Hypothyroidism is a very common condition in which the thyroid gland is unable to produce adequate hormones to maintain the metabolic levels of the body. Having a low amount of thyroid hormones in the blood affects the energy production in cells. A decrease in thyroid hormones leads to fatigue and exhaustion, even with moderate activities.
People suffering from this condition may gain weight, in spite of their efforts to stay in shape by exercising. Treatment methods of hypothyroidism bring the level of thyroid hormones back to normal, thus improving the symptoms. A holistic treatment includes different approaches, such as conventional medications, dietary changes, herbs, exercise, traditional Chinese medicine, supplements, and many more.
Treatment using the synthetic form of the thyroid hormone thyroxine or T4 is the most common method used in controlling hypothyroidism. The synthetic form, levothyroxine, replaces the hormones in the blood. The dosage needed to restore the function of the gland may differ from person-to-person. To adjust the dosage, the patient will usually have to undergo blood tests to evaluate the levels of hormones after initiating the therapy. This is particularly important as both too-low and too-high doses of thyroxine may cause symptoms. Once the dosage of thyroxine is decided, long-term treatment should be continued.
In some cases, it is hard to establish the dosage of hormone needed, and frequent blood tests may be recommended. The response to a type of hormone may also vary from one patient to another. A combination therapy of T3 and T4 is often suggested in some cases for a better response.
1. A well-balanced diet
Having a well-balanced diet is very important to sustain a person’s energy levels throughout the day. Have more vegetables, fruits, and sources of omega-3 fatty acids in your diet. Saturated fatty acids should be restricted as much as possible. Since iodine deficiency is one of the causes of the disease, including this mineral in the diet helps in reducing the symptoms.
Diet modification by itself cannot help you to entirely replenish the recommended thyroid hormone to the required levels, but can help with thyroid function, the symptoms, and your body's absorption of the replacement hormone. For this reason, it is important to know the foods that you can and cannot eat to help reach the maximum hormonal absorption needed by your body.
The following are the foods that you can eat to improve your thyroid gland's functioning:
- Fresh vegetables and fruits – Include antioxidant foods such as tomatoes and berries as well as grains that are rich in vitamin B-complex.
- Foods that are high in selenium – Brazil nuts, tuna, and other types of seafood.
- The amino acid tyrosine – This amino acid is needed by the thyroid gland, so that it can produce both T3 and T4 hormones.
On the other hand, there are some foods that can inhibit the thyroid gland's functioning. Thus, for individuals suffering from thyroid problems, particularly hypothyroidism, the following foods should be avoided as much as possible:
- Foods that are high in fiber content – Grains, pasta, and cereals may be recommended so that you have fiber in your diet, but eating too much of these can restrict thyroid medication absorption.
- Supplements for calcium and iron – These two elements can also alter the drug mechanism of thyroid medications.
- Soy flavonoids – These suppress the enzyme called thyroid peroxidase, which is essential for thyroid hormone production.
- Foods rich in iodine – Ingesting more amounts of iodine can create the reverse effect of curbing the thyroid gland’s function.
A person who is suffering from hypothyroidism tends to feel fatigued most of the time. The lack of energy and other symptoms of hypothyroidism can be alleviated by doing some routine exercises, which include:
- Low-impact exercises - You can do walking, squats, and stretching through yoga or Pilates workouts.
- Strength training workouts - These exercises help you battle the feeling of weakness or fatigue brought about by a lack of energy and achy joints or muscles. Doing this type of exercise will help improve muscle strength.
- Cardio exercise - This type of exercise is very good when it comes to preventing cardiovascular diseases that are associated with hypothyroidism.
Supplements are suggested in some approaches to managing hypothyroidism. However, there is no clear scientific evidence to show that supplements are useful in this condition. One should take utmost care when taking supplements, as some of them may interact with other medications. They may be more harmful than helpful in treatment.
Some multivitamins and mineral supplements are helpful in maintaining optimal health. Vitamin D supplements are sometimes suggested for the treatment of hypothyroidism, as they are known to improve the functioning of the immune system.
4. Some herbs
Herbs come in different forms. There are dried herbal extracts that can be found in teas, supplements, or powder form. In the case of hypothyroidism, some herbs are found to help restore the thyroid’s functions, although more studies are needed for their effectiveness to be proven. The following herbs are known to help treat hypothyroidism:
- Coleus forskohlii - or simply Coleus is taken by people with impaired thyroid function. This herb may hinder the effects of specific medicines, particularly medications for high blood pressure, heart disease, and anticoagulants such as warfarin sold as Coumadin.
- Fucus vesiculosus - This actually belongs to a seaweed species, and is also called "bladderwrack." It is used to help normalize the low levels of thyroid hormones in the body. However, speak with your doctor before taking bladderwrack since it has iodine. Although patients with hypothyroidism lack iodine in their system, consuming too much iodine actually causes hypothyroidism. Bladderwrack may also react with anticoagulant medications such as warfarin. Unfortunately, harmful metals can also be found in bladderwrack. Moreover, it has corresponding reactions related to fertility and pregnant women.
- Commiphora mukul or Commiphora wightii - This is a medicinal herb more commonly known as guggul. This herb belongs to the family of Indian myrrh trees. It is believed that this herb can help people recover from decreased thyroid gland production.
Herbs, like supplements, should also be used with caution as they may interact with medications. It is highly recommended that herbs be used only after discussing them with your physician.
5. Traditional Chinese medicine
This is an approach commonly used in improving the functioning of the immune system, and also used for treating impaired thyroid functioning. This method is particularly useful in hypothyroidism caused by the autoimmune condition called Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.
Naturopathic medicine’s focal point is on utilizing natural and nontoxic medications, which include homeopathy and traditional herbal remedies.
Homeopathic treatments usually emphasize a holistic approach, wherein the focus of treatment is not on the disease alone, but also on the overall well-being of the patient, that is, both in spirit and the body.
This kind of approach appeals to a number of people since it is considered to be an alternative treatment for those people who cannot allow certain medications to their body. It is a non-invasive procedure that might limit the need for medicine. Biofeedback gives patients the authority to control their bodies, such as control their heart rate, which often leads to a better physical condition.
Osteopathy is an alternative way to detect and treat a variety of health problems through the manipulation of the patient’s bones, joints, and muscular tissue.
- Acupuncture - may help in improving the blood flow to the different organs of the body including the thyroid glands. This method is also known to reduce stress, which is a major factor in controlling the symptoms of an underactive thyroid.
- Meditation - has a positive influence on the nervous system and may help in restoring the hormonal balance that is affected in hypothyroidism.
- Yoga - is also considered to be helpful in improving the hormonal balance in the body. Yoga postures improve the functioning of the hypothalamus, pituitary gland, and thyroid gland. These three organs are often the most affected by hypothyroidism.
- Massage - also helps in reducing stress with an indirect positive effect on the functioning of the thyroid gland.
- Contrast hydrotherapy - In contrast hydrotherapy, the thyroid gland is stimulated by alternately applying cold and hot packs to the neck. The application is repeated about 3 to 4 times a day to improve the symptoms.