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Hypothyroidism Natural Remedies: Effective Strategies to Spot & Naturally Treat an Underactive Thyroid

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Of the tens of millions of Americans diagnosed with thyroid disease, most have what is called hypothyroidism — a condition where your thyroid gland can’t make enough thyroid hormone to keep your body and metabolism running normally.

Learn more about what it means to have an underactive thyroid. Find out how hypothyroidism symptoms differ between men, women, and infants, and the natural treatment options that practitioners are prescribing for hypothyroidism.

What is the thyroid?

The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland located just below the voice box, or larynx. It wraps around the windpipe or trachea.

How does your thyroid work?

Your thyroid affects your metabolism, and it’s responsible for making hormones that are released into your bloodstream to affect how fast your body works and how it uses energy. It increases energy and raises body temperature when needed. (1)

Doctor testing woman patient in office

Naturopathic doctors combine conventional and alternative approaches when treating hypothyroidism.

What is hypothyroidism?

Hypothyroidism definition: Hypothyroidism, which is also known as underactive thyroid disease occurs when your thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough hormones. The lack of thyroid hormones slows down many of your body’s functions, like your metabolism.

Did you know?
Hypothyroidism is relatively common. While the estimates vary, approximately 10 million Americans are likely to be hypothyroid. As many as 10% of women may have some degree of thyroid hormone deficiency. (2)

What causes hypothyroidism?

The most common cause of hypothyroidism in the U.S. is Hashimoto’s disease. (3)

With Hashimoto’s, your immune system misfires at your thyroid. This accidental attack damages the thyroid so that it does not make enough hormones.
Hypothyroidism causes also include:

  • Iodine deficiencies (4)
  • Lack of protein, magnesium, or zinc (5)(6)(7)
  • Heavy metal poisoning or over-abundance of chemicals and pesticides in the body (8)(9)(10)
  • Other autoimmune disorders (11)
  • Hyperthyroidism treatment and thyroid removal (12)(13)
  • Radiation treatment of certain cancers (14)

Who is likely to develop hypothyroidism?

Hypothyroidism is more common than you might think. 

Hypothyroidism affects 1–2% of people worldwide and is ten times more likely to affect women than men. During their lifetime, one in eight women will develop thyroid problems. An underactive thyroid is also more common among people over 60 years old (especially older women). (15)

Symptoms of hypothyroidism in women

Symptoms of hypothyroidism in women can develop slowly. Sometimes over several years. At first, you may simply feel tired and sluggish. Later, as your hyperthyroidism worsens, you may develop other more severe signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism that may include: (16)(17)

  • Dry, thinning hair
  • Feeling cold when other people are not
  • Constipation
  • A hoarse voice
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Muscle weakness
  • A puffy face
  • Weight gain 
  • Feeling sad or depressed
  • Feeling very tired
  • Elevated blood cholesterol level
  • Pale, dry skin
  • Slow heart rate
  • Less sweating than usual
  • More than usual menstrual bleeding
  • Trouble with fertility 
  • Anxiety

Symptoms of hypothyroidism in men

Although an underactive thyroid is more common in women, men get it too. Signs of hypothyroidism in men can harm the health of your heart, muscles, fertility, and more if not addressed. Signs of hypothyroidism in men include: (16)

  • Fatigue
  • Depression (18)
  • Feeling cold
  • Constipation
  • Brittle nails
  • Erectile dysfunction (19)(20)
  • Dry skin
  • Weight gain
  • Puffy face
  • Hoarseness
  • Muscle weakness
  • Muscle aches, tenderness, and stiffness
  • Pain, stiffness or swelling in your joints
  • Thinning hair
  • Slowed heart rate
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Enlarged thyroid gland (goiter)
  • Anxiety

Are you experiencing any anxiety or feeling depressed?

There may be a link between hypothyroidism and your feelings of anxiety or depression. Research has long shown that an underactive thyroid is associated with both feelings of anxiety and depression. You should consider asking your practitioner about natural remedies you can use for anxiety. (21)(22)

Signs of hypothyroidism in infants – congenital hypothyroidism

Infants and kids can develop hypothyroidism too. Congenital hypothyroidism (CH) is an inadequate thyroid hormone production in newborn infants that can have serious health implications if not correctly diagnosed and addressed by a practitioner.

Did you know?
Most of these infant cases are also caused by the autoimmune disease Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. (23)

Early signs of congenital hypothyroidism in an infant include the following: (24)(25)(26)

  • Constipation
  • Jaundice (yellow skin or eyes)
  • Swelling around the eyes
  • Hearing problems
  • Large belly with the navel sticking out
  • Weak muscle tone
  • Sleeping longer or more often than usual
  • A large soft spot on the head
  • Large, swollen tongue
  • A slow and weak growth rate
  • Cool and pale skin
  • Breathing problems
  • A poor appetite

5 ways to treat hypothyroidism, naturally

Looking for hypothyroidism natural treatments? The current conventional medical treatment for hypothyroidism entails taking daily thyroid hormone medication. This is done with synthetic levothyroxine (T4), liothyronine (T3), or natural desiccated thyroid (T4 and T3). (27)

And while this treatment is effective for some patients, for others with Hashimoto’s, simply taking thyroid hormone alone does not adequately address the underlying cause of dysfunction.

1. Consume the best diet for hypothyroidism  

Taking prescription medication for low thyroid function is just going to mask symptoms. Focus on making everyday dietary changes. A healthy diet is an essential step towards successful natural thyroid treatment and management. Try addressing your diet in the following ways:

ripe green avocados on a table

Avocados have healthy fats that help to keep your thyroid hormone levels balanced.

Good foods for hypothyroidism:

  • Zinc-rich foods such as spinach, chicken, nuts, beef
  • Vitamin A-rich foods such as carrots and eggs
  • Iodine-rich seafood such as arame, dulce, kelp, and nori (28)
  • Upping your protein intake can help improve low thyroid function. Plant-based proteins such as nuts, nut butter, and quinoa (29)
  • Incorporating more selenium-rich foods is a great way to boost your selenium levels and promote healthy thyroid function. Try eating more Brazil nuts, tuna, sardines, eggs, and legumes (30)(31)
  • Opt for hormone and antibiotic-free animal products such as organic grass-fed beef, full-fat cheese, yogurt, and cottage cheese, and coconut milk products
  • Look to incorporate natural and healthful fats like olive oil, avocados, flax seeds, and fish into your diet
  • Fruits such as raspberries, blueberries, bananas, tomatoes, grapefruits, and oranges

Foods to avoid with hypothyroidism: (32)

  • Sugar
  • Beverages: caffeine, green tea, and alcohol (33)(34)(35)
  • Refined and processed foods (36)
  • Saturated fats
  • Soy products such as tofu, soy milk, tempeh, edamame (35)
  • Cruciferous vegetables that contain goitrogens such as broccoli, kale, cauliflower, and cabbage (37)
  • Kelp seaweed (37)
  • Gluten-containing foods (38)

Did you know?
The balance of iodine is very delicate when it comes to hormone health. You don’t want to have too much or too little.

2. Try using essential oils for hypothyroidism

Essential oils can’t replace thyroid hormones, but they can help alleviate symptoms associated with hypothyroidism.

Peppermint for fighting fatigue and nausea

Try inhaling peppermint oil or diluting a carrier oil and massaging it into your belly to reduce nausea to help aid in digestion and to speed up your metabolism. (39)(40)

Rose geranium for melting away inflammation and anxiety

Feel like your face is puffy from an underactive thyroid? Try applying a few tops of rose geranium oil topically to help alleviate anxiety and inflammation. (41)

Spearmint for joint pain and improved circulation

Using spearmint topically on aching joints caused by hypothyroidism has been shown to help improve circulation and relieve pain. (42)

Cedarwood for dry skin 

Suffering from dry skin? Cedarwood is a fresh and effective oil used to treat dry skin, a common symptom of hypothyroidism.

essential oil bottle, cedar wood chips

Mix a few drops of cedarwood oil with a carrier oil like coconut oil and apply topically to relieve dry skin. (43)

3. Get routine exercise

People with hypothyroidism tend to have a slower metabolism. Luckily, research shows that aerobic exercise can help boost your thyroid hormone levels. (44)(45)

If you’re finding it challenging to maintain a healthy weight with hypothyroidism, try doing moderate or high-intensity cardio such as hiking, rowing, or fast-paced walking.

Research shows that moderate to high-intensity aerobic exercise may help boost your thyroid hormone levels. In turn, this may increase your metabolism, improve your mood, and help you lose weight.

4. Consider taking supplements for hypothyroidism

We know nutritional deficiencies aren’t the main culprit behind your underactive thyroid, but not having enough of certain micronutrients and minerals aggravates symptoms associated with an underactive thyroid. 

Increasing your intake of vitamin D, iron, omega-3 fatty acids, selenium, zinc, copper, vitamin A, the B vitamins, and iodine can help with natural hypothyroid treatment. (5)(6)(7)(47)

Glutathione is also a powerful antioxidant which can help in underactive thyroid treatment. It can boost the immune system, reduce autoimmune flare-ups, and protect and heal thyroid tissue.

Older women eating salads

Older women with hypothyroidism should eat a diet based around plentiful amounts of vegetables, fruits, and lean meats.

5. Focus on maintaining a healthy weight

It can be easier for people with hypothyroidism to gain weight due to a slow metabolism. So here are a few tips to help you maintain a healthy weight if you’re worried about an underactive thyroid: 

  • Try the Keto diet. Eating a low to moderate amount of carbohydrates is very useful for maintaining a healthy weight when you have a thyroid condition (46)
  • Practice mindfulness while eating. Mindful eating, which involves paying attention to how, what, where, and why you’re eating, can help you lose weight gained from a thyroid condition (47)
  • Try and get quality sleep. Aim to get at least 7–8 hours of sleep a night. Sleeping below this recommended amount is linked to fat gain, especially around the belly area (48)
  • Try daily meditation or some form of yoga. Practicing daily meditation and doing yoga stretches can help you de-stress and help you maintain a healthy weight (49)

The bottom line

Often combining diet, supplementation, botanical medicine, and conventional pharmaceuticals is a way to help manage and treat hypothyroidism.

If autoimmune disease is the leading cause of your thyroid dysfunction, your healthcare practitioner can work with you to help control inflammation markers and eliminate autoimmune triggers.

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