Are you interested in treating your thyroid in a completely natural way?
Maybe you feel like you can't get the right medication that you need or maybe you are experiencing symptoms despite being on thyroid medication.
Either way, this is the article for you.
In this article, I will explain 17 natural therapies that you can use (many of them proven) to help improve thyroid function, improve peripheral thyroid conversion, and promote more thyroid hormone production by your body.
What Causes Thyroid Dysfunction?
To say that your thyroid is one of the most important hormone systems in your body would not be an understatement.
In fact, I believe it is THE most important endocrine gland in your body simply because it helps control and regulate many other systems and hormones.
In this way, it's helpful to think of your thyroid as a master regulator of metabolism and hormone function.
Because it is so important in regulating these other systems, it shouldn't come as a surprise that dysfunction to this system can result in widespread and varying symptoms.
Couple this with the fact that your thyroid is so sensitive to even small changes in nutrient levels, exposure to radiation (1), stress (2), and obesity (3), it should come as no surprise that a great many people suffer from thyroid related issues.
And that's exactly why we are here today, to discuss what you can actually do to help improve your thyroid function.
Because, believe it or not, there are actually several different natural remedies and therapies that may improve thyroid function and help you feel better.
The key to understanding how these therapies work is to understand what causes thyroid dysfunction in your body.
Improving your Thyroid By Addressing Other Issues
It may seem counterintuitive, but the key to treating your thyroid is by focusing on OTHER things which may be negatively impacting your body.
It may be helpful to think about it in this way:
Imagine a scenario in which there is a car driving down the road. Under normal (healthy) conditions, the driver of this car would either be using the brake to slow down or the gas pedal to speed up.
Under no condition should the driver be using both the gas and the brake at the same time!
Your thyroid can be compared to the engine in this scenario. As the driver (you) puts your foot on the gas (thyroid function) the result is an increase in speed (or metabolism and cellular function).
But you don't always need to put your foot on the gas, in fact, it's healthy if you also spend some time hitting the brake to allow your body to rest.
Thyroid dysfunction occurs when your body attempts to push both on the gas and the brake at the same time.
In this analogy, the treatment for improving the thyroid function is to simply reduce the pressure on the brake and allow the gas and engine to do its job.
And that's exactly how natural thyroid remedies work. They help your body do what it is supposed to naturally by limiting the roadblocks that everyday life puts on your thyroid gland.
There are also ways to increase thyroid function directly (like putting your foot on the gas) but these are mostly done with the use of medications.
We will touch on those a little bit later, but for now, let's focus on natural therapies that you can use to help improve thyroid function.
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Natural Thyroid Remedies:
Changing and improving your diet is perhaps one of the single most important things you can do to help improve your thyroid.
If you are already eating a healthy diet which consists of whole foods, then you can skip on to the next sections, but if you aren't you'll want to keep reading.
The food that you put into your mouth has great impact on your overall health by causing the secretion of certain hormones (such as insulin), modulating neurotransmitters, altering gut bacteria in your intestinal tract, and influencing inflammatory levels.
You can either influence these factors in a positive way or in a negative way, and this all depends on the types of foods that you put into your mouth and body.
Foods which are whole foods, meaning those foods which are naturally grown from the earth, have a positive impact on these systems while foods which are made in a plant (factory) can have a negative impact on them.
We can extend this idea to thyroid function as well.
Certain foods can negatively impact thyroid function (such as goitrogens and coffee, which we will discuss later) or can indirectly impact thyroid function by promoting inflammation or gut dysfunction which may impair thyroid conversion.
Sometimes, figuring out which foods to avoid is more difficult than understanding which foods you should eat.
For a quick overview you can find a list of foods to avoid below:
- Refined sugar
- Industrial seed oils
- Highly processed soy
- Frozen and highly processed foods
- Legumes and beans
- *Note: You can read more in detail about how each of these impact your thyroid in this article.
For a list of 'thyroid approved diets' please see this blog post here. Here you will find a list of diets which vary in their macromolecule recommendations but which all omit foods which can negatively impact your thyroid.
Does changing your diet actually help?
Yes! Well, at least it has the potential to help.
If you are someone who suffers from minor thyroid dysfunction (such as sub-clinical hypothyroidism) then you may stand to benefit the most from changing your diet.
But even if you have full-blown Hashimoto's or hypothyroidism you can still help your thyroid function by eating nutritious non-processed foods.
The benefit that each person will get from changing up their diet will vary, but most people should find at least modest improvement by following these guidelines.
#2. Vitamins & Supplements
Using supplements and vitamins is another way that you can improve your thyroid.
In the world of today, it's not uncommon for many individuals to have some degree (mild to severe) of nutrient deficiencies.
Nutrient deficiencies occur due to a variety of reasons including poor nutrient density in the soil, increase in stress on the body which increases the demand for certain nutrients, a reduction in the intake of nutrient-dense foods and so on.
All of these factors may contribute to you personally have sub-optimal levels of nutrients and these sub-optimal levels may be negatively impacting your thyroid.
Vitamins and nutrients involved in thyroid physiology (including thyroid hormone release, thyroid conversion, and cellular sensitivity) include:
- B Vitamins - New research places anywhere from 10-55% of patients with hypothyroidism and/or Hashimoto's as having B12 deficiency (4). This percentage is also reflective of the percentage of people in the general population who are B12 deficient. This value is particularly shocking given the fact that we fortify many drinks and foods with B12! There's basically a 1 in 2 chance that your B12 levels are sub-optimal which means you should consider supplementing with B12 and/or a B vitamin complex. I recommend using a pre-methylated B12 Vitamins and B complex which allows for easier absorption and utilization by your body.
- Iron - Iron is required for the creation of thyroid hormone and low levels of iron are associated with low circulating levels of T3 thyroid hormone (5). Iron deficiency is also quite common among hypothyroid patients due to the effects of thyroid hormone on iron and nutrient absorption in the GI tract. If you have hypothyroidism make sure to check your iron status by looking at your ferritin level!
- Tyrosine - Tyrosine is a protein which is required for the production of thyroid hormone in your thyroid gland. Low levels of tyrosine may lead to low circulating levels of both Thyroxine and Triiodothyronine. You can take L-tyrosine in supplement form which may help support the production of thyroid hormone.
- Iodine - Iodine is another essential nutrient required in thyroid hormone creation. The only way to get iodine is from your diet which means if you aren't consciously consuming it then there's a good chance you may be deficient. Iodine is also required for other cells in your body which means it's important if you have a thyroid or if it has been removed. Contrary to popular belief, iodine is not harmful to your body if you have Hashimoto's if it is used in the correct amount and with other thyroid-supporting nutrients.
- Zinc - Zinc helps your body utilize thyroid hormone by helping it transform from the inactive T4 metabolite into the active T3 metabolite. Like B12, many people are deficient in Zinc due to poor dietary habits which means taking Zinc may be helpful for your thyroid.
- Selenium - Selenium helps to protect your thyroid gland from free radical damage and it also helps protect your thyroid gland from autoimmune attack. It also plays a small role in T4 to T3 conversion like Zinc. I frequently recommend the combination of both Zinc and Selenium in conjunction with Iodine to properly support thyroid conversion and creation.
Do they work?
Like many of the therapies here, it largely depends on your body and the vitamin status in your body.
Vitamins and supplements probably work either by replacing nutrients which are sub-optimal in your body (meaning you may have some of them but not enough to function optimally) thereby allowing these systems to function optimally or they work by positively impacting hormone physiology through the use of supra-physiologic (higher than normal doses) doses.
It's not clear why some people experience significant benefit when using Vitamins and others do not, but it is clear that the majority of people who use them (probably somewhere around 70%) will notice modest to significant improvement when they do.
My estimates show that roughly 60-70% of people who use my supplements experience significant improvement, around 10-20% notice modest improvement, and some 5-15% notice mild to no improvements.
These values are extrapolated based off of my own personal experience in treating patients and based off of the reviews on our supplements.
If you are someone who has never used supplements in the past then you are probably much more likely to experience gain over someone who has used them previously.
Meditation is perhaps one of the single most effective natural therapies that I know about and it is largely underutilized by so many people!
Of all the therapies that I am going to discuss today, few have been studied as long and as in-depth as meditation.
Daily meditation has been shown to help improve cortisol, testosterone, and growth hormone.
Some studies have shown that daily meditation for 4 months also has an impact on your TSH (6).
If you weren't aware, the TSH is a hormone which helps your body stimulate the production of thyroid hormone from your thyroid gland.
Healthy levels of TSH mean that your thyroid is doing what it is supposed to.
Does it work?
There is no question that daily meditation, if consistent, has a positive effect on multiple hormone systems in the body.
The way that it helps optimize your thyroid is not exactly known but it is probably due to meditation and its effects on the stress hormone cortisol.
How do you do it?
If you are suffering from any amount of stress, and let's face it, who isn't? Then meditation can potentially help your thyroid and other hormones.
The question is, how do you do it?
You can follow the advice in this video below:
The guided meditation in this video starts at 10:37.
The first 10 minutes are dedicated to helping you understand the goal of meditation, how to help keep your thoughts in order as you meditate, the posture you should be in, and other important tips to help you.
I recommend that you listen to the first 10 minutes the first time you do it and then you can skip ahead to the start time on future visits.
For best results, you will want to meditate daily!
I also have a meditation guide coming out specifically for thyroid patients which should be out soon.
Yoga is another one of those therapies which have been studied and proven to be effective.
I like yoga because it's often one of the few exercises that women with hypothyroidism can tolerate.
It's not always feasible (or beneficial) to do a 30-60 minute high-intensity interval training circuit exercise several times a week if you are suffering from fatigue.
This type of exercise can potentially suppress your thyroid if you are overexercising.
Yoga, on the other hand, is typically less intense (I know it can get quite intense!) which means it may be more suitable for those who don't seem to have the energy for more intense exercises.
In addition, yoga helps improve your mobility, helps prevent injuries, reduces your stress, helps promote weight loss, and helps improve your thyroid function.
Yoga poses which may help improve circulation and blood flow to your thyroid include:
- Supported Shoulder Stand Pose ( Salamba Sarvangasana)
- Plow Pose (Halasana)
- Fish Pose (Maysyasana)
- Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)
- Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana)
Does it work?
In a recent study from 2016, researchers found that weekly yoga (4 sessions per week) for 6 months resulted in an improvement in cholesterol, TSH, and a reduction in the requirement for thyroid hormone medication (7).
What this means is that, for these women, yoga helped improve the natural function and ability of the thyroid gland. As the thyroid was able to produce more hormone on its own they were able to reduce their medication.
It's not clear if this benefit was related to the yoga practice itself or simply because yoga is a form of exercise and perhaps these particular people weren't already exercising.
It's my belief that yoga helps your thyroid in a combination of ways.
Certain poses likely help facilitate more direct blood flow to your thyroid gland and may put pressure on certain glands which stimulate the release of hormone.
It is known, for instance, that trauma can stimulate the secretion of hormones from certain endocrine glands (your thyroid being one of those) so it's plausible that yoga poses may also stimulate your thyroid gland in a similar way.
And, for the record, I do like to quote scientific studies when they are available, but I am also fully aware that some natural therapies have not had their time in the limelight (and some maybe never will), so just because something isn't well studied or documented to be proven effective doesn't mean that it won't work for you.
Just keep that in mind as we discuss these alternative therapies.
You can find a quick tutorial on how to perform these yoga poses in this video guide:
This quick 3-minute video will walk you through 5 poses which can help promote thyroid function: Shoulder stand pose, plow pose, cobra pose, bow pose, and camel pose.
#5. Essential Oils
By now you're probably well aware of the term essential oils but you may not understand how they work or if they work.
These aromatic compounds work in one of two main ways:
#1. Through their aromatic compounds (so-called aromatherapy) and...
#2. Through their direct effects on your cells.
Simply smelling certain oils can trigger changes in your neurochemistry which can have a calming effect on the body.
In addition, if consumed, some of these essential oils can also trigger anti-inflammatory pathways and kill off bacteria/fungus (8).
There are over 3000 essential oils available and not all of them may work for your thyroid.
The following essential oils may actually help promote thyroid function probably through their aromatic effects:
- Spearmint - Spearmint may help reduce sex hormone levels and balance testosterone/androgens (9).
- Lemongrass - Lemongrass has shown to have anti-inflammatory benefits (10) and may help treat inflammatory conditions such as Hashimoto's.
- Peppermint - Peppermint aromatherapy may help increase exercise tolerance (11)and promote improved respiratory function (breathing).
- Frankincense - Frankincense has been shown to have anti-inflammatory, expectorant, antiseptic, anxiolytic (anti-anxiety), and anti-neurotic effects (12).
- Myrrh - Myrrh is is another potent inhibitor of inflammation (13).
- Rose geranium
Do they work?
Some people swear by essential oils and are convinced that they have helped improve their thyroid function.
While I wasn't able to find any clinical studies which show that using essential oils directly impacts thyroid function, that doesn't mean that they may not have a direct benefit in YOUR case.
My take is that you have very little to lose by using them considering that they are inexpensive and easy to get. In addition, several essential oils have clinical studies showing that they can be effective at reducing stress, promoting relaxation, and reducing anxiety (all of which may tax other hormone systems in your body).
They are most likely working to help reduce inflammation and improve cortisol levels (14) which is why they may not work for every single person.
A 1-2 month trial of essential oils, especially if you suffer from stress and high/low cortisol may be a good idea and something that you should consider.
How to use them:
If you want to use essential oils you can apply them directly to your thyroid gland which is found at the base of your neck.
Some people also apply them to their adrenal glands (in the lower back) and to the bottom of their feet.
This should be done daily.
#6. Detoxification (Endocrine Disruptors)
Whether you realize it or not, you are coming into contact with chemicals which may negatively impact your thyroid on a DAILY basis.
The plastic storage devices we used to store food in the fridge, the plastic water bottles that you drink from, flame retardants on household surfaces, the chemicals found in your makeup, the preservatives in food.
ALL of these are not 'normal' in the sense that our bodies have not evolved to handle a large burden of them.
Fortunately, we have a system in place which allows our body to eliminate these foreign substances and get them out of our body.
This system is a filtration system and we owe our thanks to both our kidneys and our liver.
These systems help your body eliminate toxic byproducts by breaking them down through metabolism and then allowing them
But this only works if these chemicals are water-soluble, meaning they can be eliminated in water through the kidneys.
Some of these chemicals are fat-soluble and the way that your body handles them is by locking them up in fat stores in your body.
This can cause issues in your fat cells themselves as your fat cells are functioning hormonal systems themselves, but it can also be a problem once you start to lose weight as they are flushed into your system once again.
These chemicals and ingredients have a name and they are known as endocrine disruptors.
These endocrine disrupting chemicals (or EDC's for short) are well known in scientific literature and their effects on thyroid function are not disputed.
High amounts of these EDC's can impact free thyroid hormone concentrations without altering TSH or pituitary function.
This can create a scenario in which your labs may look relatively normal even though free thyroid hormone levels are lower than they should be (15).
While EDC's are harmful to other tissues in your body, your thyroid seems to be the most sensitive to them.
So, how do you deal with EDC's? You get rid of them through detoxification.
The idea behind detoxification is to help your liver and kidneys do their job which is the natural way your body eliminates toxins.
You can do this in several ways:
- Don't come into contact with endocrine disruptors in the first place! - Avoiding these chemicals is your first and #1 most important step. By avoiding them you won't have to worry about detoxing.
- Avoid using chemicals directly on your skin and avoid ingesting them if possible - Look at your make up products, moisturizers, cleansers, and other cleaning supplies. Look for alternatives which are not as harsh and don't contain chemicals which can be absorbed into your body.
- Take certain supplements which can aid proteins in your liver in breaking them down - Supplements such as Calcium d-glucarate can help your liver do its job by providing precursors to help the liver eliminate toxins.
- Drink filtered water - Ensure that you drink out of glass containers and only filtered water.
- Sweat weekly - Sweating is another great way to eliminate toxins from your body. By sweating you are helping your body eliminate water soluble chemicals close to the skin and in the subcutaneous fat. You can sweat by using a sauna or by exercising.
- Use a sauna as tolerated - FAR IR saunas can help heat your body, improve the function of certain enzymes (heat shocks proteins), and help your body sweat. They can also potentially be helpful for weight loss as well. Using a sauna once or twice a week (or as tolerated) can help you eliminate these chemicals from your body.
*Note: endocrine disruptors seem to have a more pronounced effect when they are consumed in mixtures with other industrial chemicals. So make sure that you try to avoid exposure to a combination of EDC's as they tend to be worse for the body (16).
Does it work?
It's unlikely that avoiding EDC's will completely fix your thyroid but it will certainly help.
My experience suggests that some people are much more sensitive to EDC's than others, so the benefit of detoxing varies widely among individuals.
This variance among individuals probably has to do with individual exposure, the length of exposure, your age, and your genetics.
My recommendation is to avoid EDC's whether you have thyroid issues or not and determine how you feel after a few months of following the advice above.
#7. Adrenal Health
Your adrenals are organs which sit on top of your kidneys. These hormone glands pump out some very important hormones including epinephrine, norepinephrine, cortisol, and other hormones which balance your salt and water balance.
Cortisol, the primary hormone that most people think of when they think of your adrenals, is your stress hormone and it is secreted when your body is under stress of any kind.
Repeated stress is thought to negatively impact cortisol release and cellular function.
If you are constantly pushing on the gas, without allowing your body time to rest and relax, then your adrenal function may be compromised.
When you hit this stage you may feel symptoms such as fatigue, difficulty sleeping, salt and sugar cravings, reliance upon caffeine for energy, and so on.
These are the symptoms that people talk about when they experience adrenal fatigue.
The reason we are talking about adrenal function in this article is that your adrenal glands and thyroid gland function in tandem with one another.
This is seen in the relationship between cortisol and TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone).
As your stress increases and as cortisol increases, so does your TSH. This could be seen as a compensatory effect in which stress causes slight suppression of your thyroid.
It may also be a physiologic response that your body creates in order to try and cope with stress by pumping out more thyroid hormone.
Either way, repeated amounts of stress and consistently high cortisol can negatively impact thyroid function.
This is why treating your adrenal glands is so important. As you balance your adrenal function you can improve your stress resiliency and improve your thyroid.
How do you do that?
The absolute best way is to try and manage your stress. Easier said than done, I know, but it's very important.
If you can't cut your stress then you can do things to help your body tolerate the stress that it is under.
This can include any of the following:
- Ensure that you are sleeping 8 hours per night
- Consume foods to fuel your body (this may mean more healthy carbohydrates for a short time)
- Meditate daily
- Take supplements designed to provide your body with cortisol and adrenal hormone precursors so your body can create more hormone
- Take supplements with adrenal adaptogens or glandulars designed to help your adrenals function
- Give up caffeine and alcohol
- Avoid prescription stimulants (such as ADD medication)
Does it work?
In my experience, most people benefit tremendously when following the advice above.
Even if it doesn't directly improve your thyroid function, it's still very likely to help improve how you sleep at night and your subjective sense of energy.
I strongly believe that one of the main reasons that thyroid patients don't feel better, even if they take medication, is because they fail to account for the interactions of other hormone systems in their body.
By addressing your adrenals (and other hormones) you may be able to indirectly improve your thyroid.
Treating your adrenals can take a significant amount of time (6 months or longer) depending on how much stress you are under.
And this relationship between stress, cortisol, and your health is well documented.
There is actually a stress index in which you can 'grade' how much stress you are under with a point system.
The higher your points, the more likely you are to get sick in the near future.
Some events and the points associated with the stressors are included below:
- Death of a spouse = 100
- Divorce = 73
- Marital Separation = 65
- Jail Term = 63
- Death of a close family member = 63
- Personal injury or illness = 53
- Marriage = 50
- Fired at work = 47
- And many others which you can find here
A score of greater than 300 means you have an 80% chance of illness in the near future. A score of 150 to 299 means you have a 50% chance and a store of fewer than 150 means you have a 30% chance.
This connection between stress and your thyroid may explain why so many people experience the onset of Hashimoto's or hypothyroidism after severe stress (17).
Your goal should be to address the stress if it occurs to prevent long-term illness from popping up!
#8. Calm Down
Your personality may actually play a role in developing and maintaining your thyroid dysfunction.
Newer studies are showing that certain types of personalities are associated with an increased risk of developing health problems over their lifetime.
Which personality type is associated with this risk?
It's the neuroticism personality trait (one of the big 5 personality traits).
People who are more neurotic than others tend to experience the following emotions: moodiness, anxiety, worry, fear, anger, frustration, envy, jealousy, guilt, depression, and loneliness.
If you have a baseline tendency to experience any of those emotions then you are statistically more likely to develop health conditions, one of which may be thyroid disease (18).
What isn't clear, however, is whether or not the tendency to experience those emotions causes the disease or whether the disease state causes those emotions.
In reality, it's probably a combination of the two.
Those who have those emotions at baseline are much more likely to experience certain diseases and then once they have those diseases, they are likely to experience the same emotions to a larger degree.
What can you do it about it?
Even though the desire to feel those emotions may be built into your genetic framework, you can still take steps to manage them.
Does it work?
Addressing your personality may not instantly improve your thyroid function but it may help to improve your overall quality of life.
#9. Give up Coffee
It may sound like heresy to tell you to give up drinking coffee but your thyroid gland may thank you for it!
The problem from coffee probably has little to do with the coffee itself and more to do with our ever-increasing reliance upon caffeine and the lifestyle that it promotes.
Caffeine, especially coffee, is often used as a pick-me-up to help you get through the day when you haven't had a good night sleep or restful night.
This cycle often continues as coffee can actually make getting to bed even more difficult (especially if you are a slow metabolizer of caffeine).
When you combine this with the potentially addictive component of caffeine and coffee, you have a problem for many people.
If this wasn't enough to suggest that you give up coffee then you also might find it helpful to know that coffee can inhibit your body from producing adequate amounts of TSH (20) (thyroid stimulating hormone).
If your TSH production is blunted then your free thyroid hormones may be affected as well which may promote the symptoms of hypothyroidism.
Reliance upon caffeine may also rev up your adrenal system and promote extra drag on adrenal (cortisol) function.
If you suffer from thyroid problems do your best to give up coffee and caffeine.
Does it work?
In my experience, I find that most people, once they give up coffee and caffeine, are able to function with more energy and more mental clarity than before.
You may go through a withdrawal period, though, so be mindful of that if you decide to cut back on coffee.
Another way you can improve your thyroid is by avoiding compounds known as goitrogens.
Goitrogens are compounds (foods, chemicals, medications, etc.) which block the uptake of iodine into your thyroid gland.
In really simple terms, no iodine = no thyroid hormone production = low thyroid function.
For this reason, you want to avoid goitrogens as much as possible.
We already mentioned endocrine disruptors but there are other chemicals and compounds as well:
- Prescription medications: Amiodarone and lithium being the most prominent.
- Food groups: Soy-enriched foods have been shown to interfere with thyroid hormone absorption (21) in the GI tract.
- Intake of iodine itself: High doses of iodine can actually prevent your thyroid gland from absorbing iodine as a protective mechanism. Because of this, it's best to use smaller doses of iodine and ease your way into higher doses (but only if necessary).
- Certain diets: Diets very low in protein (or high in some fats) can impact serum T4 and T3 levels.
- Green tea: Green tea, if used in high doses, can cause thyroid dysfunction (22). This is problematic because green tea is found in many 'weight loss' supplements.
And lastly, what about food?
You guessed it. Certain foods have been known to block iodine entry into your thyroid gland.
Are some foods bad for your thyroid?
It's a little more nuanced than that, but that's the general idea.
The only problem is that many of the foods which are goitrogenic are actually quite healthy.
Included in this group is broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, Brussels sprouts, peanuts, strawberries, and even spinach.
At first glance, this might sound confusing.
How can these healthy foods be damaging your thyroid?
The truth is that while these foods have a theoretical CHANCE of blocking thyroid function, the reality is that most of us do not consume enough to have any noticeable change.
On the contrary, it's my belief that the benefits of consuming these foods (in place of unhealthy foods) far outweigh any potential negative consequences related to your thyroid.
Even if you are worried, however, you can take steps to reduce the goitrogenic capacity that these foods carry (23) by simply steaming your vegetables.
If you are still worried, you can also cut back the frequency with which you consume these foods to only 3-6 times per week.
Does it work?
I find the most success in treating patients when they alter up the medications that they are using.
Prescription medications, even if used for the right reason, may have the unintended consequence of slowing down your thyroid.
There are also many options and different drugs which serve the same purpose but don't also cause thyroid dysfunction.
If you feel your thyroid is suffering, or just want to get your medications double checked, you can look at this article which goes into detail on various medications and supplements which have all been shown to block thyroid function.
The degree that they block thyroid dysfunction does vary from person to person, however, so keep that in mind as you read that article and consider your own situation.
#11. Reduce Sugar Intake
We've kind of already touched on the sugar idea but it's worth spending some time here as well.
One of the best things that you can do for your thyroid (and overall health) is to reduce the amount of sugar that you consume on a daily basis.
Sugar, and by sugar I am referring to refined and added sugar, impacts several hormone systems in your body and can lead to hormone resistant syndromes such as insulin resistance.
It also can alter immune function, change your mood, impact your energy, and alter your cortisol.
Even though most of you probably already know that you should be avoiding sugar, you probably don't even realize that you are unknowingly consuming sugar despite your best efforts to avoid it.
Why is that?
Because sugar has more than one name and it has found its way into many different types of foods.
Furthermore, the food industry doesn't want to make it simple for you to understand what you are consuming and they often try to conflate refined and added sugar with natural healthy sugars.
The sugar that you find in fruit and vegetables is NOT the same type of sugar such as refined white and brown sugar.
They are NOT the same because they impact your body in completely different ways.
Baking a cake and adding sugar is far less healthy than consuming fructose enriched fruits such as pineapple or dates.
Natural healthy sugars can provide your body with sustained energy and provide other nutrients to your body.
Consuming food products with added sugar do nothing but alter the taste of the food (which can taste nice) while wreaking havoc on your hormones.
It can also be tough to identify if your food has added sugar because of the different names that sugar goes by.
Refined sugar can go by any of the following names:
- Brown rice syrup
- Organic cane sugar
- Dried cane syrup
- Invert cane syrup
- Brown sugar
- And many others...
Before you consume ANY food you need to check two places:
The first is under the "Total Carbohydrate" section under the subheading of "added sugars":
You can't look at the Total Carbohydrate section because this includes the natural and healthy carbohydrates as well as the unhealthy added sugars. Look specifically for added sugars.
The section above also contains more information than what you generally find on nutritional labels.
Most foods will NOT include a percentage of added sugars because you would quickly find that most servings contain nearly 100% of the total amount of sugar you should consume in a day which is no more than 25-30 grams of sugar per day.
The example above contains 10g of added sugar (about 30% of your daily amount) in 1 serving.
The second place you need to look is in the ingredient list under the nutritional label:
The ingredients are listed in terms of the highest to lowest quantity in the food.
If you find sugar at the top (or anywhere near the top) that is a good sign to avoid the food or look for a different brand!
Take care when you consume processed foods as you may be inadvertently consuming much more sugar than you realize.
Added sugar is found in MANY foods including ketchup, peanut butter, yogurt, cereals, and so on.
Does it work?
Avoiding sugar will stand to help a great many people.
Avoiding sugar may not be enough to completely reverse your thyroid but you will most likely feel a noticeable difference in your mood, your weight, and your energy level.
Be prepared to give up sugar for at least 60 days to start noticing the difference.
As you remove sugar from your diet you will probably also notice that your cravings for sweet foods will decrease as well.
#12. Reduce Inflammation
We all know that inflammation is bad for the body but what you may not realize is that it is also bad for your thyroid.
Inflammation, from any source, has been shown to reduce the ability of your body to convert the inactive T4 thyroid hormone into the active T3 thyroid hormone.
Inflammation is, therefore, an inhibitor of peripheral thyroid conversion.
The problem with this is that the changes inflammation can cause changes to your thyroid which are not necessarily picked up by standard tests.
When your body can't convert T4 into T3, there will be a build up of Free T4, a reduction in free T3, and a buildup in reverse T3.
These tests can be ordered and evaluated, but most physicians do not commonly order them.
What makes this problem even more sinister is that often the TSH is not changed.
So, if you only look at the TSH and the free T4, your thyroid may look absolutely normal.
The rest of the story can be discovered, however, when ordering the other tests.
If you aren't already of the value of the various thyroid tests or how they work and what they mean, I would recommend you check out this article which goes into this topic in detail.
How do you know if you have inflammation?
There are two main ways:
The first is to actually test for it.
You can easily find out if you have what is known as systemic inflammation by ordering a CRP and ESR test.
CRP stands for C reactive protein and ESR stands for erythrocyte sedimentation rate, both of which are markers of inflammation.
If either of these values is elevated then you have some element of inflammation in your body.
But this isn't the only way to check for inflammation...
The second is to evaluate your symptoms.
Not all cases of inflammation will be picked up by serum or blood testing. In fact, some low-grade inflammation may run under the radar but still cause problems for your cells.
Low-grade inflammation is often felt in a symptomatic way with people experiencing such things as minor fatigue, minor joint pain, low-grade headaches, minor gastrointestinal discomfort, recurrent illness, and so on.
These low-grade symptoms may not show up on your blood tests but they can still be causing problems for your thyroid.
Does reducing inflammation work?
Reducing inflammation, especially if it's systemic or picked up by standard blood tests, will go a long way to help improve your thyroid function.
You can reduce inflammation by taking targeted supplements, by eating an anti-inflammatory diet, by exercising, and ensuring that you get enough sleep.
#13. Address Gut Health
Another very important system you won't want to ignore if you have thyroid issues is your gut.
And by your gut, I'm really referring to the trillions of bacteria that live inside of your intestinal tract and how these bacteria influence your body.
Issues, including imbalances in these bacteria, promote problems for your body such as inflammation, damage to the barrier which is supposed to protect your body from pathogens, and direct changes to your hormones.
And one of the hormones that can be influenced by these changes is your thyroid.
Some studies suggest that up to 20% of the circulating thyroid in your body is converted from T4 to T3 in your intestinal tract.
This high percentage can be affected by problems that arise in your gut.
Local inflammation, or overgrowth of certain types of bacteria, may act to negatively impact your thyroid by reducing thyroid peripheral conversion.
What's the solution?
Fix your gut!
You probably don't need me to tell you how important your gut is to your overall health, but it's something that you should not ignore.
Does it work?
Improving your intestinal tract will not only help your thyroid function directly but it will also help indirectly as you are able to absorb more nutrients both from food and from vitamins and supplements.
Improving your gut can also help treat non-gut-related issues such as depression, fatigue, and skin issues.
Those with gut-related issues often experience symptoms (making it hard to miss) such as gas, bloating, IBS, inflammatory bowel disease, abdominal pain, acid reflux, constipation, diarrhea, and so on.
If you are experiencing ANY of these symptoms then there is a high chance that something is 'off' in your gut that must be addressed.
#14. Avoid Radiation & Protect your Thyroid
Your thyroid gland is probably one of the most sensitive organs in your body to radiation.
And it has been well documented that radiation to the thyroid gland can increase your risk of thyroid dysfunction including thyroid cancer, thyroid nodules, and thyroid cysts (24).
It makes sense, therefore, to protect your thyroid gland at all costs!
The most common exposure to radiation in modern life is from conventional medicine and the use of radiology imaging including CT scans, X-rays, barium studies, cardiac stress tests, dental x-rays, and so on (25).
This is both good and bad.
Good in the sense that you almost always know where your radiation will be coming from and bad in the sense that you obviously don't want to be subjected to radiation unless you absolutely have to.
The point here is that if you do have to get an imaging study (X-ray or CT scan) make sure that you protect your thyroid gland with protective covering.
Lead covering can reduce your exposure to radiation and protect your thyroid gland from developing cancer or other issues down the line.
#15. Stimulate your Thyroid with Exercise
You probably know that exercising is something that everyone should be doing on a weekly (if not daily) basis.
And I'm not going to tell you anything different!
Because exercising positively impacts your thyroid.
In fact, exercising has been shown to increase free thyroid hormone concentration (26) (this is what allows your thyroid to do its job), reduces inflammation (27) (thereby indirectly improving thyroid function), and improves your metabolism (which helps treat weight gain).
The key to exercising for your thyroid has to do with how intensely you exercise.
If you don't exercise enough then you won't get any benefit.
But on the flip side, if you over exercise then you also risk damaging your thyroid.
Studies have shown that moderate intensity exercise (not light or high intensity) is the sweet spot for your thyroid.
As your heart rate, and demand on the body, ramps up, thyroid function tends to start to suffer.
This probably has to do with the fact that many thyroid patients already suffer from fatigue and stress on the body.
Because exercise is just another stressor, it's important you don't overdo it.
You can find more information on exercising in this article which outlines how much is enough and how to prevent yourself from over-exercising or under exercising.
Does it work?
Exercise is a tried and true therapy and something that everyone should consider doing.
The key is finding the right intensity for your body and using the right types of exercises which can take some trial and error.
#16. Get Enough Sleep
And this lack of sleep can potentially cause problems for your thyroid.
Several studies show that sleep deprivation has a negative impact on the hypothalamic-pituitary-thyroid axis (29).
Sleep deprivation leads to a decrease in peripheral thyroid conversion and a rise in the TSH.
Does getting enough sleep work?
Yes! Your goal should be to get at least 8 hours of sleep each night if you have thyroid dysfunction.
Even though you may not feel like you need it, your body needs sleep to help heal and balance your hormones and this need may extend out for several months.
To allow your body enough sleep make sure that you provide your body with optimal sleeping conditions including sleeping temperature, blocking blue light exposure, proper bedding and darkness.
#17. Get Enough Sunlight
And by getting enough sunlight what I am really referring to is optimizing your Vitamin D status.
Why would you want to ensure that you have sufficient Vitamin D if you have thyroid problems?
The main reason has to do with the fact that your Vitamin D status can be used as proxy for your immune status.
Low levels of Vitamin D have been associated with an increased risk of developing autoimmune disease, especially Hashimoto's thyroiditis.
Hashimoto's thyroiditis is an autoimmune disease of the thyroid gland and the severity of thyroid antibodies has been shown to correlate with Vitamin D status (30).
The lower your Vitamin D status the higher your thyroid antibodies tend to be and the more damage that is done to your thyroid over time.
And the best way to get Vitamin D is not from supplementation but from the good old fashioned way of exposing your skin to the sun!
I've discussed the difference between supplementing with Vitamin D3 to raise your Vitamin D levels and the benefit that getting Vitamin D directly from the sun provides in this post.
Sunlight is the absolute best way to get your Vitamin D.
How do you get Vitamin D from the sun?
Follow these guidelines:
- Only go outside in direct sunlight between the hours of 12:00 and 2:00pm.
- Expose 40% of your skin
- Stay outside in direct sunlight for 10-20 minutes (depending on your skin type)
- Do this daily!
Following these guidelines will help you maximize Vitamin D levels while avoiding excessive sun exposure.
Does it work?
Yes! Getting enough sunlight will definitely help your Vitamin D status.
It isn't possible to get enough sunlight in all parts of the world due to the angle at which sun rays hit the earth, but most people will find tremendous benefit by getting out in the sun.
Combining Natural Therapies with Conventional Therapies
I spent the majority of this article discussing natural therapies but I also think it's important to at least discuss conventional therapies as well.
The reason this is important is that I find that many patients find the best results when they combine conventional medicine with that of natural and alternative therapies.
By combining therapies you can get the best of both worlds.
But what exactly do I mean by conventional thyroid therapies?
Perhaps the primary treatment (and only treatment) is the use of prescription thyroid medication.
Prescription thyroid medications are used to provide your body with thyroid hormone directly (drawing from our analogy above it's like helping you press on the gas as opposed to lifting off the break).
Thyroid medications are very powerful and provide your body with exactly what it is missing.
The good news is that you can often use natural therapies AND thyroid medication at the same time.
Using this strategy may allow you to reduce the amount of thyroid medication that you need by helping your thyroid function naturally.
Indeed, many of the studies I've listed above have shown just that! A decrease in demand for thyroid medication as people improve their diet and add in exercise.
It's also important to understand that even though you may want to only undergo natural therapies that may not be possible for all people.
What if you have had your thyroid removed due to thyroid cancer? Or what if you've had your thyroid ablated because of Graves' disease?
These are two situations in which you will be reliant upon thyroid medication for the rest of your life.
This doesn't mean you can't benefit from natural therapies, but it does mean you need to understand your specific situation.
What if your thyroid has been atrophied and destroyed from autoimmune thyroiditis?
This is another situation in which you simply won't be able to rehabilitate your thyroid function very well because of the damage that's already been done.
You still can, and should, do the natural therapies above, but it is not realistic to assume that you can bring your thyroid back after significant autoimmune attack.
Is it possible to completely reverse thyroid function in most or at least some people?
The answer is definitely yes but it really depends on your body, how long you've had thyroid disease, and what caused your thyroid problems to begin with.
It's absolutely possible to treat and manage your thyroid in a natural way.
Natural remedies tend to work by helping your own body function and your thyroid to do its job.
This can be compared to conventional therapies (such as thyroid medication) which directly act to increase thyroid hormone.
For best results, you will probably want to consider a combination of both natural remedies as well as conventional therapies.
Now I want to hear from you:
Have you tried any natural thyroid remedies?
If so, which ones worked for you? Which didn't?
Have you had success combining natural therapies with thyroid medication?
Leave your questions and comments below!
References (Click to Expand)