According the American Thyroid Association, over 20 million men, women and children have one form or another of thyroid disease. Over the course of the average lifetime, it is estimated that about 12% of the populace will fall into this category. Perhaps the most disconcerting part of this trend is that over 60% of those living with thyroid dysfunction are unaware of it. The consequences can be quite significant, putting unwitting individuals at greater risk for cardiovascular disease, depression, infertility, osteoporosis, pre-term pregnancies and beyond.
The primary types of thyroid disease are hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism and autoimmune thyroid disease (Graves’ disease and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis). Common symptoms associated with each are described below:
Hypothyroidism: cold sensitivity, constipation, dry skin, fatigue, hoarseness, irregular menstrual cycles, painful joints or muscles, poor cognition, thinning hair and weak muscles
Hyperthyroidism: goiter or enlarged thyroid gland, heat sensitivity, heightened appetite, insomnia, irregular or rapid heart beat, tremors in the hands and fingers and sudden weight loss
Graves’ Disease: anxiety or irritability, bulging eyes, erectile dysfunction or suppressed libido, excessive perspiration, increased bowel movements, red and thick skin on the shins and top of feet
Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis: Often there very few initial symptoms aside from a goiter. However, over time, Hashimoto’s disease can progress to hypothyroidism and the goiter may shrink.
Please note that the above list of symptoms is not complete. The best way to confirm or rule out any or all of these conditions is to have the appropriate blood testing. A blood test that looks at T3, T4 and Free-T4, TSH and thyroid antibodies (thyroid peroxidase and thyroglobulin) is a solid starting point.
In recent months, several studies have appeared in the medical literature that offer hope to the many who wish to manage their thyroids as conservatively as possible. The information below is not intended to replace the advice of your healthcare team. However, it may well support even better treatment results and/or mitigate some of the adverse reactions that sometimes accompany conventional care.
Dietary Considerations: A study published in the September 2016 edition of the journal, Drug Design, Development and Therapy reports that a low-carbohydrate and low-goitrogenic diet assists Hashimoto’s patients lose excess body fat, weight and prompts a significant drop of autoantibodies. Other research has linked gluten, a protein found in numerous grains, with thyroid dysfunction. Interestingly, one study found that hypothyroid patients requiring higher dosages of thyroid hormone therapy were more likely to have Celiac disease – an autoimmune disease triggered by gluten consumption.
Soy Promise and Risk: Genistein, a phytoestrogen prevalent in soy, also has a positive (and perhaps broader) effect on thyroid function in those with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis (HT). A trial published in the October 2016 issue of Immunobiology describes a normalizing effect in HT patients when 600 mg/day of genistein was administered over a one month period of time. That is not to say that soy is necessarily beneficial for all thyroid conditions. For instance, soy protein may negatively influence thyroid function in healthy individuals. It appears that women may be more susceptible to this effect.
Minerals to the Rescue: A growing body of evidence points to the importance of the trace mineral selenium in regulating thyroid function and health. A handful of studies from 2015 and 2016 reveal that selenium-rich foods and supplements a) reduce thyroid autoantibodies in adults with chronic autoimmune thyroiditis; b) “enhance the effect of anti-thyroid drugs in patients with recurrent Graves’ disease”; and c) improve thyroid hormone levels in at-risk populations such as hemodialysis patients. Some of these benefits may have to do with the fact that selenium is an antioxidant. Many experts theorize that oxidative stress may compound the effects of hypothyroidism. Zinc, another trace mineral, may work in concert with selenium in normalizing thyroid profiles in those with hypothyroidism. A high-potency multivitamin mineral in conjunction with a nutrient-dense diet will most likely provide adequate-to-optimal amounts of both elements.
Autoimmunity and Vitamin D: Vitamin D, which is technically a hormone, is frequently deficient in autoimmune patients. In fact, one study found that over 85% of adults with Hashimoto’s disease were lacking in D. What’s most surprising is that the population studied resided in a very sunny part of the world: Crete. Fortunately, restoring 25(OH)D to a “normal” level (≥ 40 ng/mL) reduces signs of autoimmunity. While encouraging, this data points to the importance of Vitamin D testing and not relying on sun exposure as a sole source of this invaluable hormone.
Diet and supplementation aren’t the only holistic options available for the promotion of thyroid health. Two of the most promising non-food and supplement alternatives are yoga and meditation. These mind-body practices tend to improve risk factors and symptoms relating to hypothyroidism, including elevated cholesterol, oxidative stress and menstrual irregularities, while reducing the need for thyroid medication. Also of note, meditation and yoga are well known to benefit mind-body health on multiple fronts: less anxiety, depression, fatigue and impaired sleep.
Note: Please check out the “Comments & Updates” section of this blog – at the bottom of the page. You can find the latest research about this topic there!
Study 1 – American Thyroid Association: Prevalence and Impact of Thyroid … (link)
Study 2 – Effects of Low-Carbohydrate Diet Therapy in Overweight Subjects … (link)
Study 3 – Endocrine Manifestations in Celiac Disease … (link)
Study 4 – Celiac Disease Detection in Hypothyroid Patients Requiring Elevated … (link)
Study 5 – Genistein Improves Thyroid Function in Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis … (link)
Study 6 – Soy Reduces Bone Turnover Markers in Women During Early … (link)
Study 7 – Association Between Soya Consumption & Serum Thyroid-Stimulating … (link)
Study 8 – Selenium Supplementation Significantly Reduces Thyroid Autoantibody … (link)
Study 9 – Effect of Selenium Supplementation on Recurrent Hyperthyroidism … (link)
Study 10 – EFFECT OF SELENIUM SUPPLEMENTATION VIA BRAZIL NUT … (link)
Study 11 – Oxidative Stress in Hypothyroid Patients and the role of Antioxidant … (link)
Study 12 – Effects of Zinc and Selenium Supplementation on Thyroid Function … (link)
Study 13 – Effect of Fatiguing Bicycle Exercise on Thyroid Hormone and … (link)
Study 14 – Vitamin D Supplementation Reduces Thyroid Peroxidase Antibody … (link)
Study 15 – Vitamin D and Thyroid Diseases … (link)
Study 16 – Is Vitamin D Related to Pathogenesis and Treatment of Hashimoto’s … (link)
Study 17 – Effect of 6 Months Intense Yoga Practice on Lipid Profile, Thyroxine … (link)
Study 18 – Impact of Yoga Nidra on Menstrual Abnormalities in Females … (link)
Study 19 – Effects of the Transcendental Meditation Program on Adaptive … (link)
Study 20 – Yoga in Public School Improves Adolescent Mood and Affect … (link)
Study 21 – Regular Yoga Practice Improves Antioxidant Status, Immune … (link)
Study 22 – Psychological Effects of Meditation at a Buddhist Monastery in … (link)
Study 23 – Roles of Meditation on Alleviation of Oxidative Stress and … (link)
Genistein, a Soy Isoflavone, May Improve Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis
Source: Immunobiology. 2016 Oct 4. (link)