Let’s start with a quiz:
- Hypothyroid is a chronic disease and cannot be reversed
- It’s a genetic disease and you don’t have any control over it.
- The only solution to manage thyroid is to take medicines i.e. Thyronorm (levothyroxine)
- You are taking care of the root cause of the problem by taking the medicines
- Your symptoms of the thyroid will mostly go away with the medicines
How many Trues did you get? Most people get 5 Trues.
You will be surprised by the answers. All statements are false.
Read this entire article to find the details.
What is Hypothyroidism?
Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) is a condition in which your thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough of certain crucial hormones.
Your thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped gland situated at the base of the front of your neck, just below your Adam’s apple. Hormones produced by the thyroid gland — Triiodothyronine (T3) and Thyroxine (T4) — have an enormous impact on your health, affecting all aspects of your metabolism. These hormones also influence the control of vital functions, such as body temperature and heart rate.
Hypothyroidism signs and symptoms may include:
- Increased sensitivity to colds
- Dry skin
- Weight gain
- Puffy face
- Muscle weakness
- Elevated blood cholesterol level
- Pain, stiffness or swelling in your joints
- Heavier than normal or irregular menstrual periods
- Thinning hair
- Impaired memory
Why Does It Happen?
This is the most pertinent question we should ask, “Why did I get thyroid?” For most diseases, doctors have some explanation e.g. due to high sugar/carb consumption, you got diabetes; you smoked, hence cancer. But there is hardly any explanation given for thyroid apart from genetics reason. But if thyroid was hardly existent a few decades ago, then how can genetics be the main reason?
The no.1 cause of Hypothyroidism is a condition called Hashimoto’s disease. It’s an autoimmune condition in which your body’s immune system starts attacking the thyroid gland. Apparently, 80% of hypothyroid cases belong to this category. And there is a simple antibody test to figure out whether you have an autoimmune problem or not. But in most cases, these simple inexpensive tests are not done to figure out the root cause of the disease.
Why Does the Body Start Attacking Itself? What is Autoimmunity?
It happens because of:
- Food sensitivity: Gluten in wheat, dairy products, excess iodine, etc. The immune system tries to protect the body by attacking these ingredients and sometimes in the process, it also starts attacking some parts of the body (thyroid gland attack leads to thyroid disorders).
- Stress: Stress is one of the major reasons why the thyroid gland does not produce enough hormones
- Infections: Chronic infections could impair the thyroid gland.
- Nutritional deficiency: Deficiency in key nutrients like selenium, B12, Vitamin D, iron, and zinc, may affect the proper functioning of the thyroid gland.
- Toxicity: Heavy metal toxicity such as lead, and aluminium toxicity can also be a significant reason for thyroid disorder.
Is It a Genetic Disease?
Yes, genetics play a role. But it’s only one of the factors among so many factors. Also, if it was only genetic then how come the disease has exploded in the last few decades? So, genetics play a relatively smaller role and all other causes are under your control. So, instead of blaming genetics, it’s important to focus on what we can control. Many people find comfort in blaming genetics and accepting it as their fate, as they don’t have to take action to eradicate the root cause. I hope you don’t belong to that category.
Does Being Overweight Increase the Chances of Hypothyroidism?
“Our meta-analysis showed that obesity was significantly associated with increased risks of hypothyroidism, including overt hypothyroidism and subclinical hypothyroidism, and could be accompanied by at least 1.86-fold increase of developing hypothyroidism.” Song, Wang, Yao, Li, Jia and Zhang. The Impact of Obesity on Thyroid Autoimmunity and Dysfunction: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis(1)
86% increase in risk factors for hypothyroidism because of obesity!! That’s one more big reason to lose weight.
Why excess weight leads to hypothyroidism can become very technical, hence, I am not covering it here. But in case you are interested, you can read the above paper for a detailed description.
Why Does Hypothyroidism Lead to Weight Gain?
Your thyroid gland regulates your metabolism and appetite. While your thyroid levels are low, your metabolism slows and you burn less energy even when you are sleeping. Additionally, you are less likely to burn fat for energy, which can lead to weight gain.
However, around 40% of persons with an underactive thyroid feel more exhausted than usual. This may result in decreased physical activity, which might lead to weight gain. (2)
What Tests Should You Undertake?
You should not just undertake the TSH test, which is the usual protocol. You need the following tests:
4. AMA (antibody test)
5. ATG (antibody test)
Also, apart from these, it’s good to check for your cortisol levels (a measure of stress), CBC test to check for any infections, toxicity tests and a complete vitamin and mineral profile to know if there is any deficiency in the body.
These tests are not expensive. Under Rs 4k, you can get all these parameters and a lot more to know your complete health profile. It’s a small investment which may save you a lot more on medicines. You can book these tests in the Possible App.
What Does Levothyroxine Do? Does It Solve the Root Cause of the Problem?
The most popular medicine for hypothyroidism is levothyroxine. It’s basically a thyroid hormone as the body is producing less of it. But does the medicine solve the root cause of the problem: autoimmunity in most cases? Not at all. So, the problem continues in the body and because we have got an additional dosage of thyroid hormones, we feel the problem is solved, but it’s not. And because the root cause is not solved, it eventually leads to other autoimmune problems like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, etc.
Let’s take an analogy to understand it. Let’s assume that there is a leakage in your car’s fuel pipe and half the fuel gets leaked. One solution could be to fix the pipe to stop the leakage. And the other solution could be to just keep on filling more and more fuel. Which is a solution you would choose? I hope it is to fix the leakage problem as that’s the root cause.
Unfortunately, in thyroid treatment, medicine is not fixing the root cause (leakage i.e. autoimmune problem) but only managing the problem (by filling more fuel i.e. thyroid hormone).
The long-term solution to Hashimoto’s disease is to bring down thyroid antibodies. If that happens, then the disease will get reversed and the need for levothyroxine will diminish.
Why Do You Feel Fatigued and Gain Weight? What’s the Role of Mitochondria?
Why does thyroid disorder lead to fatigue, brain fog, and weight gain? One reason is that thyroid hormones control the metabolism of the body, so with lower thyroid hormones, the body’s metabolism goes down.
And the second reason is mitochondria dysfunction. Mitochondria is the “powerhouse of the cell” and is responsible for generating energy. In the case of Hashimoto’s disease, the immune system does not just attack the thyroid gland, it also attacks the mitochondria. And if mitochondria are dysfunctional, then it leads to low energy, fatigue, brain fog, etc.
Why Do You Feel Bad Even After Taking the Medicines?
“Imagine your body is a car. Your thyroid gland is the gas pedal and your mitochondria are the engine. Under normal circumstances, when you press the gas pedal it sends a signal to the engine to work more and put out more power. Now imagine there is something damaging the engine and not letting it work properly. Then it doesn’t matter how much you press the gas pedal; in fact, pressing it harder will only reduce the efficiency of the car. To get the car working again, we need to fix the engine. To get the car working again, we need to fix the engine. This is what is happening with Hashimoto’s disease. The Mito-thyroid connection is broken, which leads to all the symptoms associated with it. And instead of working on restoring this connection, we keep pumping patients full of thyroid hormones. In the meantime, the patient continues to experience fatigue, weight problems, brain fog, and hair loss – all of which are manifestations of unhealthy mitochondria.” Dr Anshul Gupta, the author of the book “Reversing Hashimoto’s”
As explained so well by Dr Anshul Gupta, the solution is not just increasing TSH levels but improving the performance of mitochondria. And levothyroxine is not doing much to help that cause.
Can Hypothyroidism be Reversed?
Though in conventional medicine, it is believed that thyroid is a chronic disease. But alternative medicine, especially functional medicine believes that hypothyroidism, especially Hashimotos, can be reversed. We have seen hundreds and thousands of thyroid patients reversing their thyroid and gaining health back.
Why does conventional medicine believe that hypothyroidism cannot be reversed? Because it does not try to ask why did it happen in the first place? It does not try to find out the root cause of the problem and never attacks it. It finds an easy path of prescribing levothyroxine to you which brings down your TSH levels but does not do anything to solve the problem i.e. autoimmune disorders, nutritional deficiencies, toxicity, or internal inflammation. Hence, you are always dependent on medicines and the disease is called chronic.
We have seen that it’s possible to solve the root cause of the disease and by doing so, hypothyroidism can be reversed, if not cured fully.
What Should be My Diet?
The top diet principles of the thyroid diet are
- Selenium: The thyroid gland is the organ with the highest amount of selenium per gram of tissue. Studies have shown that increasing selenium consumption leads to improvement in selenium levels. The best source of selenium in natural food is brazil nuts. It’s highly recommended to have 2 brazil nuts daily. Also, you may add supplements in addition to brazil nuts.
- Iodine: Iodine is the most important nutrient for the thyroid gland. Both excess and deficiency of iodine cause thyroid disorders. And in most cases, it’s excessive iodine. 50-99mcg of iodine consumption is recommended daily for the reversal of the disease. Please read in detail about iodine here – Importance of Iodine in Reversing Hypothyroidism
- Avoid or minimise gluten, and dairy: Gluten and dairy are believed to be two major reasons for thyroid autoimmune problems. So, if you have thyroid antibodies, it’s very important to avoid gluten and dairy, two of the most common causes of autoimmunity. Gluten is a type of protein found in wheat, rye and barley. Some people are allergic to gluten and some people are sensitive to gluten. It’s a very complicated process to find out whether you are sensitive to gluten or not. Hence, we strongly recommend you go gluten-free for at least a month and see if you feel better. When we ask people to avoid dairy, some people find it very difficult to digest it. As we tend to believe that dairy is one of the healthiest foods. But in most cases, dairy is not what it’s supposed to be. Cows are given plenty of hormones, and antiseptics to maximise milk production. When they are still giving milk, she is made pregnant again with artificial insemination. All these hormones in milk may cause major disruption in our system, especially in the thyroid gland. There are plenty of milk alternatives available like almond milk, and oats milk (though they will not taste the same and will cost more). If you don’t have autoimmune problems, then avoiding gluten and dairy is optional.
- Avoid sugar & processed foods: Sugar and processed foods are slow poison. They are slowly killing every part of our body. If you want to eat a healthy life, it’s important to minimise or eliminate sugar and processed foods. I have personally been very fond of sugar and found it quite difficult to eliminate sugar from my diet completely. But recently, I discovered a sugar-free substitute which is a blend of erythritol and stevia. It’s an amazing product and tastes almost as good as sugar with 0 calories and 0 Glycemic Index. We developed a product using this blend and you may want to try it here – 0Cal Sweetener
- No need to avoid cruciferous vegetables: Cruciferous vegetables are one of the most controversial topics when it comes to thyroid. It’s common advice to avoid cruciferous vegetables, which include broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kale and brussels sprouts, and have been thought to interfere with how your thyroid uses iodine. But it’s actually a myth. You need to eat unrealistic levels of cruciferous vegetables to negatively affect your iodine gland. You should not juice these vegetables because then you can consume a lot of them. We recommend cooking cruciferous vegetables. “Cooking cruciferous vegetables lessens their goitrogenic properties. You don’t have to overcook your veggies until they’re mushy; normal cooking or steaming should do the trick,” says Luis O. Rustveld, PhD, RD, a dietitian and assistant professor at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.
Apart from these, you should follow the 10 Commandments of Possible for your health and your family’s health.
- Enjoy your Food and consider it your friend. Enjoying life and staying stress-free is critical for good health and ideal weight.
- Stop counting calories; instead, focus on the nutrient value of food. Include more super foods in your diet.
- Follow Possible Plate during meals: 50% colourful vegetables, 25% carbs, 25% protein. Ensure that you get nutrition from a variety of sources. For e.g. in carbs, don’t just rely on wheat & rice and have a variety of whole grains and millets.
- Eat within your Health dollar budget. Follow our app to know more about the Health Dollars.
- Make dinner as light as possible. Try to go grain free for a few days. Don’t go to bed for 2-3 hours after dinner.
- Have more free food. Include buttermilk, coconut water, vegetable juice, sprouts, and salad on a daily basis.
- Include good fat in your diet like nuts and seeds. Cut down on oil, it should not be more than 2-3 tsp every day if you are trying to lose weight. Use cold-pressed oil instead of refined oils.
- Get medical tests done to know your nutritional deficiency and hormonal imbalance. Discuss the reports with your dietician and take necessary supplements if required.
- Drink 2-3 litres of water daily, sleep for 7-8 hours and walk for 20-30 minutes every day (preferably after a meal/dinner).
- Do Encourage your family to eat healthily. If your friends/family eat unhealthily, you will find it quite difficult to eat healthy in the long term. They deserve great health too.
What Supplements/Herbs Should I Take?
Diet is the most important thing when it comes to thyroid management, but it needs additional help from supplements and herbs. The top supplements or herbs recommended for the thyroid are:
1. A multivitamin designed for the thyroid: Many minerals and vitamins are required for the proper functioning of your thyroid. You may take a good multivitamin which is designed for thyroid patients and has all these minerals and vitamins. We have developed a product called Thyroboost which takes care of the most important minerals, and vitamins which can go in a multivitamin.
2. L-carnitine: Made in the human brain, liver and kidneys, it helps the body turn fat into energy. It helps in boosting metabolism and that’s one of the big problems in the thyroid. Dr. Anshul Gupta says, “There was a 2016 study in which patients with hypothyroidism were supplemented with carnitine and had significant improvement in their fatigue. I have seen significant improvement in Hashimoto’s symptoms, especially brain fog,”
Dr. Izabella Wentz, PharmD, FASCP writes “Research has found that carnitine supplementation supports a reduction in fatigue in hypothyroid patients, as well as improves muscle weakness for both hypo- and hyperthyroid patients. (10-13). Carnitine provides these health benefits by supporting the health of our mitochondria (powerful energy factories contained within most of our cells), in a number of ways.”
Though there is some research which says that L Carnitine interferes with the thyroid gland and is not recommended for hypothyroidism.
3. Ashwagandha: Ashwagandha has been used for centuries in Ayurveda. It is known for multiple health benefits anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective, sleep-inducing and anti-anxiety.
An article in Medical News reports, “Research from 2019 shows that using a methanolic extract, such as ashwagandha, supports thyroid function by reducing oxidative stress and improving thyroid hormones.”
4. Guggulu: A popular herb in Ayurveda, it has powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Dr. Westin Childs writes, “Guggul has been proven to provide powerful effects through clinical studies to promote weight loss, balance thyroid function, and much more.”
Apart from these, you need to identify the root causes of your thyroid disorders and take herbs/supplements for the same. E.g. if you are low in zinc, you may need a higher dose of zinc. Or if you have internal inflammation or cholesterol issues, you may need Omega 3. If you have liver issues, then you may need milk thistle. Consult your dietician for the same.