. Fish such as wild-caught Alaskan salmon, Atlantic mackerel and Pacific sardines are some of the best sources of omega-3s to increase neurotransmitter activity and support a healthy mood and immune system. Just be aware of the fish you should never eat and choose the best varieties available.
Treatment for hyperthyroidism - Hyperthyroidism is the opposite of hypothyroidism; it is a condition in which the thyroid gland is over-producing the thyroid hormones thus causing a hormone imbalance in the body. Hyperthyroidism can be treated with radioactive iodine and/or anti-thyroid medications, both of which are meant to reduce and normalize the thyroid function. In some cases, these treatments can cause permanent hypothyroidism if too much medication is administered.
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.
Like many progressive thyroid practitioners, such as Dr K and Dr Wentz, I believe there is no need to cut these wonderful vegetables 100% out of our diets. The reason is: all crucifers are high in DIM (di-indolyl-methane) which is a substance that supports the liver detoxification pathways. This detoxification process helps us eliminate metabolized (or “used up”) hormones like estrogen as well as thyroid hormones to make space for new ones.
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