How to treat hypothyroidism naturally, and without medication is a question that I am often asked.
But is it even possible?
The simple answer is that in most people you can improve thyroid function through diet changes, stress reduction, nutritional and herbal supplementation.
That’s the simple answer and now we will go into some more detail so that you can address your low thyroid function.
This may help so that you can either avoid having to go onto thyroid medication or if medication is necessary you can still support the thyroid function naturally – so that the thyroid medication is more effective and you can remain on a low dose.
Symptoms of Hypothyroidism (Underactive Thyroid)
You wake up feeling tired and struggle with energy during the day, especially in the afternoon.
You struggle to lose weight no matter what diet you try or it comes off painfully slow and you need to exercise like crazy to make it happen.
Has the doctor told you that you have high cholesterol and you need to get it down or you will have to take medications? Have you tried all of the diet advice but still have high cholesterol? It may be genetics or it may be that you have low thyroid function.
Mood changes can also be caused by low thyroid function and going onto anti-depressants is not the answer, it’s important to address the cause. Other symptoms include brain fog, poor sleep, and memory loss.
Low thyroid slows down your metabolism and it also slows down your digestion leading to symptoms like constipation (although occasional diarrhea), bloating reflux, and general IBS symptoms.
Is your hair dry or falling out faster than it should, do you get dry skin or weak and brittle nails? It’s not necessary to have all of these symptoms to suspect low thyroid but these are just some of the warning signs.
Aching joints may not be simply getting older or arthritis but can be related to low thyroid function. Muscle pain and poor recovery from exercise may be another reason to do a full thyroid evaluation and not just rely on TSH as a marker for low thyroid.
Do you experience irregular periods, or are they heavy and painful? The thyroid helps to control the sex hormones so PMS symptoms maybe be caused by an under-functioning thyroid. If you have unexplained infertility, a full thyroid check-up is also necessary.
Not everyone with low thyroid function has an enlarged thyroid but this is one symptom that needs to be checked out with a full thyroid test and an ultrasound on the neck.
When assessing thyroid function it is also important to assess adrenal function as high cortisol can be the cause of low thyroid function, as it can inhibit the conversion of T4 to the active thyroid hormone T3.
What Causes Low Thyroid?
You cannot start treating low thyroid function without knowing the cause of your low thyroid function.
Fixing thyroid function is not as simple as taking thyroid medication (which is why people taking thyroid medication can still have low thyroid symptoms) or supplementing with thyroid nutrients such as Tyrosine and Iodine.
You have to treat the whole body and this includes digestive function, liver, stress, inflammation, and of course diet.
You also need to check your thyroid antibodies and have a full thyroid panel of tests as that can help you work out why your thyroid function is low, you can find out more about testing for low thyroid.
Treatment strategies for low thyroid will be different depending on the cause of your low thyroid, it is not a “one size fits all” option.
1. Low Conversion of T4 to T3 Thyroid Hormone
When you are under a lot of stress the brain sends a message to the adrenal glands to produce more cortisol, this increase in cortisol leads to a decrease in the release of TSH and a lowered thyroid function.
If you have chronic stress, your body focuses more on the release of cortisol, and it usually leads to the following scenario:
When you have high rT3 levels, your thyroid cannot function well, your metabolism slows down, and you may experience fatigue, weight gain, and brain fog.
Reducing stress is an important place to start when addressing thyroid function and you can’t treat the thyroid without treating the adrenals.
This can be done through meditation, yoga, gentle exercise, and counseling as well as looking at herbs and nutrients to treat stress. B vitamins, Withania, Rhodiola, phosphatidylserine are some of my favorites but there many more options too.
The more stressed you are the bigger the thyroid issue so it is important to start here first. Stress does not just have to be external stress but can be also caused by obesity, gut function, and injury.
Note: Hypothyroidism usually goes alongside such health problems as insulin resistance and issues balancing blood sugar.
High Estrogen levels
High estrogen decreases sodium-iodine symporter gene expression, this reduces iodine uptake by the thyroid leading to an increase in thyroid-binding globulin. The increased thyroid-binding globulin leads to reduced free T3 levels.
Testing estrogen levels, as well as how your body is metabolizing estrogen is an important first step to getting your estrogen levels in balance. The best way to test estrogen and estrogen metabolism is with the DUTCH hormone test.
Poor Gut Health
About 20% of T4 to T3 conversion occurs in the GI tract. Gut health issues like dysbiosis, IBD, and leaky gut may reduce the conversion of T4 into the T3 hormone. A 2007 study also shows the connection between autoimmune hypothyroidism and SIBO: 27 patients out of 50 had a positive breath test for SIBO.
If you have low stomach acid or low digestive enzymes this can lead to vitamin and mineral deficiencies, inflammation as well as uncomfortable digestive symptoms like gas, bloating, and reflux.
Inflammatory foods and especially gluten have been shown to affect thyroid function by creating a leaky gut and dysbiosis, this can lead to the immune system attacking your own body which is one of the causative factors behind Hashimoto’s low thyroid.
If you have an auto-immune condition you have to treat the immune system and gut function, just adding medications or nutrients will not fix the problem.
Poor digestion and poor diet will create inflammation in the liver and affect the function of the liver. The thyroid produces T4 which is made into T3 but it is the liver that converts it into the active form of free T3, and this is what is utilized by every cell in your body. Therefore, liver dysfunction also can negatively impact yo conversion of T4 to T3, which is associated with an underactive thyroid.
Moreover, as I mentioned above, the underactive thyroid causes a decrease in metabolism and an increase in TSH levels, which in turn can lead to the accumulation of fat in your body. This increases the risk of developing non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
The restriction of calorie intake can also make your body redirect T4 to reverse the T3 hormone. When you severely restrict the calories your body turns on a protective mechanism in order to prolong your survival, and during the time of food restriction, your metabolism slows down, and your thyroid may not function well.
Low Carbohydrate Diet
A low carbohydrate diet can be a great way to lose weight and improve energy levels, but if you already have borderline low thyroid levels or a number of other stressors in your life then a low carb diet can be a disaster for your thyroid.
Similar to a low-calorie diet the low-carb diet can affect the conversion of T4 to T3, this does not mean that you have to be on a high carb diet but you do need to keep your carbohydrates in the 100-150 grams a day range.
Malnutrition can impact your thyroid function, worsen symptoms of current health condition and prevent thyroid medication from working. That’s why it’s important to identify any nutritional deficiencies with a comprehensive pathology test. This test should include the following nutrients which are important co-factors in T4 production and the conversion of T4 to the metabolically active T3:
Other nutrient deficiencies associated with autoimmune thyroid disorder:
2. Brain Dysfunction and Your Thyroid
The hypothalamus is the master gland in your brain that controls the hormones in your body, it is like your own personal thermostat to control how much thyroid hormone you need, how much adrenal hormones are produced, also sex hormones like estrogen and progesterone. All the hormones are controlled by the hypothalamus.
The hypothalamus releases a hormone called thyroid releasing hormone (TRH) which goes to the pituitary, the pituitary then releases thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) which signals to the thyroid that the body is low in active thyroid hormones and it needs to make more.
TSH is what is measured when you go to the doctor, the TSH test does not measure how well your thyroid is functioning but rather how well your brain is sending messages to the thyroid.
The brain needs to be healthy to be able to effectively send its message to the thyroid gland and there are two big things that can disrupt this function, stress, and inflammation.
Also, the studies show that many overweight patients continue to have thyroid symptoms even after hormone replacement therapy. Many people use thyroid medications, and don't feel better, still face difficulty with losing weight.
This is because the root cause could be hypothalamic dysfunction. Patients who have normal thyroid tests but still complain about thyroid dysfunction symptoms are likely to have hypothalamic obesity disorder which requires specific therapy.
3. Inflammation, Toxins and Your Thyroid
Inflammation in the brain can also disrupt the hypothalamus and pituitary from functioning correctly.
Inflammation can come from many sources, some of the main ones are toxins in the environment, these days we are exposed to many more toxins than our body’s designed to handle which can lead to inflammation in our body, and especially the brain.
Our genetics can influence how well we handle inflammation which is why some people react to toxins in the environment while other people can seem to handle a lot more.
Toxins can directly disrupt the pituitary from releasing TSH, as well as affect the T4 to T3 conversion which will lead to low thyroid function. Also they affect the thyroid but other systems of the body like adrenal function, fertility, brain function, and liver.
Another source of the toxicity comes from too many harmful bacteria in the gut and not enough good bacteria, this is known as dysbiosis. This dysbiosis is influenced by diet, stress, medications, and our genetics. In order to detect microbes that could be disrupting your gut microbiome, I recommend to do a comprehensive stool test like GI-MAP test.
Note: Nutrients and herbs that can help with inflammation are curcumin, Boswellia, omega 3 fats, digestive enzymes, prebiotics, and probiotics.
4.Thyroid and Genetics
If you have someone in your family who has thyroid problems then this will increase your risk factor for developing a thyroid problem. This risk factor is increased considerably if you have a male relative with thyroid problems.
However, just because you have a genetic predisposition to thyroid problems does not mean that it will affect you, but you will need to work harder to optimize digestion, eliminate processed foods, reduce stress and inflammation so that you are reducing all of your risk factors.
If you have a polymorphism in the MTHFR gene this will also increase your risk of thyroid problems as it impacts on the methylation cycle. If this cycle is not functioning, it can increase stress, inflammation and toxicity which as we have discussed are the main causes behind thyroid problems.
How to Identify the Root Cause of Thyroid Disorder
5 Natural Options to Treat Hypothyroidism Naturally
It seems like there is so much to do to address low thyroid function so it is important to summarize the essential steps that you need to do to take action.
1. Optimize Your Nutrition
You should follow a low inflammatory diet, a nutrient-dense diet that is high in essential nutrients like Tyrosine, Iodine, Selenium, Zinc, Iron, Omega 3, and B vitamins. A quality supplement - that has all the essential thyroid nutrients - can be beneficial here.
2. Minimize Stress Using Relaxation Techniques
Stress causes an increase in adrenaline and cortisol levels which can make your symptoms of hypothyroidism worse. That’s why it’s important to make relaxation techniques a part of your daily routines.
These are some of the relaxation techniques you could implement:
Reduce Your Exposure to Chemicals at Home
Reduce toxic exposure to personal care products, household cleaners, plastics, and other toxins in the environment as best you can. Many of the beauty products and household cleaners are immunotoxins. In other words, they contain ingredients that can impact your hormone health. As result, it can negatively influence your overall health and cause autoimmune disease. Moreover, cosmetics that contain parabens, sulfates, and other toxic chemicals may increase your chance of developing infertility, diabetes, and cancer.
4. Supplement with Vitamins and Minerals
Vitamin B12 helps improve red cell metabolism and increases energy production in cells. By supplementing with B12, you can strengthen your nervous system, and get rid of fatigue which is a common symptom of hypothyroidism.
Good food sources of vitamin B12 include meat, fish, eggs, yogurt.
Selenium is a mineral that helps support a healthy thyroid hormone synthesis, reduce thyroid antibodies, and the severity of hypothyroidism symptoms.
You can find selenium in foods like fish, beef, nuts, and grains.
Zinc is another mineral that helps support an effective synthesis of thyroid hormones. It aids in regulating thyrotropin-releasing hormone (TRH) and thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH).
Although zinc deficiency is rare, in people with hypothyroidism, zinc may become depleted. Therefore, you should enrich your diet with foods like beef, chicken, oysters and other shellfish, pumpkin, hemp, and flax seeds.
5.Take Herbal Supplements
There are several herbs that could help you manage the symptoms of hypothyroidism. More research is needed on the medicinal properties of the specific herbs, their pros and cons. However, if you’re searching for ways to support and heal the thyroid naturally, consult your practitioner about the intake of Ashwagandha, Gum guggul, and Coleus forskohlii.
Ashwagandha is an adaptogenic herb that helps support thyroid function. It is known to reduce fatigue and brain fog and aids in coping with long-term stress. A study has shown that ashwagandha improved thyroid function for patients with an early, and mild form of hypothyroidism. You can brew Ashwagandha as tea or take it in the form of a supplement.
Gum guggul supports the healthy thyroid function by stimulating the body’s metabolism, and conversion of T4 to T3. It also has anti-inflammatory properties and helps maintain a healthy weight.
For better results, try a combination of guggul and Ashwagandha supplements. Hand in hand, they can boost thyroid activity, and support conversion of T4 to T3 in the liver.
The root of Coleus forskohlii contains forskolin, which stimulates the secretion of T4 and T3 thyroid hormones.
Also, studies have shown that this herb increases lipolysis and improves basal metabolism. In other words, it promotes weight loss and helps prevent considerable weight gain which usually goes along with hypothyroidism.
Schedule a Consultation to Get Hypothyroidism Answers
If you're looking for ways to improve symptoms of hypothyroidism naturally, do not hesitate to schedule a consultation.
I'll help you with advanced thyroid testing, interpretation of test results, and a personalized treatment plan that focuses on the underlying cause of thyroid disorder and includes diet and lifestyle changes.