In this article I cover Hashimoto’s thyroiditis natural treatment including some basic supplements that can help heal Hashimoto’s disease and hypothyroidism as well as some dietary strategies.
The thyroid gland, like any gland in your body, requires a number of basic nutrients to function properly. Every day your thyroid gland produces a certain amount of thyroid hormone that requires specific building blocks. If any of those building blocks are missing, your thyroid may not make enough thyroid hormone and you may suffer from common symptoms of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and hypothyroidism such as:
- Weight Gain
- Hair Loss
- Cold hands and feet
- Brain fog
- Dry brittle nails and hair
- Muscle pain
Let’s talk about each nutrient that your thyroid needs and how to find out if you are deficient. It may be that you would benefit from some simple supplements for Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and hypothyroidism.
Zinc is required for the production of T4 and the conversion to the active form of thyroid hormone known as T3 (triiodothyronine). T4 (thyroxine) is the inactive form of thyroid hormone and does not become active until it converted into T3. T3 enters your cells and fires up the energy-producing parts of your cell known as mitochondria. Zinc is required for healthy T3 receptors in your cells so even if you have enough T3, it won’t work optimally if you are deficient in Zinc.
A Zinc taste test is the easiest way to determine if you are Zinc deficient. Simply purchase a liquid Zinc solution called ZincEval from Moss Nutrition and follow these instructions:
Put about 2 tablespoons of the Zinc Challenge in your mouth and swish it around for 30 seconds noting any specific tastes. Spit out the solution and do not swallow because Zinc can cause nausea on an empty stomach.
=> If you don’t taste anything then you are probably Zinc deficient.
=> If you notice a “dry”, “furry”, “sweet” or “mineral” taste then you are probably Zinc deficient.
=> If you notice a strong unpleasant taste that gets worse over time then you probably have just a mild Zinc deficiency.
=> If you immediately notice a strong unpleasant or “metallic” taste then you probably have sufficient Zinc levels.
If you are Zinc deficient I recommend taking 30-60mg of Zinc a day with food for 30 days and then retesting. It may take up to 60 days to replenish your Zinc levels. Make sure your Zinc supplement has a small amount of copper in it because taking Zinc will deplete your body of this important mineral.
To learn more about the health benefits of Zinc read my article here.
Vitamin A is the most common vitamin deficiency in the world. Vitamin A is important for thyroid hormone receptors and it activates the gene that regulates Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH). You should be getting plenty of vitamin A if you are eating lots of fruits and vegetables. Be careful when supplementing with vitamin A because it can cause deficiencies in other fat-soluble vitamins such as D, K and E. Vitamin A can also cause liver toxicity and bone loss. Your vitamin A supplement should say “natural carotenoids” or “mixed carotenoids” so you know they are close to what Mother Nature intended. Taking a single synthetic carotenoid such as beta carotene can potentially cause health problems.
A deficiency in B-vitamins, more specifically B2, B3, B6, B12 and B9 (folate) can lead to hypothyroidism. Folate is also important as it ties in closely with TSH levels. B-vitamins are usually depleted due to high levels of stress. B6 deficiencies can lead to low serotonin levels and sleep problems. B12 deficiency is common in those with gluten-intolerance and Celiac disease. This is true for folate as well but make sure you are taking the “methylated” form of folate if you have the MTHFR defect. MTHFR is a blood test to see if you have a genetic problem with folate metabolism.
Asparagine is an amino acid that makes up thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH). Protein deficiencies are very common which can lead to hypothyroidism. The easiest way to tell if you are protein deficient is to do a grip strength test using a dynamometer which we do on all our patients. A simple chart based on your age and gender can tell if you are squeezing enough pounds which is directly related to protein status. I recommend approximately 1.2 grams of protein per kilogram bodyweight as a general rule if you are deficient. In addition to getting enough food, a good whey protein supplement can help or pea or hemp protein if you have a dairy allergy. There is no need to supplement with asparagine, just make sure you are getting enough protein in your diet.
Leucine is a branched-chain amino acid along with isoleucine and valine. Leucine is required for thyroid hormone production in the thyroid gland. Leucine is highly “anabolic” meaning that it builds and repairs your body, especially muscle tissue. Leucine helps your metabolism function at a high level along with thyroid hormone. Leucine is also important for healthy blood sugar levels so if you are insulin resistant, leucine can really help. I recommend 1 scoop of leucine powder from Moss Nutrition added to all of your protein shakes.
Tyrosine is an amino acid required for T4 and T3 production in the thyroid gland. Tyrosine, however, can increase adrenaline levels which actually inhibits thyroid function so I don’t recommend supplementation unless you are truly deficient. Deficiency is rare, so this amino acid is usually not necessary.
Guggul comes from the Myrrh plant and its compounds have been shown to improve T4 and T3 levels. It also works as an anti-inflammatory and an antioxidant.
Antioxidant Vitamins C and E
These antioxidants have been shown to restore thyroid function when the liver is “backed-up” and is having difficulty detoxifying. Vitamin E should be taken like vitamin A in a “mixed” form such as “mixed tocopherols.” Vitamin C is easiest to handle in high doses if it is buffered. Copper is another antioxidant important in protecting the thyroid gland but copper deficiencies are rare.
Ashwagandha, also known as “Indian Ginseng” is an adrenal adaptogen. Ashwagandha has been shown to improve T4 levels and conversion of T4 into T3. Additionally, since it is an adrenal adaptogen, it will help keep cortisol levels in check and cortisol in excess will increase reverse T3 levels. Reverse T3 binds to T3 receptors and blocks healthy T3 from binding and working properly. Ashwagandha also improves mood, energy, stamina, and sleep quality. There is some misinformation circulating the internet about Ashwagandha as a potential problem with Hashimoto’s disease but these claims are unfounded.
Iron is required for thyroid hormone production, the conversion of T4 into T3 and for the best utilization of T3 inside the cell. Many women have low iron levels because they lose blood every month during menstruation so if the amount in the diet does not exceed the amount lost, a deficiency can occur. The ferritin test is a blood test that tells us how much iron is actually stored in the body.
This test is rarely ordered in conventional medicine so millions of women are left with thyroid problems due to low iron stores. Read this article to learn more about the importance of the ferritin test and your thyroid.
Iodine is not recommended in individuals with Hashimoto’s or Graves’ disease because it can make these conditions worse. Iodine is required for thyroid hormone production in the gland. Eating foods rich in iodine such as seaweed and seafood can provide enough iodine. Iodized salt contains iodine but this form of salt has other issues because it is just sodium chloride. A good multivitamin will have about 150mcg of iodine which is enough for most people. If your physician finds you to be deficient, then you may require a higher dose in the range of 1-6mg a day for 2-3 months to fully restore your levels.
Iodine is extremely dangerous if you have a “hot nodule” on your thyroid gland because it can inflame the nodule, and cause a thyroid storm which can lead to an emergency room visit and even death. Do not supplement with milligram doses of iodine without consulting your doctor first.
Additionally, many studies have shown that when iodine is added to the food supply, the incidence of autoimmune thyroid disease increases because iodine is a trigger of Hashimoto’s disease and Graves’ disease. Proceed with extreme caution.
Selenium is required for the conversion of inactive T4 into active T3. A deficiency in selenium will cause low T3 levels resulting in all the symptoms of hypothyroidism as mentioned above. Selenium also helps improve the symptoms of Hashimoto’s disease and Graves’ disease as well as lowering antibody levels. I wrote a very detailed blog post on selenium and your thyroid which you can read by clicking here.
There are more supplements that can help with hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s disease and you can read my detailed articles on these by clicking on the supplement below:
A good quality multivitamin should cover many of your bases here but you may need extra nutrients and protein powder depending on your situation. A qualified healthcare professional can help you determine if you are deficient and would benefit from these simple supplements for hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s disease.
What about the best foods for Hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis Natural Treatment?
If you have a thyroid problem, the way you should eat is very similar to that of an individual who does not have a thyroid issue. Organic foods contain fewer amounts of chemicals and pesticides which, as you know from the thyroid-disrupting chemical chapter article, can have a negative effect on the thyroid gland. The main goals of a thyroid diet are those which remove any stress from the thyroid gland itself and any systems that may be affecting the thyroid gland.
The first major priority in eating to have a healthy thyroid is to make sure you do not have blood sugar swings. This requires consistent eating throughout the day of high-quality protein at every meal without eating too many carbohydrates. Remember that blood sugar swings not only affect the thyroid gland itself but also indirectly affect adrenal gland function which, as previously discussed, is highly connected to thyroid physiology.
The ideal protein/carbohydrate intake for someone with thyroid gland dysfunction is to eat a moderate- to low-carbohydrate diet to keep blood sugar levels in check.
The next important step in optimizing thyroid function is to alkalize your body. Your body contains approximately sixty trillion cells which are involved in six trillion chemical reactions every second. Your cells work best to carry out these chemical processes in an alkaline environment versus an acidic environment. The machinery in your cells that produce energy and burn fat can most easily do their job when the pH is alkaline. I’m not talking about the misinformation circulating the internet about curing cancer and a whole host of other illnesses with an alkaline diet. I’m quoting the science that shows metabolic acidosis is a bad thing if you are acidic for long periods of time. This includes increases in TSH and decreases in T4 and T3.
Eating foods that drive you into an acidic environment will put undue stress on your cells leading to sub-optimal energy production and function. The best way to find out if you are in an acid or alkaline state is to do a first morning pH test with Hydrion pH strip paper. You should be aiming for a pH of 6.4-7.4. A pH below 6.4 indicates an acidic cellular environment that could be contributing to a decrease in your metabolism. At the same time, you should not be too alkaline which would be a pH above 7.4. This would indicate a catabolic state meaning your body is breaking down its tissues rapidly due to some kind of metabolic or chemical stress. Start by taking your first morning urine pH for five days consecutively. Eliminate the highest and the lowest of the five readings and then average the middle three to attain your pH.
So how do you become more alkaline? The first thing you must do is eat a vegetable or fruit or both at every meal. Produce contains alkaline-forming substances including calcium, magnesium, potassium and zinc. These are “buffering” agents meaning they help to reduce acid by-products of metabolism. The way foods are designated as acid or alkaline is based on the “ash” that is left over when they are burned: the more buffering minerals in the ash, the more alkaline the food. In addition, the protein content of a food will also determine its acid/alkaline status. The presence of more amino acids (protein) in a food leads to more acidity in the body due to amino acid metabolism in the liver resulting in acidic by-products.
Adding sweet potatoes and yams as well as lentils will also enhance your alkalinity. In addition, try to eat at least two cups of alkalinizing greens such as kale, mustard greens, turnip greens, or collard greens each day. Lean towards the three most alkalinizing grains: oats (gluten-free if you have Hashimoto’s or Graves’), quinoa and wild rice.
There are many other strategies you can use to become more alkaline. Taking an alkalizing bath of one cup Epsom salts and a half-cup of baking soda will aid in alkalizing your body. The Epsom salts contain magnesium which is a buffering mineral that will assist in the elimination of acid residues that result from metabolism and detoxification. The baking soda is also extremely alkaline and will aid in neutralizing acidic compounds that the skin is eliminating. Take one of these baths every day, and if you are an athlete, take one at the end of your training day to enhance healing of acidic muscle tissue that has been broken down.
The next thing you can do to alkalize is to drink a morning cocktail of a quarter- to half-teaspoon of unrefined Celtic sea salt, a juiced half lemon or lime, a greens supplement and a half-teaspoon of buffered vitamin C powder. This cocktail will flood your system with alkalizing agents that mop up acid residues in the body. Please be sure to use unrefined Celtic sea salt which is extremely alkaline as opposed to table salt or sodium chloride which is extremely acidic. Table salt has been stripped of its alkaline minerals resulting in a toxic and acidic product.
Acids and bases in the body are also controlled by your breath. Each time you inhale fresh oxygen into the system, your body is preparing to exhale carbon dioxide which, if too high, creates an acidic environment in the blood. Many people in this society are hyperventilators, not taking in full breaths of oxygen and fully exhaling carbon dioxide. The way to remedy this is to engage in deep-belly breathing for five minutes in the morning and five minutes at night. Breathe deeply into the abdomen as if filling your stomach with air and then passively exhale the air without effort. This is how a baby breathes. Concentrate on your breath without thinking about anything else. In time, this will become second nature and you will enjoy doing this twice a day. You can also incorporate this into your meditation practice which you may already be doing. Those of you who do not meditate will reap some of the benefits of meditation as this is a great starting point to learning how to meditate. Focusing on your breathing will focus your thought only on this one task instead of the multitude of things that you think about.
In addition to buffered vitamin C powder, there are a few supplements that can aid in alkalizing the body. Magnesium, potassium bicarbonate, zinc, fish oil, probiotics and virtually all medicinal herbs will have an alkalizing effect. Herbs and spices that you use for cooking such as turmeric, thyme, oregano, etc. all help to alkalize. In general, meat, dairy, and grains are acidic but fruits and vegetables are alkaline. Remember that it is extremely important to eat protein at every meal so do not under consume protein in fear of becoming too acidic.
As long as you are eating vegetables and fruits with each meal, you will become more alkaline. Use the other strategies I have outlined to enhance this process. You will notice many health benefits as you become more alkaline such as an improved sense of well-being, increased energy, fat loss, improved sleep, clearer/sharper mind, improved digestion and a reduction in allergies. Your pH is a sign of your alkaline mineral reserves so be patient in this process. You didn’t become acidic overnight so it will take time to reverse an acidic state. It may take you a few months to reach a consistent alkaline state.
How Much Protein Should You Consume?
In addition to developing an alkaline pH, adequate protein intake is a major fundamental aspect of achieving optimal thyroid health. According to the vast majority of nutrition textbooks, healthy individuals should ingest a minimum of 0.8 g of protein per kilogram body weight every day.
Unfortunately, this calculation is not accurate for everyone, because we all have different activity levels, stress levels, and genetics. Another flaw in this calculation is that some of the scientific literature shows that one must ingest 1.2-1.8 g of protein per kilogram body weight every day if there is a protein deficit.
Another important factor in these calculations is the quality of protein. Not all protein is created equal. So, the amount of protein consumed is heavily dependent on protein sources. Sometimes it can be difficult to get adequate protein intake from diet alone. This is where protein and amino acid supplements come into the picture. Before beginning any kind of protein supplementation, you should be sure that you are eating the highest-quality protein from food sources. These include:
- Eggs (ideally organic and free range)
- Types of fish known to be relatively low in heavy metals.
- Chicken (ideally organic and free range)
- Non-commercial forms of red meats such as grass fed, locally raised beef; grass fed buffalo; and grass fed lamb.
- Dairy products (ideally organic from locally raised dairy cows)
- Nuts and seeds, particularly almonds, pecans and walnuts (ideally organic)
- Legumes (ideally organic)
Since soy allergies are very common, this may be one of the foods on the list that you will need to avoid. In addition, soy products tend to be highly processed. Only soy products that are fermented such as tempeh and miso should be consumed as protein sources from soy.
Dairy is also problematic because of the high allergenicity, processing, and reliability of sources. Dairy can also be very hard to digest and is often contaminated with antibiotics, hormones and toxins from the cows. Dairy is of course, an excellent source of protein, but I recommend that the amount of protein consumed from dairy should be minimal.
People are most willing to follow a dietary plan when there are a variety of food choices. This is why I recommend both animal and vegetable-based protein sources eaten in rotation.
Vegan diets can also be a concern regarding protein for a few reasons. If we review the primary protein source of a typical vegan diet in the United States, it is found that soy is the main protein source. Unfortunately, soy is low in sulfur-based amino acids. This is important because sulfur-based amino acids are required for optimal liver detoxification, the building of glutathione (a powerful antioxidant) and tissue repair. In addition, plant-based foods contain virtually all of the nutrients necessary for optimal health with the exception of vitamin B12. I find that many, many patients are deficient in B12 and therefore require supplementation. Vegans must have a tremendous amount of knowledge for proper food-combining and supplementation in order to achieve optimal protein and amino acid intake for a healthy body.
When it comes to protein and amino acid supplementation, there are a variety of healthy choices. I recommend whey protein for those who are not sensitive/allergic to dairy. Pea and hemp protein sources can also provide high-quality protein and amino acids. Protein powder products are the most beneficial to those who have good digestive function. Some people require HCl or digestive enzymes in order to optimize digestion and absorption of amino acids.
If you have been diagnosed with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis or Graves’ disease, you may need to avoid gluten. One of the ways to test for gluten intolerance is the anti-gliadin antibody test which measures an immune response to gliadin, the main protein portion of gluten. A negative anti-gliadin antibody test in saliva, stool or blood does not rule out gluten intolerance. You can still have gluten intolerance and have false negatives on these tests. If the test is positive in saliva, stool or blood then this is a very strong indicator that you are gluten-intolerant. In most cases, there has to be some damage to the lining of the small intestine for the test to be positive in blood or saliva.
It is very important to understand that traditional medicine only recognizes blood testing or small intestine biopsy as diagnostic of gluten intolerance. Your traditional physician will have you go through a “gluten challenge” diet for four to six weeks and then test your blood to see if the gliadin antibody is elevated. This is the worst possible way of detecting gluten intolerance for two reasons. The first is that if someone is gluten-intolerant and you force her to eat gluten for four to six weeks, you are significantly harming her body. The second reason is that this test can be negative even if the person is gluten-intolerant making this test a poor method of diagnosis.
Your traditional doctor may want to order a biopsy of the small intestine to look for damage to the lining of the small intestine. He is looking for what is known as “villous atrophy” meaning the villi that line the gut have been damaged and are worn away from the immune system attack on the dietary gluten intake. The problem with this test is that you can have gluten intolerance but not have villous atrophy. Seventy percent of the negative effects of gluten occur outside of the intestine. This can result in only mild inflammation of the intestine but extra-intestinal damage to organs such as the thyroid, bones, pancreas, brain, adrenals, etc. I would not feel comfortable having a piece of my small intestine cut out just to perform a test that is not completely accurate.
The best thing you can do is to fill out our gluten questionnaire and have the blood, saliva or stool test done to see if there is a positive antibody in any of these. If only one is positive and you have many of the indicators of gluten-intolerance, then you should avoid gluten indefinitely. Most people avoid gluten for a few months and then sneak something in such as a piece of bread and they end up feeling horrible after eating it. Remember – it is estimated that up to 40 percent of Americans are gluten-intolerant so it is very important to know if you are as well. It can mean the difference between a major autoimmune attack on your thyroid or none at all.
The following grains contain gluten:
- Oats (not in nature but 99 percent of oats in the US are processed in machinery used for other gluten-containing grains)
- Durum flour
*Gluten can be hidden, so read labels carefully. Be wary of modified food starch, dextrin, flavorings and extracts, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, imitation seafood, and creamed or thickened products such as soups, stews, and sauces.
The following grains do not contain gluten and are acceptable for gluten-intolerant individuals and of course those who are not:
- Wild Rice
- Wheat Grass
- Barley Grass
- Barley Malt
Goitrogens are compounds in certain foods that inhibit the uptake of iodine into the thyroid gland. Goitrogens can be neutralized by lightly steaming, fermenting or cooking these foods. Foods that contain goitrogens include: kale, cabbage, turnips, rape seeds, peanuts, cassava, sweet potatoes, soybeans, kelp and Brassica vegetables such as broccoli and brussels sprouts. All of these foods eaten in their raw state could have goitrogenic activity on the thyroid gland. However, you would need to eat extremely large amounts of goitrogens in their raw state to truly have a detrimental effect on your thyroid gland.
I’ve written a more detailed article on the best researched diets for Hashimoto’s disease which you can read here.