Natural Treatment Options for Hypothyroidism

Natural treatment options for hypothyroidism may help manage symptoms but cannot replace treatments prescribed by your doctor and should be overseen by a healthcare professional.

Talk to your doctor before considering stopping your prescribed medications, taking any herbal remedies or supplements, or combining them with your medications.

woman using essential oils for hypothyroidism

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What Is Hypothyroidism?

Hypothyroidism, or underactive thyroid, occurs when the thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormones.

The most common cause of hypothyroidism is Hashimoto’s disease.

Some people are born with it, called congenital hypothyroidism. This condition can often go unnoticed during the early stage, but it can lead to:

  • Weight gain
  • Infertility
  • Joint pain
  • Heart disease

According to the American Thyroid Association (ATA), approximately 2% of Americans have hypothyroidism, with an additional 10% having mild hypothyroidism. The ATA says that half of those with hypothyroidism aren’t aware they have it.

Symptoms of hypothyroid are varied and often do not depend on how low the hormone production is. As the condition develops or becomes more severe, new symptoms can develop or become more noticeable.

Fatigue and weight gain are two of the earliest signs that people often notice.

Goals of Natural Treatment

Natural treatments cannot cure hypothyroidism; instead, they are aimed at:

  • Controlling inflammation and autoimmune triggers associated with autoimmune diseases
  • Increasing hormone production
  • Managing symptoms

Natural Treatment Options

Natural treatments address lifestyle and environmental factors that may impact thyroid hormone production and symptoms. These treatments should be as individual as your type of hypothyroidism and symptoms are.

Natural Treatment Warning

Be aware that there may be risks involved in natural treatments like supplements and herbal remedies, and it’s vital to speak to your doctor before starting them.

Diet

Hypothyroidism symptoms—like fatigue, weight gain, and bloating—can be helped by eating a nutritious, balanced diet that supports a healthy weight.

Weight gain might not be avoided even when taking hypothyroid medications, but a calorie-balanced diet can help. A registered dietitian can help you come up with a healthy eating plan.

Additionally, there is a component of some foods called goitrogens that can affect thyroid health when eaten in high amounts. Goitrogens can inhibit the process by which iodine is incorporated into the thyroid hormones thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). Typically, this is the case only in people with iodine deficiency, which is rare in the United States.

These foods include the following, among others:

  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Kale
  • Cabbage 
  • Soy products

Supplements

Some supplements support common deficiencies in people with hypothyroidism. The need for these depends on your levels of vitamins and minerals. Some potentially beneficial supplements include:

  • Vitamin B-12: Autoimmune thyroid disease is associated with autoimmune disorders, pernicious anemia, and atrophic gastritis, which can cause malabsorption of vitamin B-12. A lack of B-12 can cause symptoms like fatigue.
  • Zinc: Some research shows that zinc supplementation can affect thyroid function. More research is needed.
  • Selenium: In combination with zinc, selenium may have some effect on thyroid function. Selenium facilitates the conversion of T4 to the active T3.
  • Iodine: Thyroid hormones require iodine for production, but it must be obtained through diet or supplements. Most Americans get enough iodine through their diet, including in iodized salt.

Desiccated pig or cow thyroid should be avoided. Dried animal thyroid is sold as a supplement but can be dangerous, undertreating or overtreating your condition and making you susceptible to bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE or mad cow disease).

Iodine Poisoning

While iodine poisoning is rare, overconsuming iodine can be as equally problematic as not consuming enough.

Herbal Remedies

Herbs cannot heal a thyroid deficiency, and some can cause harm, so always speak to your doctor before taking any.

Some herbal supplements work with the hormones in your body to bolster thyroid function, but if and how they work depends on your unique thyroid condition. 

One such herb that may help is ashwagandha, a nightshade plant commonly used in Ayurveda practice. It has been shown to reduce thyroid hormone abnormalities in subclinical hypothyroidism in a few small human studies when taken at 600 mg per day.

Ashwagandha Warning

It is vital to be aware that ashwagandha can produce thyrotoxicosis, a severe form of hyperthyroidism.

Essential Oils

Essential oils have been studied for their use in people with hypothyroidism.

Fatigue is a common symptom of thyroid hormone deficiency, and essential oils—when used for aromatherapy—have been found to reduce feelings of fatigue.

Beyond its use in aromatherapy, essential oils do not have enough medical research supporting them in treating hypothyroidism. However, spearmint and peppermint oils may help with the symptoms of:

  • Joint pain
  • Nausea
  • Indigestion

Acupuncture

Not many studies have been done on the use of acupuncture for hypothyroidism.

A 2018 review of the current research showed some promise for acupuncture to increase thyroid hormones in people with hypothyroidism. Additional benefits include:

  • Reduction of sensitivity to pain and stress
  • A calming effect
  • Improving muscle stiffness and joint stability
  • Increasing circulation
  • Reducing inflammation

Make sure to tell your acupuncturist that you have a thyroid condition before receiving treatment. Similarly, tell your doctor about your acupuncture treatments.

Meditation and Yoga

Some experts suggest that specific yoga poses increase blood flow to the thyroid gland, such as shoulder stands and inverted poses where the feet are elevated above the heart. Yoga is also thought to reduce the stress that can make the symptoms of hypothyroidism worse.

Similarly, guided meditation might be helpful for the thyroid as a stress reducer.

Combined Treatment Approach

If you are considering taking any natural treatment—whether it be an herb, dietary supplement, essential oil, or acupuncture—it's important to talk to your doctor, who can help you weigh the potential risks and benefits for your unique case.

Often, gentle and safe options such as yoga and vitamin or mineral supplements are beneficial when combined with conventional medications and treatments prescribed by your doctor.  

In general, follow a healthy eating plan with:

  • Plenty of fruits and vegetables
  • Lean protein
  • Complex carbohydrates

Aim to get sufficient sleep and exercise as well.

Naturopathic Doctors

If your doctor is unfamiliar with supplements or herbal therapies that interest you, you can seek the advice of a naturopathic doctor. Just be sure the physician treating your thyroid disease is kept up to date about these treatments.

A Word From Verywell

While natural treatment options cannot replace medication or conventional medical treatments, some options may improve thyroid function or reduce your condition’s symptoms.

Be sure to discuss any natural remedies you are interested in with your doctor before beginning. If you seek the care of a naturopathic doctor or other holistic practitioners, keep your primary care provider up to date on what you discuss.

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Article Sources
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