Help for the Thyroid

Diet and Lifestyle can improve the functioning of the Thyroid

Other Keywords: Autoimmune Thyroiditis, Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, Thyroiditis (Autoimmune)

Hypothyroidism is a condition in which the thyroid gland fails to function adequately, resulting in reduced levels of thyroid hormone in the body. Cretinism is a type of hypothyroidism that occurs at birth and results in stunted physical growth and mental development. Severe hypothyroidism is called myxedema.

There are many causes of hypothyroidism. Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is an autoimmune disease of the thyroid gland and the second most common cause of hypothyroidism. The most common cause of hypothyroidism is medical treatment, such as surgery or radiation to the thyroid gland, to treat hyperthyroidism (over-activity of the thyroid gland). Some drugs, such as lithium and phenylbutazone, may also induce hypothyroidism. Extreme iodine deficiency, which is rare in the United States, is another possible cause. Failure of the pituitary gland or hypothalamus to stimulate the thyroid gland properly can cause a condition known as secondary hypothyroidism.

Some people with goiter (an enlargement of the thyroid gland) also have hypothyroidism. Goiter can be caused by an iodine deficiency, by eating foods that contain goitrogens (goiter-causing substances), or by other disorders that interfere with thyroid hormone production. In many cases the cause of goiter cannot be determined. While natural therapies may help to some extent, thyroid hormone replacement is necessary for most people with hypothyroidism.


What are the symptoms of hypothyroidism? 

The symptoms of hypothyroidism vary from person to person, but commonly include several of the following: fatigue, lethargy, intolerance to cold, constipation, weight gain, depression, excessive menstruation, dry skin, hair loss, and hoarseness. The onset of these symptoms may be so gradual as to evade detection by patient or physician.


Conventional treatment options: 

The preferred conventional treatment for hypothyroidism is the synthetic thyroid hormone levothyroxine (Synthroid®, Levothroid®, Levoxyl®).


Dietary changes  may  help hypothyroidism: 

Some foods, such as rapeseed (used to make canola oil) and Brassica vegetable (cabbage, brussels sprouts, broccoli and cauliflower), contain natural goitrogens, chemicals that cause the thyroid gland to enlarge by interfering with thyroid hormone synthesis. Cooking has been reported to inactivate this effect in Brussels sprouts. Cassava, a starchy root that is the source of tapioca, has also been identified as a goitrogenic food. Other goitrogens include maize,sweet potatoes, lima beans, soy  and pearl millet. While some practitioners recommend that people with hypothyroidism avoid these foods, none has been proven to cause hypothyroidism in humans.


Lifestyle changes that may be helpful: 

 Preliminary studies have found an association between multiple chemical sensitivities  and hypothyroidism. One study found a correlation between high blood levels of lead, a toxic heavy metal, and low thyroid hormone levels in people working in a brass foundry. Many of these people also complained of depression, fatigue, constipation, and poor memory (symptoms of hypothyroidism).

Occupational exposure to polybrominated biphenyls and carbon disulfide has also been associated with decreased thyroid function.


For more on treating your thyroid with

 Lifestyle and Diet Changes 


 Living Well with Hypothyroidism: What Your Doctor Doesn’t Tell You… That You Need to Know


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References on Hypothyroidism:


1. Paynter OE, Burin GJ, Jaeger RB, Gregorio CA. Goitrogens and thyroid follicular cell neoplasia: evidence for a threshold process. Regul Toxicol Pharmacol 1988;8:102–19 [review].

2. McMillan M, Spinks EA, Fenwick GR. Preliminary observations on the effect of dietary brussel sprouts on thyroid function. Hum Toxicol 1986;5:15–9.

3. Biassoni P, Ravera G, Bertocchi J, et al. Influence of dietary habits on thyroid status of a nomadic people, the Bororo shepherds, roaming a central African region affected by severe iodine deficiency. Eur J Endocrinol 1998;138:681–5.

4. Boyages SC. Iodine deficiency disorders. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 1993;77:587–91.

5. Galland L. Biochemical abnormalities in patients with multiple chemical sensitivities. Occup Med 1987;2:713–20 [review].

6. Robins JM, Cullen MR, Connors BB, Kayne RD. Depressed thyroid indexes associated with occupational exposure to inorganic lead. Arch Intern Med 1983;143:220–4.

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