Natural Therapies for Hypothyroidism
Thyroid diseases are becoming increasingly more prevalent in the US, with the most common thyroid disease being autoimmune Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. However, it is also very common, especially for women, to have low thyroid hormone (also known as hypothyroidism) without having an obvious autoimmune component.
Symptoms of hypothyroidism can include fatigue, weight gain, hair thinning, dry skin and depression. The current conventional medical treatment for hypothyroidism is giving thyroid hormone supplementation to correct the low levels of thyroid hormone in the body. This treatment is somewhat effective in bringing up thyroid hormone levels. But as many who have been prescribed thyroid medication know, there can be a yo-yo-ing of symptoms while trying to find the correct dosage, which can take time and cause frustration. Some people find that they never find the correct dosage of thyroid hormone that makes them feel “normal”, but they continue to try as they at least feel better than when their thyroid hormone was frankly low.
Naturopathic medicine and traditional Chinese Medicine treat the thyroid from the root of the problem and use natural therapies to help the thyroid gland get back on track to producing the right level of hormones. If autoimmune disease is the main underlying cause of thyroid dysfunction, the inflammation needs to be controlled, the immune system needs to be adjusted, and the thyroid gland needs to be healed. If the thyroid is just not producing enough thyroid hormone, it’s important to look at lifestyle and environmental factors that may be contributing to low production, and then address those underlying causes. Although every thyroid condition needs to be diagnosed and managed individually, here are some general natural therapies for hypothyroidism.
Essential Fatty Acids (Fish Oil)
If the hypothyroidism is caused by an autoimmune reaction, essential fatty acids are a great way to calm inflammation. Fatty acids in fish oils have been shown in studies to regulate the inflammatory cells involved in autoimmune diseases and decrease inflammation. Although fish oils and other essential fatty acids are quite benign, higher doses than normal are needed to create this effect, and should be monitored by your doctor as it can decrease your blood’s ability to clot efficiently.
Low thyroid hormone production can be caused by iodine deficiency. Although iodine deficiency in our country is relatively rare due to the addition of iodine to table salt, it can occur. A minimum of 150 micrograms per day should be established in the diet. Even though some of the highest concentrations of iodine are found in salt, high salt can raise blood pressure and cause other health problems. Iodine is very prevalent in sea plants and animals such as kelp and salt water fish, which are also high in other nutrients that our body needs to stay healthy.
B vitamins (most specifically B-12) are very important for thyroid production. They provide the precursors for thyroid hormone as well as helping to improve cellular response to thyroid hormone. B vitamins are great at boosting energy production in cells to help with fatigue and other symptoms associated with hypothyroidism.
There are several herbs that have been shown to help improve thyroid function. Herbs called “adaptogens” have been shown to be very effective in helping to relieve symptoms from low thyroid hormone. Adaptogens are herbs that work on several body functions at once to help balance out dysfunction and regulate metabolic processes. They are generally safe, though they should be monitored by your doctor, especially if you are on thyroid hormone medication.
Regulation of thyroid function is tricky and should always be managed by your doctor. If you think you may have a thyroid condition or would like help managing your thyroid function naturally, call to schedule an appointment today!
About Jenny Berg, ND, LAc
Dr. Jenny Berg is a naturopathic doctor, acupuncturist and co-founder of Aria Integrative Medicine. She received her Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine and Masters of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine from Bastyr University in Seattle, Washington. Prior to medical school, she received her BS in Pharmacological Chemistry from the University of California, San Diego.
Dr. Berg’s special interests include treating a wide variety of conditions associated with autoimmune disorders such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, Graves’ Disease, multiple sclerosis, psoriasis and rheumatoid arthritis. Since having been diagnosed with thyroid cancer, she has a deep appreciation for the effect that thyroid conditions have on people, and has developed sincere compassion for those living with lifelong chronic conditions.
When she is not busy seeing patients at Aria Integrative Medicine, she enjoys spending time with her husband and their dog, exploring all the pacific northwest has to offer. Hiking, skiing, gardening and baking are some of her favorite pastime activities. She also works part-time at Bastyr Center for Natural Health as the ND External Site Coordinator, and sits on the Board of Directors for Alternative Healthcare Access Campaign. She is a member of the AANP and the WANP.