Hypothyroid Treatment: Chemical vs. Natural
According to the United States National Library of Medicine and National Institutes of Health, over 27 million Americans are afflicted with some sort of thyroid malady. As many as 13 million affected individuals may go undiagnosed at any one time. The thyroid is a large gland located at the base of the neck, and it plays a significant role in human metabolism.
As you age, the thyroid becomes increasingly susceptible to damage from a number of sources, principally radiation. Unfortunately, this is especially true in women, who are up to seven times more likely to develop a thyroid issue than men. There are relatively few hypothyroid treatments available, but there are several paths you can take to minimize symptoms.
Hashimoto’s Hypothyroid and the Importance of Hypothyroidism Treatment: Chemical vs. Natural
Some doctors estimate that as many as 90% of people who suffer from hypothyroidism also have a condition known as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. This condition is an autoimmune disorder that affects the thyroid. In Hashimoto’s, the body confuses thyroid tissue with that of a foreign invader and sends antibodies into the gland. This causes swelling, and eventually, it can hamper the thyroid’s ability to produce metabolic hormones. It is entirely possible that you could be diagnosed with hypothyroidism and yet show no signs of Hashimoto’s. In fact, the disease does not always present with symptoms. However, if your hypothyroidism is caused by undiagnosed Hashimoto’s, there are a few natural treatments that your thyroid may respond to.
Typical Treatment Options for Hypothyroidism
First off, it’s important to understand standard hypothyroid treatment. Your doctor’s first priority will be to restore your metabolic hormones. This is crucial, as if left unchecked; you could experience significant weight gain and other health issues. Your doctor will treat the condition with either natural or synthetic hormones. The former option, desiccated thyroid, contains raw, freeze-dried thyroid tissue from either pigs or cows in tablet form. The latter is a tablet containing a synthetic hormone, levothyroxine.
Both of these medications can alleviate hypothyroid symptoms within two weeks, although the synthetic medication is said to be more consistent. The potency of desiccated thyroid tablets tends to vary from dose to dose, although many patients prefer them to the synthetic variety, claiming that they make them feel better. Note that some doctors prescribe only levothyroxine, believing the more modern approach superior.
Both types of medication are taken by mouth with a glass of water. Your doctor will observe you carefully and may need to adjust your dose from time to time. Should you miss a dose, simply take your missed dose as soon as you can. However, if it’s time for your next dose, take that one. Don’t double up.
Hypothyroid Treatment: Chemical vs. Natural – The Importance of Diet
According to the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association (AARDA), autoimmunity is the number 2 cause of chronic illness in the U.S. Many autoimmune conditions respond well to healthy diet changes. Often, people suffering from autoimmune conditions have a food sensitivity that they’re unaware of. Reactions from foods like gluten are receiving a good deal of press as of 2014. Gluten is a known aggravator of Celiac disease, but it has also been implicated in overall systemic inflammation. Gluten is a protein contained in wheat, semolina, Khorasan wheat, rye and barley. Therefore, you may find it worthwhile to switch to gluten-free breads and pasta and see how your body responds.
It’s important that you stay on any medication that your doctor has prescribed you while you experiment with diet changes. If you find diet to be a viable hypothyroid treatment, your success will show up in your blood work, and your doctor will reduce the dose of your medication.
Unfortunately, one of the first suggestions that many functional medicine experts provide is to cut out caffeine and sugar. Many affected individuals rely on these substances to get them through the day, but these stimulants put additional stress on the adrenals, which can cause cortisol levels to plummet. Your thyroid and adrenals work closely together to you keep you functioning. If you exhaust your adrenals with constant hits of caffeine and sugar, you’ll likely find your energy levels chronically low.
The next facet of diet change is to assess your protein and fat intake. It is proteins that ferry thyroid hormones into your cells. Remember: your body can’t produce protein on its own. Healthy sources of protein include tuna, salmon, beans, eggs, milk, poultry, cheese and grass-fed meats. Note that soy products like soy milk and tofu have been known to disrupt the endocrine system. If you rely on these products and don’t eat meat, consider replacing them with dairy.
Unfortunately, in the U.S., at least, the grain lobbyists have been on a quest to demonize fat since the mid-1970s. Fat is an essential nutrient. Fatty acids are required for the production of cholesterol, and cholesterol in turn regulates several hormonal pathways. If you’re taking in too little fat, in other words, you could be inhibiting the hormones your thyroid is able to produce naturally. Taking levothyroxine will only mask this as your doctor will simply increase your dose should you not respond sufficiently.
Finally, while raw vegetables and fruits are extremely healthy, they can actually impede your progress. Some vegetables fall into a class of foods known as “goitrogens.” Goitrogens are foods that directly or indirectly impede thyroid function. Here’s a quick list: broccoli, cauliflower, kale, kohlrabi, rutabaga, Brussels sprouts, watercress, radishes, peanuts, soybeans, strawberries, peaches, millet and spinach. Fortunately, you can neutralize goitrogens by cooking them.
Whether diet and lifestyle changes will prove a viable treatment for hypothyroidism for you depends on the root cause of the condition and your own genetic makeup. However, you can safely experiment while taking your medication, and with perseverance, you may be able to isolate foods that exacerbate your condition, restoring some thyroid function.