Modern Day Doctor | Ancient Wisdom

Managing Hypothyroidism Naturally


  • There are many natural treatments for hypothyroidism, but there isn’t much evidence that they work. 
  • Natural treatments support thyroid function and health and should be used in conjunction with thyroid hormone treatments, not instead of. 
  • While there is no cure for hypothyroidism, symptoms can be managed with nutrition and lifestyle, dietary supplementation, and herbal treatments. However, these treatments won’t increase hormone levels. 
  • There are many natural treatments for hypothyroidism.
  • Natural remedies can be a great adjunct to traditional medical care.
  • Western Medicine states that there is no cure for hypothyroidism but in practice, we see different results depending on the etiology of the disease.  
  • Treatment plans for hypothyroidism should be customized based on the underlying cause for each individual, which will vary from person to person. 

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When the thyroid does not produce enough of the thyroid hormone it can cause it to become underactive.  This is known as “hypothyroidism”. There are a few main causes of hypothyroidism:


  • Pituitary gland dysfunction (non-Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism)
  • Lack of nutrients needed to make thyroid hormone (primary hypothyroidism)
  • Autoimmune disease (Hashimoto’s Hypothyroidism)


This article will focus on non-Hashimoto’s-types of hypothyroidism, which we will refer to simply as, “hypothyroidism”.

The thyroid hormone controls the metabolism, the process of how your body turns the food you eat into energy, which is vital for normal growth and development. It is well documented that the health of the thyroid is directly related to metabolic health. Without the thyroid hormones, metabolism isn’t as efficient. When there isn’t enough thyroid hormone in the bloodstream, metabolism can slow down. A slowed metabolism will result in a host of health issues: 

Symptoms of hypothyroidism may include:

  • Fatigue
  • Brain fog
  • Weight gain
  • Digestive issues
  • Depression
  • Hair loss
  • Dry skin
  • Heavy or irregular menstrual cycles
  • Sleep issues
  • Issues regulating body temperature
  • Bone loss


The health of the foods we eat is crucial to a well-functioning thyroid and keeping the risk for thyroid disease low. If you’ve already developed hypothyroidism, eating nutrient-dense foods is key for managing symptoms and accompanying health issues. Studies show that a diet rich in iodine, selenium, iron, zinc, and vitamins B12, and D3, lean meats, and healthy fats can have a beneficial impact on hypothyroid symptoms.  You can find those nutrients in our Basic Supplement Starter Pack.

NDs will evaluate if nutritional deficiencies are causing your symptoms. They may also recommend repair and restoration of gut health using probiotics, fermented foods, and eliminating sugar and starch to decrease inflammation, strengthen immunity, and balance hormone function. 


Studies show that iodine deficiency causes hypothyroidism. Iodine is one of the main building blocks of thyroid hormones T4 and T3. The other building clock is the amino acid, Tyrosine. If there is an iodine deficiency, thyroid hormone metabolism will be hampered and T4 and T3 will be decreased. T3 and T4 are essential for normal metabolism. Without enough iodine, these thyroid hormones are not synthesized, which then negatively impacts your metabolism and in turn, your overall health and well-being. 



Iodine occurs naturally in the ocean and the soil. Therefore, the best sources of iodine are found in animal protein foods and sea vegetables: 

  • Seafood
  • Meat & Poultry (including liver)
  • Eggs
  • Yogurt, milk, cheese (however, dairy is not necessarily a food we like to promote when healing your thyroid)
  • Edible seaweed (nori, kelp, dulse, algae, spirulina, chlorella)
  • Sea salt or Iodized salt
  • Prunes
  • Beans  

Studies show that excess iodine can not only induce a hyperthyroid state.  It can also suppress thyroid function and cause hypothyroidism.  This is one reason it is important to work with a professional instead of taking supplements because of something you read online.


Selenium is crucial to thyroid health. The presence of this mineral is responsible for the production and regulation of thyroid hormones. The thyroid stores selenium within the gland itself for this purpose. Studies show a direct correlation between selenium deficiency and thyroid disease. Maintaining a healthy concentration of selenium in the thyroid is imperative to preventing thyroid disease, but also for overall health and well-being. 

Selenium-rich Foods

Keeping a good balance of selenium is easy by incorporating foods that are rich in the mineral. Selenium-rich foods include:

  • Brazil nuts
  • Seafood
  • Organ meats
  • Beef 
  • Poultry
  • Pork
  • Eggs
  • Whole Grains (ideally gluten-free varieties)
  • Legumes, like beans and lentils

Your ND can test you to see if additional selenium supplementation is necessary for you. Selenium can be toxic in high doses and fatal at extreme doses so it is crucial to get the support you need when supplementing. 


Vitamin B-12 is another essential vitamin that is essential for the synthesis of thyroid hormones. Without it, the conversion of the thyroid T4 to T3 cannot happen. According to NIH, vitamin B12 deficiency and hypothyroidism are directly linked. When vitamin B12 has been restored, hypothyroid symptoms, like fatigue, improve significantly.

Foods high in Vitamin B12

Protein-rich foods will offer the highest amount of vitamin B12. Animal products, like red meat, seafood, and poultry are the best sources of vitamin B12: 

  • Meat and poultry, including organ meats, like liver
  • Seafood (clams, salmon, tuna, sardines, etc)
  • Eggs
  • Greek yogurt (there are nondairy unsweetened alternatives by Cocojune or Forager). 
  • Legumes
  • Nutritional yeast (vegan)

It can be more difficult to get adequate vitamin B12 from plant-based sources. Fortified cereals, nut milk that are fortified, and nutritional yeast may be your best bet. Some sea vegetables, like nori, contain small amounts of B12, as do soy products, like tempeh. But more likely than not, vegans and vegetarians may need to supplement to get adequate vitamin B12. Talk to your ND about whether or not additional vitamin supplementation would benefit you.



Studies show a strong link between vitamin D deficiency and low levels of Thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). TSH is the hormone, from the brain, that tells the thyroid to produce T4 and T3, which control metabolism. Without TSH, the thyroid won’t produce the hormones T3 & T4 needed to convert food into energy. Research shows that when patients with hypothyroidism are supplemented with vitamin D, their TSH levels improve. 

Vitamin D is more than just a nutrient. It is also a hormone made by the body, as well as an immune system regulator. Known as the “sunshine vitamin,” Vitamin D is produced specifically when the body is exposed to sunlight. If you have hypothyroidism, you may benefit from 30 minutes of direct sunlight daily (without sunblock! Sunblock blocks the beneficial sun rays from penetrating to make Vitamin D). We recommend doing this outside of the hours 10-2 pm so you don’t burn. It is important though to get sun when your shadow is shorter than you for the sun to be strong enough to create Vitamin D.

Dietary sources of Vitamin D

Consuming Vitamin D-rich foods or supplementing is usually necessary for maintaining healthy levels of Vitamin D these days. The best sources of vitamin D in food include:

  • Cod liver oil
  • Fish, especially salmon, sardines, tuna and swordfish
  • Egg yolks (eat the entire egg!)
  • Beef liver
  • Mushrooms (especially white mushrooms)
  • Dairy products
  • Fortified foods and drink

Your ND can let you know if you need further vitamin D supplementation. 

When antioxidant levels in the body are low, it can cause something called “oxidative stress”. Oxidative stress is when free radicals are out of balance with antioxidants, which can cause damage to the cells, tissues, and organs. Hypothyroidism is linked to high levels of oxidative stress. In fact, according to NIH, “hypothyroidism is a state of oxidative stress”, meaning, hypothyroidism itself can cause free radical damage when left untreated. 

Studies show when patients with hypothyroidism include a regimen of antioxidants, their symptoms improve. When antioxidants are present in abundance, they prevent free radicals from forming and multiplying, thereby preventing oxidative stress and improving immune function. 


Many foods are plush with antioxidants. Most plant foods, especially herbs and spices, are chock-full. Antioxidant-rich foods to incorporate into your diet include:

  • Berries (blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, goji berries, cranberries)
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Dark, leafy greens, like kale and spinach and cruciferous veggies
  • Mushrooms
  • Dark chocolate (or cocoa and cacao)
  • Avocados
  • Apples
  • Green tea
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Pumpkin
  • Beans, lentils, and other legumes

Eating foods the color of a rainbow will ensure you’re getting decent amounts of antioxidants will help reduce oxidative stress, and optimize your thyroid and immune function. 

The amino acid, Tyrosine, is one of the main building blocks of the thyroid hormones, along with iodine, the other building block. These 2 substances are responsible for normal thyroid hormone metabolism. Tyrosine is naturally produced by the body, while iodine must be consumed. Tyrosine couples up with iodine to synthesize the thyroid hormones T3 and T4. Without it, these hormones cannot be created, and the thyroid malfunctions, which will cause cell damage and hurt nearly every organ in your body. 

Tyrosine-rich foods

While tyrosine is a non-essential amino acid- meaning, your body will create it on its own, having a daily diet that includes foods rich in Tyrosine will help your body have what it needs to have what it needs to optimize thyroid function. Like all amino acids, the best sources to get these all-important building blocks to life are protein-rich foods:

  • Eggs
  • Meat, poultry, seafood
  • Dairy products, like milk and yogurt
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Soybeans


The quality of microbes in the gut will impact immune response, hormone regulation, and nutrient absorption of the essential minerals necessary for optimal thyroid health– selenium and iodine, as well as zinc and iron. According to NIH, digestive health and the thyroid are highly correlated. Not only is there a gut-brain axis, but there is a gut-thyroid axis. 

The health of the gut microbiome affects all systems of the body, and the connection to the thyroid is no exception. The gut is intricately connected to the brain through the gut-brain axis- a communication highway between the gut and your central nervous system. What happens in the gut affects the messages your brain receives for cognitive, hormone, and emotional function, and more.  When the gut is in poor health, it can’t send the right signals to the brain to do the many jobs it’s responsible for, like signaling for hormone synthesis and regulation, including the thyroid hormones. 

Studies also show a link between intestinal bacterial overgrowth and hypothyroidism. We can rebalance the quality and diversity of the microbes in our microbiome by consuming foods that contain probiotics– the live and active bacteria and yeasts that become the healthy flora in the gut. Doing so is not a treatment for hypothyroidism, but by restoring the balance of healthy microbes and healing the gut lining, your body will be able to absorb essential nutrients and thyroid medications to make living with hypothyroidism more manageable. 

Probiotic Foods

Fermented foods are the best sources of naturally occurring probiotics. Fermented foods contain live and active cultures that support the balance of healthy microbes in the gut. 

Foods considered probiotics are typically fermented and include:

  • Yogurt
  • Kefir
  • Sauerkraut
  • Kimchi
  • Kombucha
  • Pickles
  • Miso
  • Tempeh
  • Sourdough bread

If you are interested in getting a comprehensive stool analysis to check your gut microbiome for any overgrowth of bacterial organisms that can contribute to thyroid dysfunction, contact us. These tests are very thorough in that they check for bacterial overgrowth, commensal strains (think the “good guys”), parasites, candida, inflammatory/autoimmune bacteria, pancreatic enzyme production, inflammation markers, the immune system in your gut and so much more. 


Medical treatments and lifestyle modifications can make life with hypothyroidism much more manageable. Lifestyle factors will either support hypothyroidism treatments or hinder them, as well as your overall well-being. 

Studies have shown lifestyle factors do indeed influence thyroid function. What daily choices and routines complement thyroid treatments and overall health the most? Lifestyle factors that have the most impact on thyroid health include: 


Nutrition: What you put into your body matters, not just for thyroid health, but for overall health and wellbeing. Vitamins, minerals, protein, fiber, and antioxidants will complement the thyroid treatments and make them more effective.


Exercise: Whether you have a thyroid condition or not exercise should be a regular part of your lifestyle. The benefits of exercise can’t be counted and should be made part of everyone’s daily routine, especially if you have an underactive thyroid. 


Sleep: According to NIH, quality of sleep is one of the major contributing factors to disruptions of the endocrine system and thyroid hormone levels. Hypothyroidism may cause sleep issues like trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. On the flip side, poor sleep habits could cause hormone disruptions, putting one at greater risk for hypothyroidism. Ensuring good sleep hygiene will complement any thyroid treatments. 


Stress management: Like sleep, stress, especially chronic stress will negatively impact your hormone health. Hypothyroidism can cause stress, as stress is a contributing factor to hypothyroidism. Learning how to effectively manage stress will help with hormone balance. Exercise, sleep, meditation, breathing techniques, laughter, and fulfilling hobbies are all ways to combat stress when it arises.   


Alcohol Use: Studies show that alcohol use impacts thyroid function in several ways. Alcohol causes cellular toxicity, which directly and indirectly suppresses thyroid function. Not only that, alcohol also causes deterioration of the gut lining, leading to inflammation and digestive issues. Thyroid treatment will be much more effective without the use of alcohol. 


Smoking: Like alcohol, smoking harms thyroid function in multiple ways. Research shows that not only does smoking affect the TSH and other thyroid hormone levels, but it also causes an immune response, putting one at greater risk for thyroid disease. Eliminate the use of cigarettes to enhance thyroid treatment and overall health. 


Regular exercise is an important component of a well-rounded treatment plan for hypothyroidism. Studies show that habitual physical activity combined with thyroid treatment can help manage symptoms, weight, energy levels, and overall quality of life in someone with an underactive thyroid. Regular movement compliments thyroid treatment in the following ways:

  • Reduces and helps manage stress
  • Improves sleep
  • Increases energy and lifts the mood
  • Reduces anxiety and depression
  • improves muscle mass and body composition
  • Promotes cardiovascular health
  • Prevents constipation 
  • Supports weight management

However, not all exercise is created equal when living with hypothyroidism. Since exercise does create stress on the body, and stress can disrupt the function of the thyroid, some exercises are better than others when it comes to hypothyroidism. In general, a variety of low-impact, strength, and flexibility exercises are recommended:

  • Yoga
  • Tai Chi
  • Pilates
  • Swimming
  • Biking
  • Walking
  • Elliptical
  • Strength and resistance training

 Generally high-impact, high-intensity workouts are not recommended for people with hypothyroidism because it creates too much stress on the body, which will negate many health benefits. 


Stress contributes to hypothyroidism by slowing down the production of thyroid hormones. When stress is chronic, the disruption of the thyroid hormone process is also chronic, causing symptoms like slowed metabolic processes, low energy, and weight gain, which by themselves create more stress. And the cycle continues. Studies show that even perceived stress can harm thyroid function. 

Stress management is an essential component of good thyroid health, whether or not you are being treated for hypothyroidism. The goal of stress management is to not only eliminate the stressors but also to improve the body’s ability to handle incoming stressors. Strategies include any technique that promotes relaxation and activates the body’s natural ability to calm the central nervous system, reduce stress, boost mood, and improve physical health. 

Practices that have been proven to reduce and manage stress include:

  • Mindfulness practices, such as deep breathing & meditation
  • Mind-body practices, such as yoga, Tai Chi, or qigong
  • Regular, repetitive physical activity such as walking, swimming, biking
  • Good, recuperative sleep to promote the body’s natural ability to heal and replenish energy reserves
  • A regular diet that includes nutrient-dense foods promotes blood sugar stability and optimizes the gut microbiome so it can send the right signals to the brain. 


In general, the best diet for someone with hypothyroidism is one that contains plenty of vegetables, fruit, fiber, protein, and healthy fats, while also being low in refined sugar & carbohydrates, alcohol, and processed foods. However, there are some foods and substances that should be avoided or consumed with caution when you have hypothyroidism. 

Gluten. There are marked benefits to hypothyroid symptoms and lab results when gluten is eliminated from the diet. Gluten intolerance and hypothyroidism are linked in several ways. Research shows a correlation between celiac disease and hypothyroidism, as gluten has been shown to cause a deterioration in the gut lining, leading to an immune response. It has also been shown to impact thyroid hormone levels in the blood. 

Cruciferous vegetables.  Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, kale, and cabbage can affect how the body absorbs iodine. For this reason, it may be recommended to limit these foods, especially in raw form. They are super healthy foods so try to eat them cooked if you can. 

Alcohol. According to NIH, alcohol consumption disrupts the body’s ability to produce thyroid hormones and has a toxic effect on the thyroid itself. 

Processed/high sodium foods. Highly processed, high-sodium foods are a danger to those with hypothyroidism because of their impact on heart health. People with hypothyroidism are already at an increased risk of heart disease. Adding fuel to the fire, such as with highly processed, high-sodium meals, with seed oils,  will only exacerbate this risk. 

According to the Mayo Clinic, certain foods and supplements can interfere with the effectiveness of thyroid medications and should be consumed with caution. It is recommended that you abstain from eating the following foods at or near the time you take hypothyroid medications:

  • Coffee
  • Walnuts
  • Cottonseed meal
  • Soy
  • Supplements with iron or calcium 
  • Antacids

Certain other medications, such as those for cholesterol and ulcers should be taken with caution, as these meds can interfere with thyroid medicines.

Everyone is different, and foods that work for one person, may not be right for another. Work with your naturopath to identify the best diet for you and your current state of health. 


Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, kale, and cabbage are nutrient-dense– filled with health-promoting vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. When it comes to hypothyroidism there is some controversy around these foods because they contain “goitrogens”. Goitrogens are substances that can interfere with thyroid function by blocking the absorption of iodine from the blood– one of the main building blocks of thyroid hormones. The thought is, that eating these foods will suppress thyroid function. 

Consuming cruciferous vegetables would pose a risk if there is an iodine deficiency. But if you are following your treatment plan and working with your ND to ensure your iodine levels are normal, most people shouldn’t be concerned. 

The health benefits far outweigh the dangers of cruciferous vegetables. Still, there are a few things you can do to reduce your risk further:

  • Cook your cruciferous vegetables to decrease the goitrogenic properties. 
  • Ensure you are getting enough iodine in your diet. 
  • Avoid juicing with cruciferous vegetables, as juicing provides a concentrated amount of the food and its properties. 


There are 3 main concerns when it comes to consuming soy with an underactive thyroid: 

  1. Soy is a goitrogen. At high levels, goitrogens can prevent the body from absorbing iodine, a crucial component of thyroid hormone production. 
  2. Most soy is GMO and soy isolates are not healthy.
  3. Soy can interfere with thyroid medication absorption, according to research

If you are being treated for hypothyroidism, work with your ND to ensure you have healthy levels of iodine. Also, enjoy soy as part of a healthy diet by timing it right. Abstain from eating any foods containing soy until at least 1 hour after taking your medications. 


1. What not to eat in hypothyroidism?

A diet low in sugar, starch, refined carbohydrates, and processed foods will help keep down inflammation in someone with hypothyroidism. Some people should avoid gluten or other foods. Since everyone is different, and everyone’s hypothyroid may be caused by something different, it’s important to know if any foods specifically trigger a thyroid response in you. Finding a naturopathic doctor to customize a plan based on food allergies, sensitivities, gut health, and immune health is the best way to know for sure which foods to stay away from to ensure a healthy thyroid. 

2. Is there an over-the-counter treatment for hypothyroidism?

Currently, there are no over-the-counter medications for hypothyroidism. However, there are supplements and herbal medicines available that can support treatment plans. It is important to work with a doctor who will identify the root cause of an underactive thyroid– the causes will be different for each person. NDs are trained specifically to look for the root cause, and then design a treatment plan that may include a combination of lifestyle modifications, supplements, herbal medicine, and conventional treatments. 

3. What is a thyroid belly?

Hypothyroidism causes a slowdown in metabolism, which much of the time results in weight gain among patients. Studies show hypothyroidism causes an increase in visceral fat– the type of fat that is stored in the midsection, resulting in what some refer to as a “thyroid belly”. Visceral fat is considered to be the most dangerous fat because it is stored in and around abdominal organs, compromising their function. The best way to combat a “thyroid belly” is to eat nutrient-dense foods, get regular, daily movement, manage stress, and work with your ND to manage your hypothyroid. 

5. Can hypothyroidism cause dizziness?

Hypothyroidism can result in various symptoms, including dizziness, vertigo, and hearing loss. Hypothyroidism has also been linked to Meniere’s Disease, a condition that causes dizziness and spinning due to fluid buildup in the inner ear. If you experience dizzy spells, talk with your naturopath to figure out exactly what is causing them and to come up with the right treatment plan for you based on your symptoms. 

6. What types of therapies do ND’s use for hypothyroidism?

 NDs use many different therapies to help folks with hypothyroidism.  First and foremost they assess nutrient levels and work with diet and supplements to enhance deficiencies.  They also use homeopathic and herbal medicines to help the thyroid, liver, adrenals, and white body.  They work with mind-body techniques to help manage stress. Lastly, they use hydrotherapy to help increase vitality and elimination.  


Hypothyroidism is a condition that causes the thyroid gland to slow down and underperform. The thyroid controls metabolism and is connected to the functioning of every major organ. If left untreated, an underactive thyroid can cause some serious symptoms and health issues. Symptoms may include a slowed metabolism, weight gain, fatigue, hair loss, constipation, and more. The cause for a low-performing thyroid may not be the same for everyone. The naturopathic approach is to first look at what is causing the thyroid to malfunction. Based on that information, an ND will utilize a range of natural, holistic strategies to address the root cause, including lifestyle changes, supplementation, and herbal treatments. Each treatment plan is customized to suit the individual needs of the patient This approach allows the thyroid to heal and restore function while giving the patient health and well-being to live a healthy life. If you are experiencing symptoms of hypothyroidism, talk with your naturopath to discover the best approach for your case.

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