Your health care provider will prescribe a synthetic thyroid hormone called levothyroxine (Levothroid, Synthroid, or Unithroid) that you will take daily. A natural dessicated thyroid hormone drug, made from the thyroid glands of pigs, is also available by prescription. Your doctor 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. Correcting hypothyroidism improves cardiovascular risk factors.
Complementary and Alternative Therapies
If you have hypothyroidism, you need conventional medical treatment. Nutrition and herbs can help support conventional treatment, but should not be used by themselves to treat hypothyroidism. Studies show, for example, that practicing yoga can help hypothyroid patients manage disease-related symptoms.
Nutrition and Supplements
Following these nutritional tips may help reduce symptoms:
- Eat foods high in B-vitamins and iron, such as whole grains (if no allergy), fresh vegetables, and sea vegetables.
- Avoid overconsuming foods that can potentially interfere with thyroid function, including broccoli, cabbage, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, kale, spinach, turnips, soybeans, peanuts, linseed, pine nuts, millet, cassava, and mustard greens. These foods are healthful in general, so do not avoid them completely. Everything is reasonable in moderation.
- If you take thyroid hormone medication, talk to your doctor before eating soy products. There is some evidence soy may interfere with the absorption of thyroid hormone.
- Taking iron supplements may interfere with the absorption of thyroid hormone medication, so ask your doctor before taking iron.
- Eat foods high in antioxidants, including fruits (such as blueberries, cherries, and tomatoes) and vegetables (such as squash and bell pepper).
- Avoid alcohol and tobacco. Talk to your doctor before increasing your caffeine intake, as caffeine impacts several conditions and medications.
These supplements may also help:
- Omega-3 fatty acids, such as fish oil. To help reduce inflammation and enhance immunity. Omega-3 fatty acids may increase the risk of bleeding, especially if you already take blood-thinning medication. Ask your doctor before taking omega-3 fatty acids if you take blood thinners such as warfarin (Coumadin), or if you have a bleeding disorder.
- L-tyrosine. The thyroid gland combines tyrosine and iodine to make thyroid hormone. If you are taking prescription thyroid hormone medication, you should only take L-tyrosine under the direction of your doctor. DO NOT take L-tyrosine if you have high blood pressure or have symptoms of mania. Tyrosine may interact with Levodopa.
- DO NOT take an iodine supplement unless directed to by your doctor. Iodine is only effective when hypothyroidism is caused by iodine deficiency, which is rare in the developed world. Too much iodine can actually cause hypothyroidism.
Herbs are a way to strengthen and tone the body's systems. As with any therapy, you should work with your provider to diagnose your problem before starting treatment. You may use herbs may as dried extracts (capsules, powders, or 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 to 10 minutes for leaf or flowers, and 10 to 20 minutes for roots. Drink 2 to 4 cups per day. You may use tinctures singly or in combination as noted.
Few herbs have been studied for treating hypothyroidism. More research is needed.
- Coleus (Coleus forskohlii). For low thyroid function. Coleus may interfere with certain medications, including some blood pressure medicines, nitrogylcern, and blood-thinning medications, such as warfarin (Coumadin). Talk to your doctor.
- Guggul (Commiphora mukul). For low thyroid support. Guggul may interfere with estrogen, birth control pills, and other medications. Guggul may have an estrogen-like effect on the body and may not be appropriate for people with certain hormone-related conditions. Talk to your doctor.
- Bladderwrack (Fucus vesiculosus). For low thyroid support. DO NOT take bladderwrack unless directed by your doctor. Bladderwrack contains iodine. Although lack of iodine can cause hypothyroidism, most cases of hypothyroidism in the developed world are not caused by iodine deficiency. In fact, too much iodine can actually cause hypothyroidism. Bladderwrack may also contain toxic heavy metals, interfere with pregnancy and fertility, and interact with blood-thinning medications, such as warfarin (Coumadin) among others.
Homeopathy may be useful as a supportive therapy.
Contrast hydrotherapy (application of hot and cold) to the neck and throat may stimulate thyroid function. Alternate 3 minutes hot with 1 minute cold. Repeat 3 times for 1 set. Do 2 to 3 sets per day.
Acupuncture may be helpful in correcting hormonal imbalances, including thyroid disorders.
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