My doctor told me that I might have a low thyroid. Are there any natural ways to treat it? Are there certain foods that can help my hypothyroid condition?
Hypothyroidism is a medical condition in which the thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormones. It is estimated that up to 5 percent of the population has hypothyroidism, women more often than men. Symptoms of a low thyroid vary and can include fatigue, sluggishness, increased sensitivity to cold, constipation, pale or dry skin, a puffy face, a hoarse voice, an elevated blood cholesterol level, unexplained weight gain, muscle aches, joint pain, heavier or irregular menstrual periods, brittle fingernails and depression.
Some foods and supplements are recommended to help the thyroid, but there is no good scientific data behind these claims, nor is there good evidence for other alternative therapies. Here's what you may want to know about specific foods and your thyroid:
Iodine deficiency can cause hypothyroidism, and in that case, iodine supplements can help. But iodine deficiency is rare in the United States, and in the absence of iodine deficiency, iodine supplements do not provide benefit to the thyroid.
There is evidence that eating too much soy can impair the absorption of thyroid medication. Soy still can be used in moderation.
There is some hype around the idea of coconut oil stimulating thyroid production, but no data to back this claim.
Eating dietary fiber with your thyroid medication can impair its absorption.
Other foods and supplements
Walnuts, cottonseed meal, iron supplements, calcium supplements, antacids and some cholesterol-lowering meds (cholestyramine) can impair absorption of thyroid medications.
Thus, if one has a low-thyroid condition, doctors recommend thyroid medication as your best treatment option. It should be taken on an empty stomach. And if you take any foods or products that might interfere with the absorption of your thyroid medication, it's best to take them a few hours before or after you take your medication.
(Drs. Kay Judge and Maxine Barish-Wreden are medical directors of Sutter's Downtown Integrative Medicine program. They have written "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Secrets of Longevity" ($18.95, Alpha/Penguin Books). Have a question related to alternative medicine? E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.)