Naturopathic treatment of Hyperthyroidism

What is Hyperthyroidism?

Hyperthyroidism occurs when thyroid hormones are being over produced by the thyroid gland. Thyroid hormones regulate metabolism in every cell of the body and therefore hyperthyroidism will affect all bodily functions.

The thyroid itself is a butterfly shaped gland that is located below the larynx- in the throat.  It is the only endocrine organ that stores it’s hormones in large quantities. The thyroid hormones include TSH (thyrotrophin) which is produced by the anterior pituitary, T3 (triidothyronine) and T4 (thyroxine).  Hyperthyroidism usually presents with low TSH and high T3/T4.

What are the symptoms of hyperthyroidism?

  • Fatigue
  • Diarrhoea
  • Heat intolerance
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Nervousness
  • Heart palpitations and tachycardia
  • Stare
  • Dilated pupils
  • Sweating
  • Tremor (seen easily with the hands held out straight)
  • Weakness
  • Weight loss despite a good appetite
  • Nausea
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Panic attacks
  • Hair loss

Possible causes of hyperthyroidism

  1. Toxic diffuse goitre or Graves’ disease, an autoimmune disease where the immune system attacks the thyroid gland causing the gland to grow and the thyroid follicles increase the synthesis of thyroid hormones. (Smoking tends to aggravate the ophthalmic (eye) symptoms.
  2. Inflammation of the thyroid nodules
  3. Stress
  4. Smoking
  5. Environmental toxicities (such as heavy metal exposure)
  6. Excessive iodine intake or iodine toxicity
  7. Excessive ingestion of thyroid hormone (due to over medication or alteration in metabolism of thyroid hormones)

Naturopathic treatment of Hyperthyroidism

  1. Herbal therapy is an important part of managing hyperthyroidism. Some of the most important herbs include Bugleweed, Lemon Balm and Motherwort – these have thyroid suppressive activity and are helpful for some of the most common symptoms such as palpitations and nervousness.   Herbs to support the nervous system and stress response may also be indicated.  A formula will be made by your Naturopath that is individualised to you.
  2. Investigate adrenal and hormonal function: The endocrine system works synergistically together and any imbalance in the thyroid may be a sign of problems elsewhere.
  3. Nutritional supplementation is also important because of the increased metabolism of nutrients as well as an increase in oxidation. Vitamin C, Vitamin E, selenium, Coenzyme Q10 and zinc are all used to support thyroid function and reduce oxidative stress.
  4. B vitamins have been found to assist in supporting the body during times of physical and mental stress.
  5. Magnesium is our relaxing mineral. It helps with nerve conduction, muscular contraction and relaxation. T also works intricately in normalising a healthy heart rhythm- especially important in hyperthyroid patients suffering from heart palpitations and tachycardia
  6. Avoid the intake of iodine rich foods such as kelp, seaweed, iodised salt, sea salt, iodates, iodides, algin, alginates, carrageen and agar agar. Other foods that contain a moderate amount of iodine include milk or dairy products (ice cream, cheese, yogurt), eggs, seafood (including fish and shellfish), and food containing red food dyes such as red or pink cereals and restaurant foods.
  7. Increase your intake of Goitrogenic foods such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, kale, mustard greens, radishes, strawberries, peaches, peanuts and spinach. These are foods which prevent the utilisation of iodine by the thyroid and contain chemicals which are similar in action to medications used to treat hyperthyroidism (to a much smaller degree). These foods need to be consumed raw as these chemicals are inactivated by cooking.  Raw cabbage or broccoli are good examples.  Soymilk that does not contain iodine, tofu or tempeh are also good options
  8. The excess production of thyroid hormones that occurs in hyperthyroidism leads to a higher metabolic rate and subsequently nutrients are depleted faster than normal. Additionally problems with digestion are also common, requiring a greater need for nutrients. Please aim to consume a nutrient dense diet, high in protein and kilojoules.  It is optimal to consume this in small frequent meals throughout the day.
  9. Protein: Aim to consume 1.2-1.6g/kg of bodyweight e.g. a 70kg person should aim to consume between 84 and 112g of protein per day, preferably in 5 small meals containing 20g of protein.
  10. Stimulants: All stimulants need to be avoided at all times.  This includes caffeine, sugar, and alcohol.
  11. Include a rainbow variety of fruit and vegetables. These brightly coloured vegetables contain high amounts of antioxidants such as vitamin C and vitamin E, which are required to combat the increase in oxidative stress that occurs in hyperthyroidism.
  12. Drink plenty of fluids: It is important to stay hydrated as increased sweating often occurs with hyperthyroidism. Good drink choices are: pure water, vegetable juices, herbal teas in particular chamomile, lemon balm, and nettle tea.
  13. Stress management: Stress has been found to be a precipitating factor for the development of Grave’s disease, with the belief that the onset of the disease often follows some kind of emotional shock. A stress management program may include deep breathing exercises, yoga, meditation and other mindfulness practices.

NOTE: Thyroid disease is a serious matter and should always be managed by your general practitioner and Naturopath.