by Geri Walton ~ December 28th, 2008
Hypothyroidism usually requires medication for life, but in addition, to thyroid medications, naturopathic professionals suggest sufferers institute lifestyle changes that may improve thyroid function. There are four areas hypothyroidism sufferers can concentrate on that may improve a sluggish thyroid. These supplemental treatments include diet, exercise, stress reduction, and acupuncture.
Certain foods, medications, and supplements interfere with thyroid medications and thyroid hormone production by suppressing the thyroid’s function. Things that seem to suppress thyroid function include the following items, and most doctors claim if you want to use them, you should wait three to four hours after taking your medication (Synthroid, etc.) before consuming any of the following:
- Antacids that contain aluminum or magnesium
- Calcium supplements
- Cholesterol-lowering drugs, such as Colestipol or Cholestyramine
- Cottonseed meal
- Iron supplements
- Multivitamins containing iron
- Nitrates found in cured meats, such as bacon, hot dogs, luncheon meats, and so forth
- Peanuts, walnuts, and pine nuts
- Soybean Products
- Ulcer medications, such as sucralfate
In addition, cruciferous foods, particularly eaten raw, seem to suppress thyroid function. Cruciferous foods include: arugula, bok choy, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, Chinese cabbage, collard greens, daikon radishes, kale, kohlrabi, mustard greens, radishes, rutabagas, swiss chard, turnips, and watercress. Because these foods help provide a well-rounded diet, you should still eat them, but cook them and try to eat them moderately. If you’re interested in learning more about cruciferous vegetables, read Cruciferous Vegetables Prevent Cancer.
There are many other things that can also affect the thyroid’s function. For instance, caffeine and alcohol seem to depress thyroid function, so, where possible, try and avoid them. Refined foods containing white flour and sugar products can also cause problems, so opt for whole grain products instead. Olive oil is superior to other oils when it comes to aiding the thyroid, so if possible use it and try to avoid saturated and trans fats. Fluoride and chlorine found in tap water seems to also affect hypothyroid sufferers. So, if you’re interested in fluoride-free and chlorine-free water, read My Water Decision. Dairy products are another food that can cause problems for some people, so you may need to watch your intake if they affect you.
A good healthy diet is important, and just as there are foods and supplements that seem to reduce thyroid function, there are also foods that seem to improve thyroid function. For instance, fresh fruits and vegetables are preferable over refined and packaged meals. You may also want to choose low or moderately low glycemic foods as these tend to elevate the metabolism and trigger the body to burn more calories. If you’re interested in learning more about glycemic foods, read Glycemic Foods: Both High and Low. Other foods you can include are
- Kelp. Kelp is a natural source of iodine. It also contains the amino acid tyrosine (also available in almonds, avocados, bananas, dairy products, eggs, sea vegetables, and sesame seeds) and it is a precursor of thyroxine, a thyroid hormone.
- Omega-3 Fatty Acid Foods. Omega-3s can be found in seafood, and excellent sources include sardines, salmon, herring, tuna, trout, hemp seeds, and flax seeds.
- Spices. Ginger and turmeric seem to aid the thyroid, and besides spicing up meals, they may protect the thyroid and reduce inflammation, helping it function better. Studies have also shown that turmeric may even help reverse drug-induced hypothyroidism.
- Whole Grains. Because white flour appears to reduce thyroid function, whole grains are a better choice. In addition, because weight gain can often be a problem for hypothyroid sufferers, whole grains help fill you help, so you’re less likely to overeat. Whole grains are also fiber-rich and fiber helps improve constipation symptoms, which many hypothyroid sufferers experience.
Various supplements also seem to improve and aid thyroid function. These include:
- B Complex Vitamins. B vitamins are important to prevent fatigue and can be safely used with thyroid medications. However, whenever you take B vitamins, you want to take them together as they are most effective that way, and if you get an excess of one B vitamin it will just be a matter of time before you become deficient in the others.
- Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10). I could find no safety issues using Q10 with thyroid medications. It may help because it improves energy levels and protects the heart.
- Coconut Oil. Bruce Fife, ND, and author of Coconut Cures: Preventing and Treating Common Health Problems with Coconut, recommends coconut oil to help hypothyroidism. Fife maintains coconut oil’s fatty acids increase metabolism, so calories can be burned at higher rate, while also increasing energy levels. I’m not sure how this affects thyroid medications, so you should check with your health care professional.
- Guggul. This supplement is often used in herbal weight loss products because it stimulates the thyroid and increases fat burning. Guggul helps the thyroid by improving the uptake of iodine and, in addition, may help lower LDL “bad” cholesterol. Again, I’m not sure how this affects people taking thyroid medications, so check with your health care professional.
- Omega-3 Fish Oil. Besides being good for your heart, these oils may help with aches and pains, and they also appear to be safe with thyroid medications.
- Selenium. Selenium activates an enzyme that helps T4 be converted to T3, and it appears to be safe when used with thyroid medications.
- Zinc. Zinc also seems to support the thyroid and should be safe to take with thyroid medications.
Other Supplemental Dos and Don’ts
Do not take any type of iodine supplement, unless your health care professional directs your to do so. You can harm yourself if you consume too much iodine. If you are eating saltwater fish, sea vegetables, or using table salt, you probably have enough iodine in your diet.
L-tyrosine is a precursor to thyroid hormone and some people want to supplement with it; however, if you are taking a thyroid medication, it is important to get the approval from your health care professional before doing so. Also, don’t take L-tyrosine if you have high blood pressure, unless your health care professional says to take it.
Exercise is important if you have an underactive thyroid because it stimulates the thyroid. Exercise is also good to prevent weight gain, and it aids against cardiovascular disease and improves moods. If you suffer from joint aches or pain and cannot do aerobic exercises, you can still exercise by doing water aerobics. You may also improve flexibility and joint pain by doing yoga. In fact, there is a yoga pose—known as Sarvangasana or the shoulder stand, which you can see be performed by clicking here—that stimulates the thyroid. If you’re interested in learning more about yoga poses, you can learn the ABC’s by clicking here.
Hypothyroidism Stress Reduction
Stress seems to decrease thyroid function, as well as affects the body in a negative way. So, it’s important to learn relaxation techniques and ways to deal with stress. Author and metaphysical teacher, Louise Hay, claims in her book, You Can Heal Your Life, hypothyroidism problems are related to self-imposed limitations and frustrated creativity. Meditation seems to help boost feelings of joy and serenity and decrease anxiety and stress.
Meditation creates a state of deep relaxation, which then may slow breathing and normalize blood pressure. Additionally, when you are stressed, the adrenal glands are in high gear making cortisol, and cortisol can damage the body. As stress is reduced, less cortisol is produced, which in turn improves bodily functions and allows the immune system to function properly. To learn more about meditation, read Mindfulness Techniques.
There are also other forms of meditation. If you’re interested, on the left side of this site there is a 12-minute “How to Fight Stress” reliever created by Martin L. Rossman, M.D., who is a physician and acupuncturist and has practiced holistic medicine for over thirty years. You can also purchase his Stress Relief Through Guided Imagery, which is a CD that provides simple, effective ways to relax the body, calm the mind, and resolve stressful situations. The CD teaches you how to reduce your stress with simple breathing techniques, deep relaxation, and creative problem-solving. With daily practice, Rossman teaches you how to remain calm no matter how stressful the situation.
The final suggestion for a sluggish thyroid, which has helped some Hashimoto’s sufferers, comes from traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). It is acupuncture. Acupuncture is accomplished by inserting extremely thin disposable needles into specific points in the skin. It relies on the life force or energy force known as Qi or Chi that flows through the body. If Qi is disrupted, TCM practitioners believe disease results, and acupuncture corrects Qi’s flow. Besides acupuncture, TCM practitioners may also manipulate the acupuncture points in various ways to create healing. These might include burning herbs over or near the acupuncture points or massaging acupuncture points.
The thyroid is important because it controls so many aspects of health. For that reason, besides these thyroid and hypothyroidism supplemental treatments, you may want to learn more about the thyroid so you can enjoy good health. If you’re interested you can read the following:
- The Thyroid Solution. This revolutionary program, written and devised by Ridha Arem, M.D., is a mind-body approach to identifying and curing hypothyroidism.
- Living Well with Hypothyroidism. A health writer and hypothyroid sufferer herself, Mary Shomon provides a down-to-earth, patient-centered approach.
- The Thyroid Hormone Breakthrough. This book is also by Shomon and offers a holistic approach to identifying and overcoming the connection between hormonal problems and the thyroid. It also offers information on diet, exercise, and conventional and alternative therapies.
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