Do you regularly experience fatigue, muscle aches and a general feeling of malaise? Though these symptoms can prove too general or too difficult for Western doctors to diagnose, they’re all hallmark features of hypothyroidism – a disease that results from an underactive thyroid gland.
The thyroid– a butterfly-shaped gland located in the neck – plays an important role in the body’s endocrine system, assisting in both the management of metabolism and the production of energy. Though the gland may be small, its proper functioning is crucial to your overall health and well-being!
In many instances though, this important series of regulatory processes goes haywire, resulting in an estimated 15 million Americans suffering from undiagnosed hypothyroidism. In addition to the symptoms mentioned above, sufferers of this disease may experience:
- Sensitivity to cold
- Chills in the extremities
- Tough or dry skin
- Weight gain
To confirm hypothyroidism, doctors measure the level of “TSH” – thyroid-stimulating hormone – found in the blood. If the results of this test fall between 4.5 – 10.00 mU/L, the diagnosis is “subclinical hypothyroidism,” while a score above 10.00 mU/L results in a diagnosis of “overt hypothyroidism.”
Amongst Western doctors, the most common treatment for hypothyroidism is levothyroxine – a synthetic hormone that replaces one of several thyroid hormones, known as “T4.” But because this treatment often results in incomplete symptom resolution (given the absence of naturally-occurring “T3” and other important thyroid hormones) and unpleasant side effects, many hypothyroidism sufferers also seek out natural remedies to manage their illness.
Any of the following remedies can help the body restore the thyroid to its proper functioning state. As with all natural remedies, however, be sure to undertake these recommendations under the supervision of a medical or holistic doctor, who can ensure that the impact of these lifestyle changes provides effective management for your thyroid condition.
Pursue a gluten-free diet
The most common cause of hypothyroidism is Hashimoto’s thyroiditis – an autoimmune condition in which the body mistakenly attacks the thyroid tissue as if it were a foreign invader, leading to many of the symptoms described above.
Unfortunately, the molecular composition of the gluten protein (found in wheat, barley and rye products) is nearly identical to the structure of human thyroid tissue. As a result, an immune system that is already attacking its own thyroid tissue may be provoked into more severe or prolonged attacks in the presence of the gluten molecule, making it a good choice for hypothyroidism sufferers to abstain from this nutrient entirely.
Seek out healthy fats
Though fats and cholesterols often get a bad rap by the medical industry, these two important compounds are the building blocks of hormonal pathways. Given that thyroid conditions are – at a basic level –issues that arise within the endocrine (hormonal) system, supplementing the diet with good sources of healthy fats can provide the raw materials needed to encourage the body to repair itself.
For best results, seek out any of the following types of healthy fats:
- Coconut oil and other coconut products
- Ghee (clarified butter)
- Nuts and nut butters
- Full fat, antibiotic- and hormone-free dairy
- Lean meats and fish
- Flax seeds
Add a probiotic to your daily routine
Interestingly, some scientists estimate that as much as 80% of our immune systems are controlled from the digestive system – making gut health a top priority for anybody facing hypothyroidism. This is especially true in the case of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and other autoimmune thyroid conditions, as a healthier balance of digestive flora may help to quell the body’s unnecessary attack on the thyroid gland.
To improve your digestive health, consider adding a probiotic to your daily supplement routine. These products are widely available for purchase, though your doctor or alternative medicine practitioner may be able to recommend the specific option that’s best for your needs.
“Goitrogens” are naturally-occurring thyroid-inhibiting compounds that are found in several species of plants and vegetables. Anyone experiencing decreased thyroid function would be wise to avoid the following foods:
- Brussels sprouts
Address vitamin and nutrient deficiencies
In addition, while it’s important to recognize that vitamin and nutrient deficiencies don’t cause hypothyroidism and other thyroid conditions, the absence of these important substances throughout the body makes recovering from these diseases more difficult.
Specifically, a few of the vitamins and nutrients you’ll want to pay attention to for optimal health include:
- Vitamin D (ideally, your level should be between 50 – 80 ng/mL)
- Omega 3 fatty acids
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin B12
With the exception of Omega 3 fatty acids, your doctor can test your current levels of all these vitamins and nutrients, as well as identify potential supplementation solutions if you aren’t able to build optimal levels through diet alone.
Include a simple yogic process into your life
The sustained practice of yoga and meditation can go a long way towards helping you cope with a variety of chronic ailments, including thyroid dysfunction. Together, these practices create a deep sense of relaxation in the body and mind, thereby helping to relieve a number of different health issues.
Yogi and mystic Sadhguru says, “When you meditate, your whole system functions with ease, and you are restful all the time. There is no such thing as stress, and chronic ailments can be easily relieved. If your system is properly balanced and kept in full vibrance, psychological and physiological ailments cannot exist.”
For evidence on how beneficial yoga and meditation can be to improving thyroid conditions, consider the results of a survey conducted last year by Dr. Raj Maturi that looked at the impact of Isha Yoga – a series of yoga programs conducted by the Isha Foundation – on overall health. Throughout the study, 51% (35) of the surveyed participants reported improvement in their thyroid conditions.
Of the 35 participants who showed improvement in their disease condition, 16 experienced a reduction in their medication requirement, while 3 were able to completely stop medication.
Reference: Raj Maturi et al, Impact of Isha Yoga on disease status and medicine usage. International Yoga Conference, Sept 2012
Finally, keep in mind that, while all of these changes can play an important role in improving thyroid function naturally, it’s still important to work with your medical practitioner in order to monitor your TSH levels and overall improvement. If your condition is severe, natural remedies alone may not initiate enough of a response to alleviate your symptoms until your disease is under better control. In the meantime, proper medical management of your condition is vital to allowing these natural remedies to flourish in your system.