Synthetic of Natural?
If you’re diagnosed as hypothyroid, you’ll be prescribed medication. The conventional treatment is levothyroxine, a synthetic but bio-identical hormone prescribed under several brand names. It works well for people with low T4, but those with low T3 do better on natural desiccated glandular drugs made from animal sources. The two most commonly prescribed are Armour and Nature-Throid, and they are not to be confused with over-the-counter “glandulars,” Brownstein says. Whether or not you are on medication, or are hypothyroid or hyperthyroid, here are some natural remedies and lifestyle changes that can help optimize your thyroid health.
Check Your Iodine Level
The thyroid gland has the body’s highest concentration of iodine. When you’re lacking iodine, the gland can malfunction, leading to either hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism, even thyroid cancer, explains Brownstein. The recommended iodine intake for adults is 150 micrograms daily, but consumption has fallen dramatically over the past 30 years, partly because so many people have cut back on salt (half a teaspoon of iodized or sea salt provides 65 micrograms). Kelp (seaweed) is a great source of iodine, as is salt-water fish like cod, haddock and perch. (Eat it fresh, as iodine degrades the longer fish is out of the water.) You can also supplement, but “Get your iodine levels checked first,” says Brownstein: Too much iodine is as problematic as too little. Try: Now Foods Kelp ($4 for 200 150- microgram tablets; iherb.com).
Another reason for our low iodine levels is that in the 1970s, it was replaced by bromine as a dough enhancer in flour. Bromine also inhibits iodine’s effects in the body, worsening deficiency. Stick to sprouted, wheat-free brands or bake your own. Try: Ezekiel (foodforlife.com) or Manna (mannaorganicbakery.com) breads and, for home baking, King Arthur Flour (kingarthurflour.com). In addition, avoid foods containing brominated vegetable oils, which are also often found in citrus-flavored soft drinks. Methyl bromide is a pesticide that is mainly used on strawberries, so wash them well or buy organic varieties. Bromine also often substitutes for chlorine in swimming pools and hot tubs. As polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE), it’s prevalent as a flame retardant in cars, electronic equipment, home furnishings and clothing. “Bromine is absorbed through the skin and through inhalation,” says Brownstein. Minimize your exposure whenever possible. Try: Nontoxic home furnishings (ecobydesign .com) and organic clothing from Blue Canoe (bluecanoe.com).
Tweak Your Diet
Eat whole foods free from pesticides, hormones and other toxins, Brownstein advises. Also be aware that some foods that are otherwise good for you, including soy and cruciferous vegetables (such as cabbage, bok choi and Brussels sprouts), are thought to exacerbate hypothyroidism. But this is true only if you are already hypothyroid and your iodine intake is low or marginal. If so, eat them in moderation, and when cooking with them try Asian stir-fry and soup recipes that include iodine-rich seaweed.