Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland becomes damaged from radiation or some other antagonist, or in individuals who are born with an underactive thyroid. The condition is much more likely to affect females than males, and it occurs mostly in females over the age of 60. However, it is important to note that hypothyroidism can occur in any individual at any age.
In the U.S., hypothyroidism most commonly occurs as a complication of an autoimmune disease known as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. In Hashimoto’s, the body attacks the thyroid, preventing the gland from producing the hormones that would normally regulate metabolism. In either case, the result of hypothyroidism is the same: general malaise, an overall lack of energy and weight gain.
The answer to the oft-asked question “Is hypothyroidism curable?” depends on your definition of curable. There is currently no cure for autoimmune conditions such as Hashimoto’s as researchers don’t understand exactly why they occur in the first place. Regarding hypothyroidism on its own, the condition is readily managed by daily consumption of desiccated thyroid or levothyroxine tablets. Either of these medications minimize symptoms within two weeks. However, both autoimmune diseases and hypothyroidism on its own have been known to respond very well to dietary and lifestyle changes. Additionally, stress plays a large role in either condition, both mental and physical.
Cortisol and adrenaline, both produced in the adrenal gland, go hand in hand in energy regulation. Cortisol is a steroid that plays a large role in keeping the immune system in check as too much of a good thing becomes problematic. Specifically, an overactive immune system can lead to systemic inflammation that can cause damage to body tissues.
When you consume caffeine, your adrenal glands pump out its store of adrenaline into your bloodstream. This is the source of the “high” that caffeine creates. However, if you overdo it, your adrenal glands can become exhausted. This can cause your production of cortisol to slow, and your immune system can become unbalanced.
Many individuals with untreated hypothyroidism rely on caffeine to get them through the day. Over time, this habit can wreak havoc on their body’s ability to deal with stress. Many studies, such as the focus of the paper “Effectiveness of a Meditation-Based Stress Reduction Program in the Treatment of Anxiety Disorders” from The American Journal of Psychiatry, have found that mindfulness meditation can effectively manage stress.
Is Hypothyroidism Curable with Diet?
Many Americans are deficient in probiotic gut bacteria, and these bugs play a huge role in thyroid function. In fact, some functional medicine practitioners believe that up to 20% of thyroid function depends on the action of probiotic bacteria in the gut. Unfortunately, if you don’t have the right balance of gut flora, you may not be able to benefit from healthy foods like fruits and leafy vegetables.
Fortunately, many foods may naturally contain probiotic bacteria. Whether they actually do depends on how they’re prepared. Sauerkraut, for instance, is simply fermented cabbage, and it can provide a high dose of healthy bacteria. Kimchi, the Korean version of sauerkraut, is more likely to contain probiotics than its Western counterpart. More well-known sources of probiotics include dairy foods such as yogurts and kefir. Some manufacturers of these products will indicate on the packaging whether or not they contain gut-friendly bacteria.
Additionally, the antioxidant glutathione plays a role in immune system regulation and can be found in asparagus, broccoli, avocado, garlic, grapefruit and raw eggs, among other foods. However, many of these foods—especially leafy vegetables—are also goitrogens. Goitrogens are foods that can interfere with thyroid function in individuals with hypothyroidism if consumed at room temperature. However, because these foods are also laden with essential vitamins, it’s best not to avoid them. One alternative method of preparation is to juice them and then bring their juices to a simmer. Heat neutralizes goitrogens.
Gluten, found in bread and pasta products, is a protein that is known to cause inflammation in the body. Systemic inflammation can damage fragile structures like the thyroid gland. While it can be difficult to cut gluten out of the diet, you may find it worthwhile to do so temporarily. A few weeks gluten-free should be enough to gauge whether the protein is affecting you. For maximum benefit, swear off gluten before a scheduled checkup. Any positive reaction from your thyroid will show up in your blood work.
Finally, healthy fats like the omega-3s are essential to normal thyroid function. Fats—and cholesterol—form the building blocks of most hormones. If you’ve been avoiding fat like the plague, you may be inadvertently aggravating your condition. Healthy sources of fats include salmon and other coldwater fish, olives, flaxseed, nuts, full-fat cheese, yogurt and coconut milk products.
The cause of hypothyroidism varies between individuals, so it’s impossible to declare the condition universally curable. However, you may find substantial relief by making systematic changes to your diet and lifestyle. Avoid foods that are known to aggregate the condition or cause inflammation and fill any nutrient gaps, and you may find yourself well on your way to improving your natural thyroid function. As your thyroid function improves, your doctor will lower the dose of your your doctor will lower the dose of your traditional Hypothyroidism Treatments.
So Although not Curable ? It can be Managed
Now we have establish that at the moment it is not curable but can be managed its time to start looking at what is the best way to start managing it. A good start is to have a serious look at your diet and lifestyle.