by IZABELLA WENTZ, PHARMD
When I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism, I started taking thyroid medications but felt like they did not address the root cause of my condition. Unfortunately, at the time, lifestyle recommendations weren’t readily available, so I was left to find out more through my own research.
I’m a firm believer in cause and effect. Over the past few years, I have been researching and testing a variety of lifestyle interventions to assess their ability to impact and reduce the autoimmunity associated with Hashimoto’s disease, which I compiled into my book Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis: Lifestyle Interventions for Finding and Treating the Root Cause.
Here are some lifestyle changes to help you get your thyroid back on track.
Cut Out Inflammatory Foods
Foods that cause inflammation can irritate your gut, leading to an irritated immune system that no longer recognizes the thyroid gland as a part of the body. The immune system instead sees the thyroid as a foreign invader and launches an autoimmune attack. These inflammatory foods include gluten, dairy, soy, eggs, and grains.
Add Nourishing Foods
Adopting a nutrient-dense diet is important to restoring proper levels of nutrients. People with Hashimoto’s often find that they start feeling better after adding iron (found in liver and beef), omega-3 fatty acids (found in fish), and beneficial bacteria (found in probiotics and lacto-fermented vegetables) to their diet.
In some cases, supplements do make a huge difference, especially if the person’s digestion is impaired to the point that the body is not absorbing nutrition from food or is intolerant of many foods (as it was in my case).
Consider starting with a selenium supplement (as long as you are not iodine deficient). While Brazil nuts are a popular source of selenium, they are not the most reliable source, as their selenium content can vary (an ounce may range between 50 and 500 micrograms, depending on the soil where the nuts are grown). A person needs between 200 and 400 micrograms (mcg) to see an effect on the antibodies, but doses above 800 mcg may be toxic. This is why I prefer supplements instead of food, in this case. Always consult with your doctor before starting a new supplement.
Fluoride can occupy receptors in the thyroid gland and may lead to damage of the thyroid, triggering the autoimmune cascade and leading to hypothyroidism. Fluoride was traditionally used to suppress thyroid function, and communities with fluoridated water have higher rates of hypothyroidism than communities that don’t add fluoride to their water supply. Using a reverse-osmosis filter can be helpful with reducing your exposure to fluoride in drinking water. Additional sources of fluoride exposure include nonstick pans and black tea.
Avoid Hormone-Disrupting Chemicals
The onset of thyroid disorders can also be correlated with swings in estrogen levels, so avoid the estrogen-mimicking chemicals bisphenol A, aka BPA; phthalates; triclosan; and parabens, which all add to your body’s hormonal load. Limit your exposure by staying away from the everyday items that contain them:
• BPA is found in plastics such as containers, baby formula cans, and even in the coating of store receipts.
• Phthalates are found in many detergents, laundry products, cosmetic, and soaps.
• Triclosan is found in antibacterial soaps, deodorants, hairsprays, and toothpaste.
• Parabens are found in body washes, shampoos, and lotions and are used as antimicrobial agents.
Eating only organic meats can also help reduce the hormonal loads in your body.