When patients come to a doctor complaining about fatigue and unexpected change in weight, the first area of suspicion is Thyroid! It is a butterfly-shaped, endocrinal gland that sits under the Voiceboxand is responsible for secreting essential hormones in the body. When the gland underperforms, it produces too little hormones, leading to a condition called Hypothyroidism. In this article, we shall discuss at length the various causes and symptoms of this condition, along with learning some home remedies for Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid).
Scores of people across the globe are affected by this disorder. In fact, surveys suggest that an approximate 42 million people of India suffer from Hypothyroidism, out of which women and children are at a higher risk compared to men (1). So, if you are one of them, then this article is a must-read!
Learn how Hypothyroidism affects your body, its causes, symptoms and treatment methods.
Table Of Content:
- What is Hypothyroidism?
- What Causes Hypothyroidism?
- Symptoms Of Hypothyroidism
- How To Prevent Hypothyroidism?
- Natural Home Remedies For Hypothyroidism
- Lifestyle Changes To Manage Hypothyroidism
- Foods To Eat And Avoid With Hypothyroidism
- Health Risks Of Hypothyroidism
- When Should You Consult A Doctor?
What is Hypothyroidism?
To understand this term, you need to know the two main hormones produced by the Thyroid gland – T3 (Triiodothyronine ) and T4 (Tetraiodothyronine). These two agents are transported to the rest of the body via the bloodstream through TSH-Thyroid Stimulating Hormone. In a normal case, the ratio of these hormones must be at 20% – 80% of T3 and T4.
Hypothyroidism is a result of low levels of T3 and T4, which can is diagnosed through a basic blood examination.
What Causes Hypothyroidism?
Here are some of the key factors that increase the risk of Hypothyroidism in an individual:
1. Autoimmune Diseases:
Studies reveal that 50% of Hypothyroidism cases are due to Autoimmune diseases, in which the body’s cells attack its own system. The condition is known as Chronic autoimmune thyroiditis in medical terms and affects women 3-5 times more often than men(2).
2. Iodine Deficiency:
Iodine is essential for the proper functioning of the thyroid. When the body cannot make enough levels of Iodine, it causes a poor secretion of hormones, causing Hypothyroidism.
Research reveals that patients who received medicated drugs like amiodarone have shown an increased risk of Hypothyroidism. This condition is called Amiodarone-induced thyrotoxicosis or AIT. (3) Lithium, another widely used drug also slows down thyroid functionality.
Exposure to radiation during chemotherapy can lead to a decrease in thyroid hormones makes thyroid gland underactive. The risk is higher if the therapy is aimed at the neck and head regions, causing inflammation and malfunction of the gland. (4)
Stress is an indirect contributor to Hypothyroidism. It slows down the performance of Thyroid gland and decreases the levels of T3 and T4 hormones. Also, by impacting the body metabolism, stress can boost your weight caused by this disorder and worsen your condition.
See Also: Tips To Reduce Stress.
6. Intermittent Fasting:
During Intermittent fasting your thyroid levels, especially the T3 drastically go down. This is our body’s inbuilt mechanism to conserve energy and returns to normalcy once your regular eating patterns are back.
Symptoms of Hypothyroidism:
One of the early signs of Hypothyroidism is experiencing severe weakness and lethargy. This is because the condition slows down your body metabolism and leads to poor absorption of nutrients. Here are some of the other symptoms of this problem:
- Dry Skin
- Weight Gain
- Hoarse Voice
- Weak Muscles
- Receding hairline or Hairloss
- Thinning and breakage of hair
- Irregular menstrual periods
- Enlargement in Thyroid Gland
- Swelling in Joints
- Puffy Face
- Sensitivity To Cold
- Difficulty Swallowing
- Blurred Vision
- Cold Hands and Feet
- Shortness of Breath
How To Prevent Hypothyroidism?
Although Thyroid issues can’t be prevented completely, the risk factors can certainly be reduced by following a few precautions like:
- Watching out the symptoms early
- Taking in enough Iodine
- Eating a well-balanced diet
- Conducting regular screening tests
Natural Home Remedies for Hypothyroidism
Let us make one point very clear to you! A doctor-prescribed treatment is a must for treating Hypothyroidism and there is no alternative to it. However, diet plays a crucial role in speeding up the results! Eating a healthy dose of certain vitamin and mineral-rich foods can give you quick relief from the symptoms and support your medication. Listed below are some of the natural methods to deal with your hypothyroidism problem by home remedies:
1. Increase Selenium Intake:
Selenium is a micronutrient that is essential for the metabolism of thyroid hormones. Studies reveal that an increase in Selenium intake has shown positive results in Hypothyroid patients suffering from autoimmune disorders. (5). Foods like Brazil Nuts, Tuna, Beef, Turkey, Pasta, Bread or Rice are natural sources of Selenium, which help in balancing the levels of T4 hormone. Intake of selenium-rich food is the best remedy to treat hypothyroidism.
The dosage of Selenium varies from case to case and is determined by the doctor after examining the reports.
2. Indulge in B-Vitamin Rich Diet:
The group of B Vitamins play an important role in the well-being of the Thyroid gland. They support the health of the endocrine glands, properly utilise iodine for secreting hormones and keep the thyroid cells in working condition. You can increase the percentage of these vitamins from foods like legumes, asparagus, eggs, sesame seeds etc.
Along with this diet, you may also have to amp up your B12 levels by taking supplements. It is proven that Hypothyroidism can lead to Vitamin B12 deficiency, which can lead to neurological and brain-related disorders (6). So, be sure to check with your doctor about this and get an early screening to rule out the risk.
3. Increase Iodine Levels:
Iodine deficiency is one of the common causes of Hypothyroidism. If your body is not producing enough Iodine to support the thyroid functionality, you must supplement it from external sources. An easy way to do it by adding a recommended dose of Iodized salt to your daily diet for hypothyroidism remedy at home. However, you must note that excessive iodine levels in the body can worsen your condition and lead to dangerous side effects.
Apart from salt, other natural ways of iodine-rich food sources include – Saltwater Fish, Seafood, Milk, Eggs and Dairy. Even water disinfected by iodine can also supplement the levels naturally in the body. (7)
4. Harness The Power of probiotics:
Along with boosting your gut health, probiotic-rich foods can also help in treating auto-immune thyroid conditions. One explanation for this is that the good bacteria in these foods can strengthen your stomach lining to prevent toxins from entering the bloodstream. This inturn controls the production of antibodies and the automatic immune response from the system.
This is why experts recommend Thyroid affected patients to eat a probiotic-rich diet, which includes fermented foods like Yoghurt, Kombucha, Miso, Kimchi etc. In many cases, probiotic supplements like acidophilus and Bifidobacterium are also prescribed as part of the medication.
5. Essential Oils To Activate Thyroid:
Essential oils used as part of the Aromatherapy can help you deal with an underactive thyroid. These highly concentrated extracts from plants have many therapeutic properties to alleviate the symptoms of Hypothyroidism. However, they cannot be used as substitutes for real medication and nutrient-rich diet.
You can try adding a few drops of these essential oils to a diffuser or as part of massage therapy dilated with a carrier oil:
1. Peppermint Oil–
Boosts your metabolism and helps in speedy digestion of food to balance your weight.
2. Rose Geranium Oil –
This oil can be applied topically to reduce inflammation of the thyroid gland and also offer instant relief from anxiety and stress-related to the problem.
3. Cedarwood Oil –
Dry skin associated with hypothyroidism can be treated with this oil. Mix a few drops of Cedarwood oil with some Jojoba oil and apply it all over the affected areas.
6. Herbs As Remedies For Hypothyroidism:
Herbal formulations and supplements may have a small, but significant effect in treating Thyroid disorders. They work by supporting your Thyroid medication and deliver faster results. Here are two such herbs which are studied for Hypothyroidism:
Also called the Indian Ginseng, Ashwagandha is a traditional Ayurvedic herb used in a powder or capsule form. As per research, patients who were given this herb in a dosage of 600mg per day have experienced a reduction in the thyroid abnormalities associated with Hypothyroidism. (8)
Excessive use of Ashwagandha may lead to Hyperthyroidism and in worst cases, a condition called Thyrotoxicosis.
2. Stinging Nettle:
Another powerful herbal remedy for Hypothyroidism is the Nettle plant. It has metabolism-boosting properties, which can contribute to the activation of the Thyroid gland. Scientists opine that this could be because of the hot and dry nature of the herb, that also offers many other medicinal benefits.
Nettles are usually mild for oral consumption. But, an overdose may lead to a burning sensation in the stomach, excessive sweating and rashes on the body.
Lifestyle Changes To Manage Hypothyroidism
Although there is no replacement for medications to treat Hypothyroidism, making simple lifestyle modifications can help you manage the condition better. Listed below are some of the tips to get faster relief from the symptoms:
1. Take Up Yoga or a Physical Workout:
The benefits of Yoga to our body and mind needs no special introduction. According to recent studies, Yoga is found to be a beneficial remedy for stress-related Hypothyroidism. With a perfect combination of asanas, meditation and Pranayama, Yoga can alleviate stress and anxiety to improve the performance of Thyroid. (9) It is also known that regular practice of Yoga for atleast 6 months can reduce the dependency of hormonal replacement medicines.
If yoga is not your cup of tea, then you can also sign up for a weight-training program to counter the effects of poor metabolism.
2. Get Adequate Sleep:
Quality sleep can help you overcome fatigue and sluggishness caused by Hypothyroidism. Switch off your bedroom lights before you sleep as darkness can slowly induce sleep by calming down your nerves. Regulate your room temperature and make sure it neither too warm not too cold. Stay away from gadgets of any sort (laptops, smartphones and even e-readers) atleast 1 hour before the bedtime. Eat light meals and avoid spicy or heavy foods that can give you discomfort.
Make sure to sleep for atleast 6-8 hours per day. If you face any discomfort while breathing or frequently wake up, you must seek medical help.
3. Cut Down Sugars In Your Diet:
One of the side effects of Hypothyroidism is developing an increased risk of Diabetes – both Type 1 and Type 2. Eating a high sugar diet can worsen the condition of a body, which is already struggling with poor metabolism. This is why doctors recommend a low-sugar or sugar-free diet for these patients. This includes staying away from sugars, juices, sweeteners and desserts.
4. Say No to Junk and Processed Food:
Foods like Pizza, Burgers, Baked goods, Processed foods and Fried stuff exceptionally increase the calorie count in the body. As such, weight gain is an aftereffect of Hypothyroidism and addition of these calories increases your body mass at a rapid rate. Instead, eat a healthy, well-balanced diet comprising of fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, high proteins, low-carbohydrates and gluten-free for speedy digestion.
5. Take Your Medication On Time:
There is no shortcut to success, especially in the case of Hypothyroidism. You must take your medications regularly and on time to cope up with the condition. Get regular blood tests done to gauge the thyroid levels and take the right course of action. Typically, you will be prescribed hormonal supplement pills or tablets, with dosage varying from case to case.
Using them for the prescribed period of time can make it possible to reverse the signs of Hypothyroidism and restore normalcy in your life!
Foods To Eat And Avoid With Hypothyroidism
Several nutrients support a faster recovery from Hypothyroidism, while other agents may worsen your condition. Listed below are different foods that you must eat and avoid during this phase:
Foods To Eat
∗ Antioxidant-Rich Foods –
During Hypothyroidism, the oxidative damage due to free radicals is quite high. To combat that effect, indulge in an anti-oxidant rich diet which includes berries, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, cherries, bell peppers etc.,
∗ Zinc Foods –
Just Selenium, Zinc also plays a supportive role in improving T3 levels. Some of the Zinc-rich sources are legumes, nuts, shellfish, chicken and oysters.
See Also: Diet For Thyroid
Foods To Avoid:
× Goitrogen laden foods:
Goitrogen is a compound which can trigger the enlargement of Thyroid gland associated with Hyperthyroidism. Some of the foods containing Goitrogens are Tofu. Cabbage, Peaches, Kale, Cauliflower, Spinach, Millets etc.,
× Caffeine Beverages:
Consuming excess caffeine can slow down the performance of Thyroid gland. This is why you must have drinks like green tea, coffee or tea in moderation or if possible, avoid them till the situation gets better.
× Excess of Iodine:
While Iodine is very essential to cope up with Hypothyroidism, taking in excess can aggravate the problem. So, think before you add that extra spoon of salt in your food!
Health Risks Of Hypothyroidism
Other than the symptoms mentioned above, Hypothyroidism can lead to serious problems when left untreated, such as:
- Goiter, which enlarges Thyroid Gland that can restrict breathing and swallowing
- Mental Disorders like Depression and slowing down of brain functionality
- Heart Problems due to elevated “LDL” cholesterol levels in the body
- Mydexema, a life-threating disease that can cause lethargy and unconsciousness
- Peripheral Neuropathy, which causes pain and tingling sensation in arms and legs
- Children who are born to a mother with an untreated Hypothyroidism during pregnancy may have congenital disabilities and impaired skills.
When Should You Consult A Doctor?
You must see the doctor when you notice one or more of the symptoms of Hypothyroidism like fatigue, dry skin, hoarseness in voice, swelling of neck and face, etc.,
Even if you already on medication, be sure to follow up with the doctor regularly. This can help in determining the right course of treatment and dosage for a speedy recovery.
We hope this article has helped you understand about Hypothyroidism, home remedies for hypothyroidism and its consequences on the body. If you are diagnosed with this condition, there is no need to worry or hit the panic button. Follow your prescriptions to-the-dot and eat the right nutrients to recover fast. Along with that, ensure you lead a stress-free and peaceful life to get your thyroid gland back into action!
Disclaimer: This article is only for informative purpose and cannot be treated as professional medical advice. It is not recommended to solely rely on this advice and delay a prescribed treatment solely. The opinions expressed on this website have no relation to those of any hospitals or other healthcare institutions.
Frequently Asked Questions:
1. How do I know I have Thyroid problems?
The thyroid is usually identified by common symptoms like weight gain, puffiness and lethargy. However, this cannot be a sure-shot way of determining a problem without proper medical tests. A doctor usually recommends a Thyroid profile, which is a blood screening test. The test comprises of T3, T4 and TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone) levels. Proper treatment is provided based on the result.
2. Can Hypothyroidism lead to Hyperthyroidism?
There is a definite link between Hypo and Hyperthyroidism. Taking medicines for Hypothyroidism can activate the gland and allow for better secretion of hormones. When consumed in excess, be it terms of dosage or prolonged duration, the gland starts overperforming than normal. This leads to a condition called Hyperthyroidism.
3. What are the environmental causes of Hypothyroidism?
Studies reveal that environmental factors have a fair share of contribution towards auto-immune thyroid. Issues like Vitamin D deficiency, prolonged exposure to radiation, Cigarette smoking, alcohol and Viral infections increase the risk of thyroid dysfunction. (10) However, careful analysis must be done to determine the reasons before taking the next steps.