Got thyroid disease? If you’re like so many Americans, the modern era of “all natural” alternative medicines has you in the midst of confusion. What is safe to take and what is not? Can you trust those late night television commercials? Here is all you need to know about “natural” treatments to thyroid disease.
Millions of Americans per year are diagnosed with some form of thyroid disease. The thyroid gland affects many processes in the body including heart rate, metabolism, and heat sensitivity. For the purposes of this article I will focus on the most common thyroid disorder, known as hypothyroidism. According to the national institute of health, 4.6 percent of Americans over the age of 12 are diagnosed with an under-active thyroid.
What is hypothyroidism?
Hypothyroidism is the medical term for low thyroid hormone. This occurs when your thyroid gland, a butterfly shaped gland located in your throat, is not producing thyroid hormone in a suitable quantity for your body. In more simple terms, this means your body’s processes may be moving slower than normal. Many patients with hypothyroidism report feeling extra tired and slightly “down and out”. In fact, hypothyroidism can often be misdiagnosed as depression. Before initiating depression medication, your physician should be testing for hypothyroidism. It is especially important for pregnant women to have their thyroid checked due to an increase need for thyroid hormone and iodide during pregnancy.
What is the conventional treatment?
Initial treatment of low thyroid is simple: more thyroid! The most common medication prescribed for hypothyroidism is a synthetic precursor to thyroid hormone known as levothyroxine. The medication dose will start low and be increased every 6 to 8 weeks depending on your blood tests. If you are prescribed medication for your thyroid condition, be sure your physician continues to follow up with blood tests.
Are there any alternative treatments?
Is there really a natural cure? Many patients may be looking for a more “natural” alternative to treating their thyroid condition. My response to these patients is that the thyroid medication prescribed by their physician is actually the most natural you can have as they are meant to mimic thyroid hormone naturally in your body. Some older thyroid medications are naturally derived from animal thyroid glands, but are not prescribed often due to the cheaper and more effective drugs on the market today. Although many products online or on the shelves may claim to aid in thyroid disorders, I urge every patient to be proactive in researching these products. There are currently no studies to support the use of any alternative product for thyroid disease. As a professional, recommending an alternative product in place of standard therapy would be misleading and potentially harmful to the patient.
What about iodide?
Iodide is an essential nutrient that helps regulate the thyroid gland, however increasing iodide intake may aggregate the disease in many patients. My advice always is to eat a healthy well balanced diet high in fruits and vegetables, maintain a healthy weight, and get plenty of exercise. My advice along with continual follow up appointments with your physician may help maintain your thyroid disorder. Please do not increase the amount of iodide in your diet without speaking to your physician as it may be harmful to your health.
For additional information, please consult the national institute of health’s guide to hypothyroidism (http://www.endocrine.niddk.nih.gov/pubs/hypothyroidism/Hypothyroidism_508.pdf).
Source: National Institute of Health