When the thyroid gland situated in our neck region functions well, we are full of energy and our metabolism is just right, our cells do their function properly. The thyroid gland secretes hormones that regulate growth and development through metabolism rate. Once the thyroid gland starts malfunctioning by either secreting lesser or more amounts of thyroxin hormone, everything goes haywire. In fact, thyroid disorder can range from the small and harmless goiter (the enlarged gland that shows up as a big lump in the neck) to even thyroid cancer. However, the most common thyroid disorders include the abnormal production of thyroid hormone. If too much hormone is produced by the thyroid gland, the condition is known as hyperthyroidism whereas when insufficient amounts of hormone are produced, it is called hypothyroidism. While medication is essential for extreme disorders, mild thyroid disorders can be treated with certain natural home and herbal remedies.
Natural Remedies for Hypothyroid
Hypothyroidism is the result of underproduction of thyroid hormones. Drop in this hormone production leads to our lower energy levels. Hypothyroidism is caused due to many factors including Hashimoto’s thyroiditis (an autoimmune disorder where our body attacks thyroid tissue which eventually dies and stops producing hormones), removal of the thyroid gland, exposure to excessive amounts of iodine (found in many medicines) as well as lithium drug. Aging and iodine deficiency are two of the major reasons why our thyroids start low production of hormones.
1. Have More Iodine in Diet
These days, most of the people have to restrict their intake of sodium (read salt). When we don’t have that table salt fortified with iodine, we may suffer from hypothyroid. Many medicines including pain medications, antihistamines and anti-depressants also slow down the thyroid. One way of countering to this slow thyroid is to give your body more of iodine. Have the following things in your diet that are great sources of iodine.
- Milk, preferably cow’s milk
- Low-fat dairy products like cheese, yogurt, ice cream
- Saltwater fish
- Seaweed such as kelp, dulse, nori
2. Avoid Goitrogens – the Anti-Thyroid Foods
Goitrogens are those foods that interfere with thyroid function and slow down the gland resulting into a low production of thyroxin, particularly when you have them raw. When you cook these ‘goitrogen’ foods, their anti-thyroid properties get inactivated. So go slow on them. Avoid them eating raw. Even if you have them cooked, don’t have them more often. This is the list of goitrogens to avoid by hypothyroid patients. All the vegetables of broccoli family including cauliflower and cabbage are goitrogen and should not be eaten more than twice, preferably once, in a week.
- Brussels sprouts
- Pine nuts
- Canola oil
3. Remove Glutathione Deficiency
Glutathione is a combination of three types of amino acids- glutamine, cysteine, and glycine. It is sometimes referred to as master antioxidant due to its capability of keeping the whole body healthy. Your body, specifically liver, makes Glutathione on its own. However, poor dietary habits combined with chronic stress can lead to the deficiency of glutathione in your body which is a crucial ingredient for a healthy immune system. If you suffer from Graves’ Disease or Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, you must have optimum levels of glutathione.
Low levels of glutathione may also affect the stomach lining which in turn can deteriorate the immune system. A weak immune system is risky beyond any doubt for thyroid patient. Therefore if your glutathione levels have dropped, it needs to be brought to a sufficient level. Glutathione, apart from being made by the liver, is also found in fruits, vegetables, and meats. Many foods also help the body in producing glutathione. Here is a list of such foods that have glutathione or help your body in producing it.
- Raw eggs
4. Take Care of Your Adrenal Gland
Well, hypothyroid is a disease related to the thyroid gland, then why do you need to take care of adrenal gland? Because a weak adrenal gland can lead to both types of thyroid disorders- hypothyroid as well as hyperthyroid. How? A weak adrenal gland puts your body in a state of catabolism (destructive metabolism). There occurs a breakdown of complex molecules to form simpler ones, together with the release of energy which can just make your metabolism go haywire. As the thyroid gland is in charge of controlling the metabolism of your body, it tries to contain the emergency by slowing itself down so that the catabolic process to slows down. A slow functioning thyroid ultimately leads to hypothyroid conditions.
A weak adrenal gland can also affect immunity which in turn may lead to an autoimmune condition such as Graves’ Disease, characteristic of hyperthyroidism. Therefore, it is crucial to take care of your adrenal gland. Now, why does adrenal gland become weak? Poor dietary and lifestyle habits are at the root of a weak adrenal gland. Eating too much refined and sugary foods, poor sleeping habits, chronic stress and even environmental toxins can lead to a weak adrenal gland. For making your adrenal gland strong and work properly, you should take the following measures:
- Have balanced wholesome food to get sufficient nutrients.
- Get enough sleep daily.
- Manage your stress, at least, modify your stress response to handle it in a better way. You may also engage in meditation or take help of support group.
- Exercise regularly for 30-40 minutes, if not for a whole week, at least for 4-5 days a week.
- Minimize your exposure to environmental toxins.
5. Boost Your Thyroid with Daily Workout or Yoga
Regular exercising encourages your thyroid to keep functioning optimally. You need a 40 minutes workout at least thrice a week. If you can’t workout, walk daily for 40 minutes. Some breathing and relaxation techniques like Pranayam, meditation and Yoga too can restore balance to your thyroid. Even certain Yoga asanas (yoga poses) are beneficial remedies for both types of thyroid disorders such as Sarvangasana which not only stimulates thyroid but also other glands in your head region like pituitary and pineal glands that, to a certain extent, indirectly control the functioning of thyroid gland. However, you should always learn these yogasanas from a Yoga teacher so that you do them properly. Here is the list of yoga exercises that you can do daily for relief from hypothyroid.
- Sarvangasana (Standing on shoulders)
- Viparitakarani (Inverted Posture)
- Janu Shirasasana (One-legged Forward Bend)
- Matsyasana (Fish Pose)
- Halasana (Plough Pose)
- Marjariasana (Cat Stretch)
- Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutation)
Apart from the above yoga poses, some pranayama techniques (breathing exercises) are also beneficial for hypothyroid patients which should also be learned from a yoga teacher. These include:
- Kapal Bhati
- Nadi Shodhan
Always consult with your doctor before pertaining to any kind of exercise- yoga or some other exercise.
6. Get a Daily Dose of Sun Rays for Natural Vitamin D
Healthy immune and proper metabolism of calcium in your body is crucial for the functioning of your thyroid gland. The optimum level of vitamin D in your body helps maintain both- immunity as well as calcium. Although you can always have Vitamin D3 supplement when we are talking about natural remedies, which are anyways better, get the vitamin from the natural source- the sun. Make it a habit of exposing yourself to the mild morning sunrays every day for at least 15 to 20 minutes for your daily dose of Vitamin D. You may start having a morning walk after sunrise so that you get exercise as well as vitamin D to keep not only your thyroid but all your body healthy.
7. Take Assistance from Herbs to Regulate Thyroid
Ancient medicine systems across the world have introduced us to many herbs that help in regulating the thyroid. Some of these herbs can be used by you too along with your regular medication and control over diet.
Nettle is a good source of iodine and as such a wonderful herb to balance your thyroid gland. You can make herbal tea with nettle to regulate the gland. You may also use nettle oil to gently massage your neck in order to encourage production of thyroxin.
Directions for making Herbal Nettle Tea
- Take one tablespoon of dried nettle.
- Boil a cup of water and add the dried nettle to it.
- Steep for about 10 minutes.
- Strain it and add honey which is totally optional.
- Drink the tea.
- Have it thrice a day.
Ginseng indirectly helps the patients of hypothyroid by removing their fatigue. As the energy level goes down in hypothyroid patients, they can take an extract of Siberian ginseng twice daily, preferably before meals (breakfast and lunch). Ginseng helps adrenal and thymus glands to function properly which in turn push the thyroid gland to become active.
Natural Remedies for Hyperthyroid
Till now we were talking about activating under-producing thyroid. Now we’ll talk about overactive thyroid that produces more hormone than needed by our body. While all the types of hyperthyroid are caused by overproduction of thyroxin, the condition can occur in various ways like Graves’ disease (too much production of hormone), toxic adenomas (developing of nodules in thyroid that begin secreting hormone), subacute thyroiditis ( inflammation of thyroid leading to leakage of excessive hormone), malfunctioning of pituitary gland or growth of cancer in thyroid gland. Home remedies for hyperthyroid revolve around blocking or obstructing thyroid gland from secreting more hormone through certain lifestyle changing by having or avoiding certain foods or herbs or even doing exercises that restrict the gland’s hyperactivity.
1. Have Goitrogenic foods
This can be understood very well as we avoid goitrogenic foods in hypothyroid because they further block the already under-active thyroid gland from producing the hormone. So when we need to really block the overactive thyroid from secreting excessive hormones, we should have goitrogenic food. Some of the goitrogenic foods like cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, dark leafy and root vegetables contain thioglucosides which can interfere with iodine metabolism while some others like cassava, sorghum, and millet contain cyanogenic glucosides that can block iodine. Here is the list of certain goitrogenic foods that should be had by hyperthyroid patients.
- Brussels sprouts
2. Get Balanced Nutrition with Minerals and Vitamins
Based upon the extent of the hyperactivity of your thyroid gland, you might have to take greater nutrients in order to help offset the increased metabolic activity. When you get balanced diet including all the elements in sufficient amounts, you already take care of having your quota of nutrients. Along with having nutrients, you should also prevent them from getting out of your body unnecessarily. For this, avoid having more diuretic beverages like coffee that excretes nutrients out of your body.
As the hyperthyroid gland can make your body a little deficient in zinc and also alter the metabolism of calcium, you need to have more zinc and calcium-rich foods. The antioxidant vitamins C and E, as well as vitamin A, are effective in hyperthyroid conditions. Therefore, you should consider your meals to include more of zinc, calcium, as well as vitamins A, C, and E. Some of the foods that can provide you with these nutrients are listed below:
- Whole grain cereals
- Lean meats
- Cold water fish
You may also consult your doctor to have some multivitamin or nutrient supplements as per your needs regarding the extent of your hyperthyroidism.
3. Avoid Certain Foods in Hyperthyroidism
Not only do you need to have foods for enough nutrition, you also need to avoid certain foods that can make your thyroid even more active or those that may drive the nutrients out of your body. These are the foods that you should avoid if suffering from hyperthyroid.
- Refined foods like white bread, pasta, and sugar
- Red meats
- Foods containing trans fats such as commercially baked cookies, crackers, cakes, donuts as well as French fries, margarine and other processed foods.
- Carbonated beverages as their high levels of phosphates make your bones deficient in calcium leading to joint pains.
- Coffee and other stimulants including alcohol and tobacco
4. Yoga Asanas for Hyperthyroid
There is no difference when it comes to exercising for both hypothyroid and hyperthyroid except that you have to do different yoga poses. Other exercises like walking, gymming etc. remain same even if you must consult your physician before starting any exercise. For yoga poses too, it is recommended that they should be learned from an experienced yoga guru. Some of the yoga postures beneficial for hyperthyroid include:
- Setubandhasana (Bridge Pose)
- Marjariasana (Cat Stretch)
- Shishu Asana (Child Pose)
- Shavasana (Corpse Pose)
- Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutation) in a slow pace
Meditation, as well as certain breathing exercises too, are beneficial for symptoms of hypothyroidism
- Bhramari (Bee Breath)
- Nadi Shodhan
- Pranayamas like Sheetali and Sheetkari
Yoga Nidra that helps you sleep well is particularly beneficial for hyperthyroid patients as they find it difficult to fall asleep.
5. Herbal Remedies for Hyperthyroid
There are many herbs that may also relieve you of the symptoms caused by hyperthyroid.
Eleuthero- Eleuthero herb plays an important role in strengthening weak adrenal glands. Weak adrenal glands tend to affect immunity and thus lead to an autoimmune condition such as Graves’ Disease.
Bugleweed – This herb can manage the symptoms of hyperthyroidism and Graves’ Disease very well. Some of the patients may, however not find this herb very suitable for their symptoms and should thus have antithyroid medication. Bugleweed should not be, at any cost, taken by a patient of hypothyroidism.
Motherwort- This herb, along with other herbal or home remedies will help manage some specific symptoms of your hyperthyroid such as palpitation.
Lemon balm- lemon balm has been traditionally used to treat Grave’s disease and thus it is thought of being capable of blocking certain activities of thyroid hormone in our body. Some laboratory and animal studies have shown that lemon balm may help decrease thyroid in a body. However, until now, no human studies have been done to back up this claim.
Super Remedy- Self Acupressure for Hypo and Hyper Thyroid
Apart from exercise, yoga, dietary and lifestyle changes, there is one more technique that can help you balance the functioning of thyroid gland and that is acupressure. When you stimulate the thyroid acupressure points, you take a step to enable the healing energy (Qi or Chi) to move through your thyroid gland restoring its homeostatic mechanisms. Easily explained, a homeostatic mechanism is balancing mechanism. Thus, through acupressure, you can balance both hyperthyroid and hypothyroid conditions but it will take good practicing to do so.
How to do acupressure to attain balance in thyroid functioning
You should stimulate the thyroid acupressure points situated in your neck, base of your throat, and chest every day. The best point for healing thyroid disorders is located just near the thyroid gland.
Steps for doing Neck Press
Neck press done in the right way can stimulate the thyroid grand effectively. Here are the steps for the same.
- Sit in a comfortable position and close your eyes
- Interlock the fingers of both your hands and take them behind your neck.
- While placing your locked hands behind neck, allow your head to hang forward in a gentle manner. You should feel a gentle stretch in your neck muscles.
- Keeping your head low, bring together your elbows in the front. They should point downwards when you bring them in front of you pressing the sides of the neck with the palms of your hands.
- Inhale deeply and while doing so, raise the head gently taking your elbows apart from each other towards the sides. Allow your head to tilt at the back.
- Now while exhaling, again let your head hang forward and elbows come together in front of you.
- Inhale and let the head tilt back again taking the elbows apart.
- Repeat these positions for two minutes.
- There is an acupressure point on both sides of the breastbone (sternum) called K 27. Hold these two points with index and middle fingers.
- With your eyes still closed, breathe deeply while letting your head turn from one side to another slowly. Feel the neck region getting relaxed while you’re breathe deeply while holding K 27 points.
- Now tilt your head upwards in a gentle manner while inhaling and then downwards when exhaling. Try to visualize that more and more blood is flowing through the thyroid gland situated at the base of your throat.
- Now place your hands on your lap and relax completely.
Repeat the Neck Press breathing exercise including the holding of K 27 acupressure points for three to five times every day for at least 3 months for best results. However, before you go on a daily regime of doing this exercise, you should consult with your doctor, more so if you have any medical problems or symptoms. Home remedies should always be supplemented with the thyroid medication prescribed by your doctor till the time they are independently able to handle the activities of your thyroid gland.