Ask The Pharmacist: Natural ways to boost thyroid function

I am constantly fatigued, my hair is thinning, and I am gaining weight. My doctor says that I have hypothyroidism and prescribed Synthroid. Can you give me more information about thyroid medications and natural ways to help myself? — G.A. Albany, New York

Answer: Approximately 12 million Americans have hypothyroidism. You are lucky if your major symptoms are fatigue, hair loss and weight gain, because there are about 40 possible other symptoms related to low thyroid, including allergies, goiter, depression, swollen eyelids, brittle nails, infertility, irritability, constipation, menstrual irregularities, psoriasis, eczema, constant infections, yeast overgrowth, fibromyalgia, heart palpitations, high cholesterol, memory impairment, cold intolerance and diabetes. That last one is a shocker to most people but it’s true — low thyroid often precipitates diabetes and all of it’s potentially devastating complications.

Doctors often prescribe Synthroid (sold generically as levothyroxine). It provides your body with a precursor to thyroid hormone called T4. Your body converts T4 into T3 which is really what you want because T3 does all the work for you. T3 is active thyroid hormone. All thyroid medications should be taken on an empty stomach, first thing in the morning unless otherwise directed. It is usually taken orally.

Your doctor could also prescribe “Armour Thyroid” for you, which may work better because it provides both T4 and T3 in one pill. Even better, progressive doctors can call the local compounding pharmacy to have them prepare a special formula of natural thyroid hormone for you. Dosage is individual, and based on your blood work, symptoms and basal body temperature (your body’s lowest temperature during sleep). Next, try these few suggestions:

• Switch your regular table salt which only contains “sodium chloride” to sea salt which contains a full range of minerals. Your thyroid gland loves minerals and makes thyroid hormone more efficiently in the presence of natural minerals.

• Go gluten-free. Researchers have found a significant link between wheat allergies (Celiac disease) and people with thyroid disease (especially Hashimoto’s or Graves’ disease). Antibodies may come down within months of going gluten-free.

• Limit intake of certain supplements. For example, alpha lipoic acid could interfere with the amount of active T3 your body makes. Keep dosages low (or avoid) in thyroid disease.

• Limit intake of certain foods. For instance, processed soy foods (tofu, tempeh, soy milk) and cruciferous vegetables (like broccoli, cauliflower) work against your thyroid.

In addition, depending on what your doctor says, supplement with the following:

• Multi-minerals — People with reduced levels of zinc, iodine, selenium, copper and magnesium have difficulty making active T3 thyroid hormone.

• Spirulina supplements — a natural dietary supplement that is rich in trace minerals (and precious iodine) helps drive the production of thyroid hormone.

• Ashwagandha — an Ayurvedic herb that appears to nourish the thyroid gland, make thyroid hormone and provide antioxidant protection.

Did you know? Eating lots of fresh parsley (or parsley juice) is thought to help prevent kidney stones.

Suzy Cohen is a registered pharmacist. This information is not intended to treat, cure or diagnose your condition. Always consult your physician.

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Comments » 1

flamingogrl writes:

It's so nice to read an article by someone who is obviously well informed on hypothyroidism. A good resource is www.about.com where you will find a Thyroid forum, moderated by Mary Shoman who has Hashimoto's Thyroiditis. It is chock full of information and can help in all areas of thyroid disease (hypo and hyper, Graves, Hashimoto's). I have Hashimoto's and am lucky to have found a doctor in my area who is considered one of the top thyroid docs in the country. There are soo many misconceptions about thyroid disease. Thank you for this article with correct information.

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