Hypothyroidism occurs when your thyroid gland, at the front of your neck, doesn't produce enough thyroid hormone or when your body fails to use thyroid hormone efficiently. There are several types of hypothyroidism. The most common is Hashimoto's thyroiditis, an autoimmune disease in which the body attacks the thyroid gland. The disease affects both sexes and all ages, but is most common in women over age 50. Because the thyroid gland is involved in regulating metabolism, low thyroid levels cause your body to slow down and can affect everything from appetite to body temperature. Left untreated, hypothyroidism can cause serious health complications.

Signs and Symptoms:

Slow pulse
Hoarse voice, slowed speech
Goiter (caused by swollen thyroid gland)
Intolerance to cold
Weight gain
Dry, scaly, thick, coarse hair
Numbness in fingers or hands
Confusion, depression, dementia
Menstrual cramps or other menstrual disorders
In children, growth retardation, delayed teething, and mental deficiency.

What Causes It?:

The various forms of hypothyroidism have different causes. In Hashimoto's thyroiditis, antibodies in the blood mistakenly attack the thyroid gland and start to destroy it. Post-therapeutic hypothyroidism occurs when treatment for hyperthyroidism leaves the thyroid unable to produce enough thyroid hormone. And hypothyroidism with goiter results when your diet lacks iodine. The addition of iodine to salt in the developed world has made this rare, though it still happens in undeveloped countries.

What to Expect at Your Provider's Office:

Your health care provider will draw blood to measure levels of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), which is produced by the pituitary gland. When levels of thyroid hormones are low, the body produces more TSH in an effort to increase production of thyroid hormones. Your doctor may also test for levels of T4, one of the hormones produced by the thyroid.

Natural medicine practitioners often take a different view of laboratory analysis of thyroid hormone. Many naturally oriented physicians pay particular attention to levels of T3 hormone. T3 is the active form of thyroid hormone, which comes from the body's conversion of T4. If you are unable to convert T4 to T3, your laboratory tests for T4 may be normal, but you still may experience all the symptoms of hypothyroidism. Talk to your doctor about including T3 laboratory tests in the treatment of your hypothyroidism.

Treatment Options:

Drug Therapies:

Your health care provider will prescribe drugs that you will take daily. Health care providers have two alternatives for drug treatment, including synthetic thyroid hormone and dried animal thyroid hormone. The provider will want to adjust your dose over a period of several weeks, after regular blood tests to check the amount of thyroid hormone in your blood.
Complementary and Alternative Therapies

Nutrition and herbs can be useful as supporting therapies, but they cannot replace conventional treatment.

Nutrition and Supplements:

Following these nutritional tips may help reduce symptoms:
Eliminate suspected food allergens, such as dairy (milk, cheese, and ice cream), wheat (gluten), soy, corn, preservatives, and chemical food additives. Your health care provider may want to test you for food allergies.
Eat foods high in B-vitamins and iron, such as whole grains (if no allergy), fresh vegetables, and sea vegetables.
Avoid foods that interfere with thyroid function, including broccoli, cabbage, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, kale, spinach, turnips, soybeans, peanuts, linseed, pine nuts, millet, cassava, and mustard greens.
If you take thyroid hormone medication, talk to your doctor before consuming soy products. There is some evidence soy may interfere with absorption of thyroid hormone.
Iron may also interfere with the absorption of thyroid hormone medication.
Eat antioxidant foods, including fruits (such as blueberries, cherries, and tomatoes) and vegetables (such as squash and bell pepper).
Avoid refined foods, such as white breads, pastas, and sugar.
Eat fewer red meats and more lean meats, cold-water fish, or beans for protein. Limit the intake of processed meats, such as fast foods and lunch meats.
Use healthy cooking oils, such as olive oil or vegetable oil.
Reduce or eliminate trans-fatty acids, found in commercially baked goods such as cookies, crackers, cakes, French fries, onion rings, donuts, processed foods, and margarine.
Avoid alcohol and tobacco. Talk to your doctor before increasing your caffeine intake, as caffeine impacts several conditions and medications.
Exercise, if possible, 30 minutes daily, 5 days a week.

You may address nutritional deficiencies with the following supplements:
A daily multivitamin, containing the antioxidant vitamins A, C, E, the B-complex vitamins, and trace minerals such as magnesium, calcium, zinc and selenium.
Omega-3 fatty acids, such as fish oil, 1 - 2 capsules or 1 - 2 tbs. of oil daily, to help decrease inflammation and help with immunity.
Vitamin C, 500 - 1,000 mg daily, as an antioxidant and for immune support.
Alpha-lipoic acid, 25 - 50 mg twice daily, for antioxidant support.
L-tyrosine, 500 mg two to three times daily, for thyroid health. If you are taking prescription thyroid hormone medication, it is important not to take L-tyrosine without direction from your doctor. Do not take L-tyrosine if you have high blood pressure.
Probiotic supplement (containing Lactobacillus acidophilus), 5 - 10 billion CFUs (colony forming units) a day, when needed for maintenance of gastrointestinal and immune health. Some acidophilus products may need refrigeration. Read labels carefully.
Do not take an iodine supplement unless directed by your doctor. Iodine is only effective in cases of iodine deficiency, which is uncommon in the developed world. And excessive iodine can cause hypothyroidism.


Herbs are generally a safe way to strengthen and tone the body's systems. As with any therapy, you should work with your health care provider to get your problem diagnosed before starting any treatment. You may use herbs may as dried extracts (capsules, powders, teas), glycerites (glycerine extracts), or tinctures (alcohol extracts). People with a history of alcoholism should not take tinctures. Unless otherwise indicated, make teas with 1 tsp. herb per cup of hot water. Steep covered 5 - 10 minutes for leaf or flowers, and 10 - 20 minutes for roots. Drink 2 - 4 cups per day. You may use tinctures singly or in combination as noted.
Green tea (Camellia sinensis) standardized extract, 250 - 500 mg daily, for antioxidant effects. You may also prepare teas from the leaf of this herb.
Coleus (Coleus forskohlii), standardized extract, 50 - 100 mg two to three times a day, for low thyroid function.
Guggul (Commiphora mukul), standardized extract, 250 - 500 mg three times a day, for low thyroid support.
Bladderwrack (Fucus vesiculosus), 600 mg one to three times daily, for low thyroid support. Most cases of hypothyroidism in the developed world are not caused by iodine deficiency, and too much iodine can actually cause hypothyroidism. Avoid bladderwrack unless directed by your doctor.


Homeopathy may be useful as a supportive therapy.

Physical Medicine:

Contrast hydrotherapy (hot and cold applications) to the neck and throat may stimulate thyroid function. Alternate 3 minutes hot with 1 minute cold. Repeat three times for one set. Do two to three sets per day.


Acupuncture may be helpful in correcting hormonal imbalances, including thyroid disorders.

Therapeutic massage can relieve stress and improve circulation.

Following Up:

After you start on thyroid hormone replacement therapy, your provider will want you to have frequent checkups to monitor its effectiveness.

Alternative Names:
Thyroid - underactive

No comments:

Post a Comment