Do Natural Treatments Work for Hypothyroidism?

From the WebMD Archives

Eating specific foods or taking supplements won't help you control hypothyroidism. But they can make you feel better, lower your stress, and prevent disease.

Make sure you keep up with the medication your doctor prescribes. Natural treatments can't replace the traditional ones.

Keep Up a Healthy Diet

There's no special meal plan for managing thyroid disease. Still, a well-balanced diet can help you feel good and ward off disease.

It's best to follow the healthy eating guide recommended by the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists, says Jeffrey Mechanick, MD, of the American Thyroid Association.

The key to eating well is balance, he says. Don't eat too much of any single type of food, even if it's a healthy choice or something you heard may be good for thyroid disease. No specific foods are particularly good for it, he says, and eating too much of any food isn't good for you.

Choose a wide range of fruits and vegetables. Eat colorful ones like berries and grapes, which are high in healthy antioxidants.

Limit foods with saturated fat, like red meat. Have seafood, which is high in healthy omega-3 fatty acids, at least twice a week.

Foods That Raise Questions

Some choices may affect your treatment or the way your thyroid works:

Soy and coffee: They may lower your body's ability to use hormone medication.

You don't have to avoid them entirely, but don't eat or drink them close to the time when you take your medication. So if you take your pills in the morning, wait until later in the day to have soy sauce, soy milk, tofu, or coffee.

Kelp and seaweed: You may have heard you should stay away from these because they're high in iodine, which can interfere with your thyroid.

But experts don't agree. Alan Christianson, NMD, co-author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Thyroid Disease, says most seaweed, like nori, wakame, and hijiki, are safe and good for you. He does caution against kelp, which has higher levels of iodine. "With kelp, it's hard to not get too much," he says.

Mechanick says it's all about moderation. "It's OK to eat these," he says. "Just don't overeat them."

Kale, broccoli, spinach: These are also high in iodine, though not so high that you need to avoid them. But go easy. Too much can make your condition worse.

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Supplements

"There's no proven role for dietary supplements in the treatment or management of true hypothyroidism," Mechanick says. So if you've heard that a certain one may help you, it's probably not true.

Supplements may also mess with your treatment and can be harmful. Iodine supplements, for example, can cause your thyroid to make too much or too little hormone. Too much of a healthy vitamin isn't good for you. Fiber supplements can absorb medication and keep the full dose from working in your body. Herbs may interfere with your medication and may not be safe or effective.

Don't take supplements without talking to your doctor.

Complementary Treatments

Some may lower stress and help you relax. They can't replace conventional treatment, though. So use these in addition to your regular treatment, not instead of it.

Acupuncture: It may improve your symptoms. It can also help your body respond to your regular treatment. Plus, it's good for your immune system, Christianson says.

Yoga:It's good for relaxation, Mechanick says. It hasn't been scientifically proven, but it could also improve blood flow to your thyroid gland.

Meditation: This may also relax you. There's no risk as long as you continue with your regular hypothyroidism treatment.

Stay away from “natural” thyroid products. The FDA doesn't regulate them. What's more, dosing is not consistent.

Talk to your doctor about any treatment you're considering before you start it.

WebMD Feature Reviewed by Neha Pathak, MD on December 11, 2017

Sources

SOURCES:

Jeffrey Mechanick, MD, American Thyroid Association.

Alan Christianson, NMD, author, The Idiot's Guide to Thyroid Disease.

American Thyroid Association: "Thyroid Disease and Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM)."

Cleveland Clinic: "Thyroid Issues? What You Need to Know About Diet and Supplements."

National Endocrine and Metabolic Diseases Information Service: "Hypothyroidism."

University of Maryland Medical Center: "Hypothyroidism."

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