Your thyroid gland is a small butterfly-shaped organ that sits in your neck, and despite its size, it sure is mighty, controlling how your body uses energy and the functioning of many major organs. Hypothyroidism, or what is commonly known as an underactive thyroid, is where your thyroid gland doesn’t make enough of the hormones needed to regulate your body’s energy use. As a result, various organ functions begin to slow down and drastically impact your life and health. It isn’t all bad news, though, as there are different natural remedies designed to balance your thyroid to get your body producing the hormones you need for optimal health.
What is Hypothyroidism?
Hypothyroidism is often referred to as an underactive thyroid, as that is essentially exactly what it is; your thyroid gland is not producing enough thyroid hormones. These hormones are needed to regulate the body’s metabolic rate that controls the heart, muscle and digestive function. They’re also crucial for brain development and bone maintenance1Mullur, R., Liu, Y. Y., & Brent, G. A. (2014). Thyroid hormone regulation of metabolism. Physiological reviews, 94(2), 355–382. https://doi.org/10.1152/physrev.00030.2013. As such, when you aren’t getting enough of these hormones, many vital functions begin to slow down causing a vast array of potential symptoms and complications2Wood, K., 2020. What You Need to Know About Hypothyroidism. [online] Healthline. Available at: <https://www.healthline.com/health/hypothyroidism/symptoms-treatments-more> [Accessed 16 February 2022].. Unfortunately, hypothyroidism symptoms tend to develop slowly over time, and as a result, they aren’t always recognized as being signs of an underactive thyroid. However, it can manifest in many ways, including these common symptoms:
- Numbness in hands
- Weight gain
- Muscle soreness
- High blood cholesterol levels
- Unable to tolerate cold temperatures
- Dry, coarse hair and skin
- Decreased sexual interest
- Frequent, heavy menstrual cycles
- Brain fog/forgetfulness
- Physical changes in the face, including puffiness around the eyes
As you can see from the list provided, many of these symptoms can also be mistaken as signs for a vast array of other illnesses. However, it is vital not to overlook them as hypothyroidism can cause a variety of potentially serious and even fatal health concerns if left untreated. This ranges from any of the symptoms mentioned above to more serious health conditions, such as infertility, heart problems, kidney disease, neuropathy, and other rare but life-threatening conditions, such as myxedema (coma).
Who is At Risk of Developing Hypothyroidism?
Some people are born with a type of hypothyroidism called congenital hypothyroidism. It is quite rare, affecting an estimated 1 in 2,000 to 4,000 newborn babies3Rastogi, M. V., & LaFranchi, S. H. (2010). Congenital hypothyroidism. Orphanet journal of rare diseases, 5, 17. https://doi.org/10.1186/1750-1172-5-17. However, in most cases of hypothyroidism, it is developed over a period of time. There are a variety of potential causes and factors that can make a person more susceptible to having an underactive thyroid. For example, you are more likely to have hypothyroidism if you:
- Are a woman
- Over the age of 60
- Have had a thyroid problem before
- Have had radioactive iodine or surgery to treat a thyroid problem
- Have received radiation treatment to your thyroid, neck or chest
- Have a family history of thyroid disease
- Were pregnant in the last 6 months
- Have Hashimoto’s disease, Turner syndrome, Celiac disease, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, anemia, or Sjögren’s syndrome
Additionally, certain medications have been known to possibly cause hypothyroidism. This includes certain heart medications, cancer medications and medications for bipolar disorder. Cancer medications, in particular, are said to affect the thyroid by damaging the pituitary gland directly.
Natural Remedies for Hypothyroidism
The most common treatment for hypothyroidism is thyroid hormone replacement medication. Although effective, these types of medications often come with a long list of potential side effects. In addition, they are usually only designed to treat the symptoms instead of treating the problem. As such, natural remedies are often recommended as they can tackle the root cause of the problem by addressing things such as poor diet, stress and missing nutrients in the body4Eisnaugle, J., 2020. 5 Natural Remedies for Hypothyroidism. [online] Healthline. Available at: <https://www.healthline.com/health/hypothyroidism/five-natural-remedies-for-hypothyroidism> [Accessed 16 February 2022]..
Going the natural route often doesn’t come with any potential side effects either, which is always a nice bonus as you don’t want to add on negative feelings on top of the ones you’re already experiencing.
To begin healing hypothyroidism naturally, there are a variety of avenues you can take.
As the saying goes, you are what you eat, and this couldn’t be any truer when it comes to your thyroid health. There are a variety of foods you’ll want to add into your diet to start balancing your thyroid. A dietician or nutritionist can help you create a food plan that provides you with the nutrition needed to alleviate your symptoms, specifically. However, as a general rule of thumb, the foods you’ll want to include more of in your diet when battling hypothyroidism are foods that are high in selenium, such as tuna, turkey, brazil nuts and grass-fed beef, to aid in thyroid hormone metabolism. Additionally, you’ll want to add in foods that contain amino acids and B vitamins, such as leafy greats, whole grains, seeds, chickpeas, and beans. Finally, since hypothyroidism affects your body’s B-12 levels, getting more cheese, milk, eggs, asparagus and peas in your diet can help repair some of the damage caused.
Most importantly, you’ll want to eliminate as much processed sugar as you can from your diet. Sugar is the root of all evil and is not helping your hypothyroidism in any way, as it can lead to increased inflammation in the body. This slows down the breakdown of hormones, which can worsen your symptoms and thyroid disease. Eliminating sugar can also help boost your energy levels, reduce your stress levels and give your hair and skin the glow they’ve been lacking.
Supplements are another great way to get the nutritional support needed to combat common deficiencies in people with hypothyroidism. The type of supplements you should take depends on your individual levels of vitamins and minerals, and speaking with a healthcare provider can help you determine the correct course of action. However, some potentially beneficial supplements for people with hypothyroidism are:
- Vitamin B: for proper thyroid function
- Iodine: to produce thyroid hormones
- Zinc: to synthesize thyroid hormones
- Tyrosine: to produce thyroid hormone (when used in combination with iodine)
- Selenium: to improve thyroid hormone metabolism
- Vitamin D: to improve TSH levels
- Probiotics: to keep your stomach and intestines healthy
Additionally, you can use many natural treatments to ease symptoms associated with hypothyroidism. This includes:
- Essential oils can alleviate fatigue, joint pain, nausea, indigestion, etc.Getting sufficient sleep and exercise can help you maintain optimal thyroid healthMeditation and yoga can help increase blood flow to the thyroid gland (try some inverted poses or shoulder stands)Invest in your rest and relaxation, as stress can worsen hypothyroidism symptomsAcupuncture can help increase thyroid hormones, reduce pain and stress, induce calmness, improve circulation and reduce inflammation
The thyroid gland is small but mighty, controlling various major bodily functions that determine your overall health and wellness. Hypothyroidism affects thousands of people across the globe and can be caused by several different factors, health conditions and diseases. Fortunately, there’s no shortage of natural treatments available for treating hypothyroidism and getting you back to living and feeling great again, without the expense and side effects of prescription medications. It’s important to speak with your health care provider to discuss your thyroid health to receive personalized advice based on your specific connection. Whatever you do, don’t leave your hypothyroidism to go untreated as it can lead to potentially serious and even life-threatening conditions.
- 1Mullur, R., Liu, Y. Y., & Brent, G. A. (2014). Thyroid hormone regulation of metabolism. Physiological reviews, 94(2), 355–382. https://doi.org/10.1152/physrev.00030.2013
- 2Wood, K., 2020. What You Need to Know About Hypothyroidism. [online] Healthline. Available at: <https://www.healthline.com/health/hypothyroidism/symptoms-treatments-more> [Accessed 16 February 2022].
- 3Rastogi, M. V., & LaFranchi, S. H. (2010). Congenital hypothyroidism. Orphanet journal of rare diseases, 5, 17. https://doi.org/10.1186/1750-1172-5-17
- 4Eisnaugle, J., 2020. 5 Natural Remedies for Hypothyroidism. [online] Healthline. Available at: <https://www.healthline.com/health/hypothyroidism/five-natural-remedies-for-hypothyroidism> [Accessed 16 February 2022].