HYPOTHYROIDISM: WHAT WORKS AND WHAT DOESN’T
If you live with hypothyroidism, you know first-hand that it’s not fun. Your thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland at the base of your neck responsible for many bodily functions, and when it doesn’t work properly, it can be irritating. In particular, a thyroid with hypothyroidism can create a number of troubling symptoms, such as constant fatigue or coldness, a depressed mood, dry skin, and thinning hair.
Hypothyroidism can even cause fertility and menstrual problems. It doesn’t help that women are the ones more susceptible to hypothyroidism either! Hypothyroidism is especially frustrating for body-conscious women because one of the symptoms is unwanted weight gain. When you’re already feeling sluggish and depressed, doing more exercise to fight weight gain that isn’t your fault can be stressful. No wonder many patients with this condition are desperate for remedies.
Not all remedies are made equal, however. So let’s look at a few common suggested remedies, and see what the science says.
Hypothyroidism involves a lack of thyroid hormone, and iodine is a nutrient that is used to make thyroid hormones. So on the surface, it looks like taking iodine supplements would help with hypothyroidism. However, this can do more harm than good.
By taking iodine supplements or even eating foods with high iodine levels, people with autoimmune thyroid disorders, such as Hashimoto’s disease, can suffer the negative side effects of iodine, including triggering or worsening hypothyroidism.
Levothyroxine Thyroid Medication
Also known by the brand-name Synthroid®, levothyroxine is a synthetic thyroid hormone you can take to replace the hormone your thyroid can’t make naturally. Throughout the process of taking this medication, your physician will carefully monitor your well-being. Part of this monitoring may include having your blood tested regularly, especially if you change dosage amounts.
Are synthetic hormones safe?
Some people hesitate to take a synthetic hormone because they doubt its safety.
Whether or not you should take prescription medication is rarely a yes or no answer. For example, some people who have borderline or mild hypothyroidism may experience levothyroxine side effects that may make the risks of the medication outweigh the benefits. Doctors have also recommended taking the medication for a brief period first before totally committing to it, just to see how your body reacts.
Is levothyroxine expensive?
Other people may hesitate to start levothyroxine treatment because they worry about their affordability. Such patients may want to consider shopping online for relatively cheap Synthroid® through international or Canada pharmacy referral services. A service like this connects patients with licensed pharmacies abroad that offer affordable options thanks to stricter drug price regulations in non-U.S. countries.
At the end of the day, try to have a frank and open discussion with your doctor if you’re not sure. By understanding your medical history and profile, your doctor can help you weigh the benefits and risks of levothyroxine and decide on the right treatment.
Hypothyroidism and Food
There is less information about the effect food has on hypothyroidism. However, there is still some information out there that you might want to keep in mind:
- A 2012 article in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommended dieticians create an energy-controlled diet for hypothyroid patients, complete with foods high in fibre and adequate fluid intake.
- A 2013 study with a large sample size found that a vegan diet was associated with a lower risk for hypothyroidism, but this conclusion did not reach statistical significance.
- If you are pregnant, you may need iodine supplementation because the developing baby gets its iodine from you. Since managing iodine levels can be complex in someone with hypothyroidism, consult with your doctor.
- Also, discuss with your doctor if you eat foods high in iodine, such as kelp and seaweed or certain cough syrups and iodized salt.
- It has been suggested that soy products can interfere with the absorption of thyroid hormones. However, completely eradicating soy from your diet is likely unnecessary; one doctor merely suggests not eating soy every day.
Before radically changing your diet, consult with your doctor. Regularly eating meat and then suddenly going vegan might not seem that serious, but it can be a very radical change. It can also be dangerous if you have other health conditions or are lacking certain nutrients.
How about supplements?
Be wary of any supplement that claims it can support thyroid health. Supplements are not regulated by the FDA the same way medications are, and promotional language can be misleading.
Always check with a qualified health-care provider before starting a new supplement to make sure it’s safe for use. Supplements, even natural ones, may interact poorly with other medical conditions and medications you have.
If you have not been diagnosed with hypothyroidism but suspect it because you share the symptoms, do not diagnose yourself! Get the appropriate tests done, as hypothyroidism may share similar symptoms with other conditions.
Overall, try not to let the symptoms of your thyroid condition get you down! Be actively involved in your care, and make sure you communicate any concerns to your health-care team.