Listen to ‘Natural Treatment for Hypothyroidism: A Naturopath’s Simple and Easy Tips’ on the Podcast:
Hypothyroidism, specifically Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, is increasingly becoming a common health challenge that I see more and more of in my naturopathic practice.
Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is diagnosed x5–10 more often in people with uteruses. There are many theorised reasons for this, and as you’ll see, as we explore the risk factors and causes, it’s clear why modern lifestyles are triggering this autoimmune condition.
In this Natural Treatment for Hypothyroidism blog, we’re going to explore:
- What occurs in the body with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.
- A checklist of common signs and symptoms (including a self-screening quiz)
- How to get a precise diagnosis
- What the potential root causes are
- Natural treatment for hypothyroidism: what you can do with your diet and lifestyle to support your body in reversing this condition (spoiler alert: it’s reversible!).
What occurs in the body with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis?
Hypothyroidism is the umbrella term given to people whose thyroid gland are 1) producing insufficient amounts of active thyroid hormone or 2) when the body is not efficiently using thyroid hormone.
Thyroid hormones are responsible for coordinating your body’s basal metabolic rate and your ability to regulate your internal temperature (a.k.a, the body’s thermostat).
When your thyroid hormones start taking themselves offline, many symptoms arise, many of which progress slowly.
Three main types of hypothyroidism:
Hashimoto’s thyroiditis – which we’ll be exploring here, is the most common type of hypothyroidism. It involves the immune system thinking that your thyroid gland is an invading organism and does what immune systems do, creating antibodies that destroy the tissues in the thyroid gland. The thyroid reduces in size, and its ability to produce thyroid hormone is compromised.
Post-therapeutic hypothyroidism – this type comes from either surgical removal of the thyroid or medical intervention to treat hyperthyroidism. Both treatments can cause the thyroid to be unable to produce enough thyroid hormone.
Goitrous hypothyroidism – this type comes from a nutrient deficiency of iodine, which results in goitre in the neck.
Symptoms of Hypothyroidism & Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis
- Heavy menstrual bleeding
- Menstrual spotting
- Painful periods
- Increased risk miscarriage
- Low mood/depression
- Foggy brain
- Weight gain and/or difficulty losing weight
- Dry hair and skin
- Hair loss
- High cholesterol
The Canary in the Coal Mine: Contributing Factors of Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis
As with all health conditions, you may be genetically predisposed to Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.
If any blood relatives have thyroid issues and/or autoimmune conditions, you’re more likely to be genetically susceptible. But it’s triggered in our internal and external environments that determine if you develop the condition.
The key triggers for Hashimoto’s are:
- Chronic stress and adrenal exhaustion – essentially -doing too much for too long without enough downtime.
- Untreated trauma
- Exposure to toxins – most notably heavy metals (mercury, lead and cadmium) and pesticides
- Long term lack of iodine in the diet
- Frequent dieting or calorie restriction
- Poor gut health and imbalances in the microbiome
- Low in critical nutrients that both protect the thyroid gland and are essential for producing thyroid hormones. These include iodine, selenium, tyrosine (an amino acid that comes from protein-rich foods), iron, zinc, vitamin D, E, B2, B3, B6 and vitamin C.
- High fluoride exposure – both fluoride and iodine are in the same elemental family, the halides, which means they compete for absorption.
- Infections, especially chronic viral infections
- Untreated Coeliac disease or gluten sensitivity
Getting an Accurate Diagnosis is Key Before Beginning Natural Treatment for Hypothyroidism
If you’re reading this and ticking many boxes, it’s worthwhile to get investigations done. In Australia, typically, only one marker of thyroid function is tested in initial assessments. If you’ve been told that your thyroid function is fine based on routine blood tests, don’t see that as the end of the conversation.
The biomarker that is routinely tested is called TSH – which stands for “Thyroid Stimulating Hormone”. As the name suggests, this hormone communicates with the tissues in the thyroid gland to tell them to either produce more or less thyroid hormone.
A way that I often describe this in practice is your brain, the CEO, tells the Head of the Thyroid Department (TSH) what needs to be happening.
Depending on what the TSH is to determines what instruction it gives its workers, the thyroid hormones, which are called T4 and T3.
T3 is the active hormone that actually gets out there on the frontline and gets to work on doing thyroid jobs: managing metabolism and temperature.
When only TSH is tested, this only gives us one side of the story. When it comes to an understanding of the whole thyroid story, there are five other sides to consider:
- Thyroid auto-antibodies
- Essential nutrients required for optimal thyroid function: vitamin D, iodine and iron
To get this level of insight, you need a ‘Thyroid Panel’ + Specific nutrients. It’s best to work with a holistically trained practitioner or functional doctor to get this level of insight.
If you’re unable to find a holistic practitioner to work with, informing yourself and then opening up a discussion with your doctor may lead to your symptoms being taken seriously and these labs getting done for you. I’ve written more about the subtleties of testing for hormones over here.
Two DIY Preliminary Investigations
While getting lab work done will give you the most precise insight into your thyroid’s function, there are two other investigative tools you can do yourself.
Please note, these do not constitute a diagnosis; they will give you data and clues to rule in or out potential hypothyroidism.
Basal Body Temperature
If you follow my work, you’ll know that I’m a Fertility Awareness Educator, and I’m an advocate that charting provides a tremendous amount of insight into our overall hormone health.
Take your waking temperature every morning before ovulation (read this blog post on the most accurate way to do this).
If your waking temperatures are between 36.4 – 37.1C (97.5 -98.8F), that is a sign of normal thyroid function. If your readings are lower than 36.4C (97.5F) consistently, it may indicate low thyroid function. This is my modified version of The Barnes’s Test.
Hypothyroid Screening Questionnaire
This is a screening questionnaire that I use in my clinical practice from my professional association, The Institute of Functional Medicine. Put a check next to the following statements that are true for you:
Hypothyroid Risk Factors
- My family (parent, sibling, child) has a history of thyroid disease
- I’ve had a diagnosed thyroid problem (i.e., hyperthyroidism, Graves’ disease, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, postpartum thyroiditis, goitre, nodules, thyroid cancer) in the past
- A member of my family or I have currently or in the past been diagnosed with an autoimmune disease
- I have had radiation treatment to my head, neck, chest, tonsil area, etc.
- I grew up, live, or work near or at a nuclear plant
- People with uteruses: I have a history of infertility or miscarriage
Hypothyroid Signs & Symptoms
- I am gaining weight for no clear reason or cannot lose weight with a diet and exercise program.
- My basal body temperature is low (below 36.4/97.5°F when I take it in the first half of my cycle)
My hands and feet are cold to the touch, and I frequently feel cold when others do not.
- I feel fatigued or exhausted more than normal
- I have a slow pulse and/or low blood pressure
- I have been told I have high cholesterol
- My hair is rough, coarse dry, breaking, brittle, or falling out
- My skin is rough, coarse, dry, scaly, itchy, and thick
- My nails have been dry and brittle and break more easily
- My eyebrows appear to be thinning, particularly the outer portion
- My voice has become hoarse and/or ‘gravelly.’
- I have pains, aches, stiffness, or tingling in joints, muscles, hands and/or feet.
- I have carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis, or plantar fasciitis
- I am constipated (less than 1 bowel movement daily)
- I feel depressed, restless, moody, sad
- I have difficulty concentrating or remembering things
- I have a low sex drive
- My eyes feel gritty, dry, light-sensitive
- My neck or throat feels full, with pressure, or larger than usual, and/or I have difficulty swallowing o I have puffiness and swelling around the eyes, eyelids, face, feet, hands and feet.
- People with uteruses: I am having irregular menstrual cycles (longer, or heavier, or more frequent)
If you have ticked 3 and above statements, thyroid investigations are indicated.
What You Can Do: Natural Treatment for Hypothyroidism
Whenever many diet and lifestyle factors contribute to a health condition, it means that there are many measures you can take to help bring your body back into alignment and allow the function to be restored.
Natural Treatment for Hypothyroidism Strategy #1: Address Stress
This is the most important place to begin when it comes to natural treatment for hypothyroidism.
The adrenal glands produce all the hormones associated with stress, and the adrenals and thyroid are in very close communication with one another. If the adrenals are continually shouting commands or have slumped into exhaustion, the thyroid will respond accordingly.
Make simple steps; getting on top of stress will be different for everyone, but here are a couple of ideas.
- Start resetting your circadian rhythms by having a 15-minute bedtime routine and morning routine.
- Start and journaling or meditation habit
- Get 30 minutes of exercise a day
- Work with a therapist if you have ongoing or repetitive behaviours that keep cropping up and are causing you stress
- Take calming herbs that support your nervous system, adrenals and thyroid. Withania, milky oats, tulsi and reishi, are among my favourites.
If chronic stress is a feature of your life. Make sure you take a look at my 21-day holistic stress healing program, The Peace Protocol.
Natural Treatment for Hypothyroidism Strategy #2: Work Out What your Food Triggers are and Heal Your Gut
If you have confirmed Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, then your #1 place to begin is to eliminate gluten.
There have been multiple studies done into the connection between gluten and thyroid autoimmunity. From my clinical experience, I will be so bold to say that you will not be able to reverse Hashimoto’s if you keep gluten in your diet.
It’s also essential to take good care of your general gut health. If your body is being triggered by foods and causing intestinal hyperpermeability (more commonly known as leaky gut) and microbiome damage, the autoimmune circuit will be perpetuated.
The best place to begin is by doing an elimination diet guided by a practitioner to uncover your unique triggers. These are going to be different from person to person. Following a gut-healing protocol for a minimum of 3 months will allow your body to rebuild its resilience.
It’s additionally essential to avoid excess goitrogenic foods (foods that suppress thyroid function). These include:
- Raw broccoli raw, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, kale and spinach (cooked is okay!)
- Excess soy consumption does not exceed x3 serves a week
- Cassava and millet
Natural Treatment for Hypothyroidism Strategy #3: Increase your Intake of Anti-inflammatory Foods
Simple foods can contain a potent array of anti-inflammatory compounds that protect your thyroid from the damaging effects of excess inflammation. Especially therapeutic foods are:
- Cherries, berries and pomegranates
- Any blue or purple coloured foods
- Tomatoes (if you’re not intolerant to nightshades)
- Turmeric and ginger
- Healthy oils: hemp seed oil, extra virgin olive oil, high-quality fish oil, flaxseed or chia seed oils are all great choices.
Natural Treatment for Hypothyroidism Strategy #4: Nutritional Thyroid Building Blocks
Aside from healing foods, there is a considerable amount that can be done with nutrients and forms a cornerstone of natural treatment for hypothyroidism. Your body’s ability to produce thyroid hormones is dependent on several key nutrients.
It’s important to work with a practitioner to understand if iron or iodine deficiency is at play for you, as these are not nutrients you want to take without first knowing what your status is.
Otherwise, make sure that you’re taking a good quality multi-vitamin or thyroid-specific complex that contains:
- Vitamin D: 2000IU
- VitaminC: 1,000–2,000mg
- Zinc: 30mg
- Vitamin A (retinol): 5,000IU (women of childbearing age should not exceed 2,500IU if becoming pregnant is a possibility due to the risk of congenital disabilities)
- B2 (riboflavin): 10–50 mg
- B3 (niacin): 50–100 mg
- B6 (pyridoxine): 50 mg
For this purpose, I really like Thorne Research’s 2/day Multivitamin.
Can Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis Be Reversed?
Depending on how high your levels of thyroid auto-antibodies will determine the likelihood of being able to restore thyroid function and, therefore, symptoms. Following these guidelines will steer you in the right direction.
If you enjoyed “A Naturopath’s Simple and Easy Tips for Natural Treatment for Hypothyroidism”, you may also like:
- Delegation & Embracing Our Limits
- Mental Health: Small Changes, Big Shifts
- How can we be generous without burning ourselves out?
- What To Do When Anxiety Floods Us
- “Why am I tired all the time?”: 11 Possible Causes of Your Fatigue
- The Science & Spirituality of Stress
Pin “A Naturopath’s Simple and Easy Tips for Natural Treatment for Hypothyroidism” for later:
Natural Treatment for Hypothyroidism Resources & References
Krysiak, R., Szkróbka, W., & Okopień, B. (2018). The Effect of Gluten-Free Diet on Thyroid Autoimmunity in Drug-Naïve Women with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis: A Pilot Study. Experimental and Clinical Endocrinology & Diabetes. https://doi.org/10.1055/a–0653–7108
Mazokopakis, E. E., Papadomanolaki, M. G., Tsekouras, K. C., & Evangelopoulos, A. D. (n.d.). Is vitamin D related to pathogenesis and treatment of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis? 6.
Mezzomo, T. R., & Nadal, J. (2016, June 1). Effect of nutrients and dietary substances on thyroid function and hypothyroidism. Retrieved May 23, 2019, from Demetra: Food, Nutrition & Health website: http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/A570045942/IFME?sid=googlescholar
Nordio, M., & Basciani, S. (2017). Treatment with Myo-Inositol and Selenium Ensures Euthyroidism in Patients with Autoimmune Thyroiditis [Research article]. https://doi.org/10.1155/2017/2549491
Petrova, E., Dumitrache, C., Buruiana, A., Olaru, M., Popescu, I., Dumitru, N., … Ghemigian, A. (2015). Vitamin D and thyroid autoimmunity. ARS Medica Tomitana, 21(3), 157–162. https://doi.org/10.1515/arsm–2015–0039
Virili, C., Fallahi, P., Antonelli, A., Benvenga, S., & Centanni, M. (2018). Gut microbiota and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. Reviews in Endocrine and Metabolic Disorders, 19(4), 293–300. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11154–018–9467-y
Wang, S., Wu, Y., Zuo, Z., Zhao, Y., & Wang, K. (2018). The effect of vitamin D supplementation on thyroid autoantibody levels in the treatment of autoimmune thyroiditis: a systematic review and a meta-analysis. Endocrine, 59(3), 499–505. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12020–018–1532–5