Hypothyroidism Management- Medical/ Home/ Dietary Solutions
Hypothyroidism, sometimes called an underactive thyroid, is a condition where the thyroid gland does not produce enough of a specific set of hormones, particularly thyroxine. Thyroid gland problems are much more common in women than men and can occur in children of all ages. The most common symptoms are tiredness, muscles aches, dry skin, depression, sensitivity to cold and weight gain.
Causes of Hypothyroidism
There are several causes of hypothyroidism:
- Iodine Deficiency – The most common cause of hypothyroidism worldwide is iodine deficiency. Iodine is required to make the thyroid hormones thyroxine and triiodothyronine.
- Autoimmune Disease – The most common cause of hypothyroidism in developed countries is Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, an inflammatory disease which attacks and destroys the thyroid gland.
- Previous Thyroid Treatment – Hypothyroidism can occur as a side effect or complication of a previous thyroid gland treatment such as surgery or radioactive iodine therapy.
- Pituitary Gland Damage – The pituitary gland tells the thyroid gland when to make and release thyroid hormones. If the pituitary gland is damaged then this may lead to an underactive thyroid.
- Viral Infections or medication side effects – Some viruses and medical treatments such as lithium (used to treat certain mental health conditions), amiodarone (used to treat irregular heartbeats) and interferon (used to treat certain cancers) can cause hypothyroidism.
Medical Treatment for Hypothyroidism
In most patients, hypothyroidism is a permanent condition requiring lifelong treatment. The goal of thyroid drug therapy is to provide the body with replacement thyroid hormone when the gland is not able to produce enough itself such as:
- Synthetic Thyroid Hormone Replacement: The treatment of choice for correction of hypothyroidism is a synthetic thyroid hormone called levothyroxine. Liothyronine and a synthetic combination of thyroxine and Triiodothyronine – Liotrix have also been suggested as a measure to provide better symptom control.
- Desiccated Natural Thyroid: Desiccated thyroid is a drug prepared from dried porcine (pig) thyroid. Natural thyroid lost its appeal when synthetic product has come into market as it is more modern and stable.
- Myxedema coma or severe decompensated hypothyroidism usually requires admission to the intensive care, close observation and treatment of abnormalities in breathing, temperature control, blood pressure, and sodium levels with fluid replacement.
- For pregnant women with hypothyroidism, serum TSH levels should be monitored closely. Levothyroxine should be used to keep TSH levels within the normal range for that trimester. The first trimester normal range is below 2.5 mIU/L and the second and third trimester’s normal range is below 3.0 mIU/L.
Alternative Therapies for Hypothyroidism
Acupuncture may be able to help hypothyroidism. Acupuncture can be used to restore hormonal balance, regulate energy levels, equilibrate emotional levels and help manage menstrual problems. Acupuncture points on the ear and throughout the body may be able to help regulate thyroid hormone production levels.
Traditional Chinese medicine has been shown to improve clinical symptoms of hypothyroidism. Stimulation of the kidney meridian with Chinese herbs can lead to improved thyroid function. This can be achieved by using Chinese herbs such as Rehmannia (shu di huang), Dioscorea (shan yao) and Cornus (shan zhu yu).
Home Remedies for Hypothyroidism
- Coconut Oil: Coconut oil contains medium-chain fatty acids that help improve thyroid functioning. Taking with milk might be helpful for thyroid function.
- Apple Cider Vinegar: Add two tablespoons of organic apple cider vinegar to a glass of warm water mix in a little honey then drink this solution daily on a regular basis.
- Take fish oil supplements after consulting your doctor, especially if you are taking blood thinners.
- Vitamin D Exposure to early sunshine for about 15 minutes daily is a good way to generate the vitamin D required by the body.
Dietary Solutions for Hypothyroidism
A healthy well-balanced diet can be used to help ease the symptoms of hypothyroidism. A Mediterranean diet, in combination with exercise, has been shown to successfully decrease hypothyroidism compared to a typical diet.
Diets high in antioxidants (e.g. cherries, tomatoes, bell peppers and squash) may help decrease the inflammation caused by autoimmune thyroiditis.
It should be noted that there is some evidence that soy based products can aggravate hypothyroidism, so excluding this protein source may be beneficial. It also may be of help to reduce or exclude foods such as kale, spinach, broccoli and cabbage. These foods have high amounts of iodine and can affect thyroid function exacerbating hypothyroidism.
Vitamins and minerals for Hypothyroidism
In addition to iodine, thyroid hormones also require the amino acid L-tyrosine to be made. Taking L-tyrosine supplements, 500mg two to three times daily, may help but if you are taking thyroid hormone or blood pressure medication check with your doctor before starting.
- Vitamin A (except carotene): An underactive thyroid gland cannot efficiently convert carotene to usable Vitamin A. Vitamin A is required by the body to convert T4 (thyroxine) to T3 (triiodothrynonine).
- Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) and B6 (Pyridoxine): The lack of Vitamin B2 and B6 suppresses thyroid function, as a result the thyroid and adrenal glands fail to secrete their hormones.
- Vitamin D, Calcium, Magnesium, Selenium and Zinc are required for the conversion of T4 into active T3.
As inflammation is the primary cause of hypothyroidism in the developed world omega-3 fatty acids may help decrease inflammation. These can be found in high quantities in fish or alternatively taken as a supplement.