Alternative and Complementary Treatments for Hypothyroidism
What is hypothyroidism?
Hypothyroidism, or underactive thyroid disease, is a common condition that occurs when the thyroid gland does not produce adequate amounts of the thyroid stimulating hormone. Located in the lower front portion of the neck, the thyroid gland releases a crucial hormone that travels through the bloodstream. Thyroid hormones are essential in controlling how cells use energy. Hypothyroidism can impact the body’s general functionality.
Alternative and complementary treatments
In addition to conventional medical treatments for hypothyroidism, alternative and complementary treatments may also help. They include supplements, acupuncture, and diet changes.
Certain supplements are often used to treat symptoms of hypothyroidism. Consult a health care professional before starting supplements, as they can interact with some medications and foods.
Selenium is a trace element that impacts thyroid functionality. It is naturally found in tuna, Brazil nuts, turkey, and grass-fed beef. Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, a cause of hypothyroidism, typically reduces the amount of selenium in the body. Taking selenium supplements may help balance thyroxine (T4) levels. There is mixed debate on the effectiveness of selenium when treating hypothyroidism.
- Vitamin B12
Hypothyroidism can lower the levels of B12 in the body. B12 supplements can help raise these levels, repair damage caused by hypothyroidism, and reduce fatigue.
Studies have shown that there is a link between hypothyroidism and gastrointestinal (GI) issues. Hypothyroidism can cause changes in gastrointestinal mobility, which can result in small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. This can eventually cause chronic GI issues, such as diarrhea.
Acupuncture is an ancient medical practice developed in China. In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), it is described as a method to balance the flow of energy (chi or qi) via pathways through the body. This practice involves the insertion of fine, thin needles into the skin at specific points of the body.
Acupuncture may improve symptoms associated with hypothyroidism, including infertility, mood swings, neck pressure, and fatigue. It can possibly decrease concentrations of thyroid-related antibodies. Acupuncture can also improve the immune system and help the body better respond to other treatments.
Changes in diet may help improve hypothyroid issues and include the following:
- Remove sugar and processed foods. Both can increase inflammation, which slows the process of T4 (thyroxine) transforming into triiodothyronine (T3).
- Go gluten-free. Symptoms may improve when adopting a gluten-free diet. Research does not currently support this as a hypothyroidism treatment unless celiac disease is also present.
- Limit soy and coffee intake. Both soy can coffee can affect the body's ability to use conventional T4 replacement medication. Soy sauce, tofu, coffee, and soy milk should be avoided close to the time of taking the medication.
- Stay away from kelp and seaweed. Both seaweed and kelp are high in iodine. Iodine can interfere with the function of the thyroid.
- Restrict kale, broccoli and spinach. These foods are also high in iodine, and amounts consumed should be limited. However, they are not high enough that they must be avoided.
- Be careful with fiber. Fiber can interfere with the absorption of thyroid medication. Avoid eating items with high fiber within several hours of taking medication.
- Reduce saturated fat. Foods that are high in saturated fat, such as red meat, should be limited. Replace with seafood, which is high in healthy omega-3 fatty acids, twice per week.