Natural Treatments for Thyroid Conditions
(Courtesy of John Berardi, Ph.D. and Spencer Nadolsky, D.O, Precision Nutrition)
The thyroid gland is one of the “master controllers” that regulates nearly every major metabolic function in the body.
If you’ve been diagnosed with a thyroid condition, your thyroid might be producing too much of the hormone (hyperthyroidism) or too little (hypothyroidism).
Thyroid disorders can be caused by iodine deficiency, but that’s rare in affluent countries.
Hyper- or hypothyroidism most commonly arise from autoimmune problems, in which white blood cells and antibodies mistakenly attack the gland’s cells, causing damage and dysfunction.
What your diagnosis means
In hyperthyroidism, it’s as if your body’s “motor” is revving at high speed.
Symptoms can include:
- racing heart and palpitations
- trouble sleeping
- tremor and nervousness
- weight loss
- hair loss
- muscle aches and weakness
- diarrhea and overactive digestive system
- sweating and trouble tolerating heat
- exophthalmos (bulging eyes)
With hypothyroidism, the “motor” slows down. Symptoms can include:
- unexplained weight gain
- inability to lose weight, even with a solid eating and exercise plan
- tiredness, fatigue, lethargy
- depression and losing interest in normal activities
- dry hair and skin
- puffy face
- slow heart rate
- intolerance to cold
- brittle nails
- muscle cramping
- changes in menstrual cycle
What you can do about it
Hypothyroidism is controlled with hormone replacement that’s specific to the individual patient’s needs.
But correcting the thyroid imbalance doesn’t produce weight loss overnight. If you have a thyroid issue, you’ll still benefit from addressing nutrition, exercise and lifestyle factors.
If your thyroid problem is the result of iodine deficiency (rare in the developed world, where most people use iodized salt), focusing on getting more iodine is key. Foods to focus on include iodized salt, fish, and seaweed.
Ask your doctor if you should limit soy, which contains substances that can contribute to a goiter (excess tissue) on the thyroid. Soy only seems to cause thyroid problems when iodine intake is low and soy intake is high.
If your thyroid condition is autoimmune, an undetected food intolerance could be to blame. Scientists are still exploring the connection between food intolerance and autoimmune problems, but there’s some evidence that gut dysfunction — aggravated by food intolerance — can trigger the inflammation that worsens some thyroid diseases.
It’s plausible (though not certain) that addressing food intolerance early, before irreversible damage is done to the thyroid, may help you avoid hypothyroidism, Dr. Nadolsky says.
Talk to your doctor about food sensitivity testing and trying an elimination diet elimination diet, which helps you identify food intolerances.
It’s important not to eliminate foods before your doctor has the chance to test you for a disease such as celiac, an intolerance to gluten.
While regular exercise can help improve some of the symptoms of thyroid conditions, get advice from your doctor before ramping up your routine.
Since hyper- and hypothyroidism mess with your metabolism, exercising before your condition is under control can be dangerous.
- Withhyperthyroidism, where your metabolism is already revved up, working out can cause you to overheat, and could even cause heart problems.
- Withhypothyroidism, your heart rate is slowed, meaning exercise could be too much work for you at first.
Always talk to your doctor before taking supplements for a medical condition.
- Probiotics:If your thyroid condition is rooted in autoimmune issues, these may help. Again, experts still don’t know which strains or doses are most beneficial. There’s no harm in giving it a shot, though. Try bifidobacterium and lactobacillus, Dr. Nadolsky says. Dosage: 1-5 billion CFUs per day.
- Iodine:Consider taking this if your thyroid problem is iodine-related. Dosage: Ask your doctor.
- Selenium:It’s involved in the production of thyroid hormone. Dosage: 200 mcg per day.