Hypothyroidism Treatments are somewhat limited, but effective. Both primary approaches achieve the same result, but neither therapy cures the condition.
Hypothyroidism is the result of an underactive thyroid, and the condition can have many different triggers. Radiation exposure, inflammation and autoimmune disorders can all damage the gland. Hypothyroidism Treatments are somewhat limited, but effective. Both primary approaches achieve the same result, but neither therapy cures the condition.
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Instead, these therapies merely attempt to provide the body with the hormones that it cannot produce itself. This approach requires careful monitoring as the required dose often changes from year to year. There are two primary forms of this therapy: desiccated thyroid tablets and the synthetic hormone levothyroxine.
Desiccated Thyroid Tablets
Preferred by some because it is derived from natural sources, desiccated thyroid tablets consist of freeze-dried thyroid tissue from either bovine or swine. By giving the patient actual thyroid tissue, they are provided with a high dose of thyroid hormones—hormones that are common to all mammals.
This type of hypothyroidism treatment is considered by some as outdated, and some medical professionals consider it ineffective, as well. Indeed, there is some concern that this therapy provides inconsistent results as the actual volume of thyroid hormone in the pills can vary from dose to dose. This can wreak havoc on the endocrine system.
Desiccated thyroid is a prescription drug, and is regulated by the FDA. Popular brands include Nature-Thyroid, Armour Thyroid and Westhroid. It has been available as a therapy for hypothyroidism for over 100 years. The therapy lost favor in the 1960s when its primary competitor, levothyroxine, became popular. However, the therapy enjoyed a resurgence in the 1980s and 1990s as health-conscious consumers began searching for a natural alternative to levothyroxine.
Levothyroxine is a synthetic hormone, meaning it’s mass-produced in a laboratory. Some functional medicine proponents, such as Tom Brimeyer, consider levothyroxine potentially harmful, given its synthetic nature. Indeed, the medication comes with a few hefty side effects:
- stomach cramps
- temporary hair loss
- weight loss
- increased appetite
- excessive sweating
- changes in menstrual cycle
It’s important to note, however, that you shouldn’t necessarily expect to experience any or all of these side effects. Which side effects you experience—if any—is dependent on a number of factors, and side effects in general vary from person to person. Experts like Tom Brimeyer and Dr. Jeffrey Garberstress that it’s crucial that you stay on your hypothyroidism medication. Going off of your medication suddenly can have serious health implications. If you attempt to treat the condition via lifestyle changes, it’s essential that you keep scrupulous notes of the changes you make, and of your resulting blood work. If your thyroid responds to the changes, your doctor can easily reduce the dose of your medication.
Research has shown that stress plays a major role in hypothyroidism. The two primary hypothyroidism treatments do not address this issue. Worse yet, many who suffer from this condition use caffeine to compensate for low energy levels. Unfortunately, this can result in a condition known as adrenal fatigue. Your adrenal glands produce cortisol, a major stress hormone that plays a large role in immune system regulation. Caffeine forces the adrenal glands to go into overdrive, which can lead to cortisol insufficiency.
An immune system run amok leads to chronic inflammation, which can make hypothyroidism worse by damaging fragile thyroid tissue. You can combat this damage by cutting back on caffeine and sugar, and you can combat stress directly by taking on a regular mindfulness meditation practice. Numerous studies have found that regular meditation reduces stress.
Eating foods that are high in the antioxidant glutathione can keep the immune system in check, and it has a positive effect on hypothyroidism. Foods rich in glutathione include broccoli, asparagus, garlic, avocado, raw eggs and grapefruit. It’s best for individuals with hypothyroidism to steam or lightly boil leafy vegetables, however, as they can aggravate the thyroid in their raw state.
Long-term lifestyle changes can have a positive effect on thyroid function and can lessen dependence on associated therapies, although those therapies may never be completely abandoned. Your doctor will typically test your blood hormone levels at least once a year, so be sure to stick to your dietary and stress-management changes consistently throughout that time to see the best results for hypothyroidism treatments.