Hypothyroid Part 2- Alternatives
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Hypothyroid Part 2- Alternatives

In Part 1,  I wrote that a person may have to take their hypothyroid medication for the rest of their lives depending on the cause of their hypothyroidism. There is primary hypothyroid due to thyroid dysfunction. Secondary hypothyroid is due to pituitary dysfunction. Tertiary hypotheyroid is due to hypothalmic dysfunction. There is also iatrogenic, idiopathic, or congenital hyppothyroid. 

Then there is a type of thyroid dysfunction when thyroid hormone levels drop but are not representative of true hypothyroidism. This is called "Euthyroid Sick Syndrome” (ESS) or “Non-thyroidal Illness Syndrome” (NTIS). In Western medicine, NTIS/ESS is common after starvation/ malnutrition, sepsis, surgery, heart attack, bypass surgery, bone marrow transplantation, and any severe illness (DeGroot,2014). 

Western medicine may be the only option for one type of thyroid dysfunction, while an alternative approach is possible for another. A provider can assist you in determining if an alternative is feasible, safe, and above all else desirable. Having gotten that said, there are alternative views on healing the thyroid without medications. Especially in the in terms of Functional and Chinese Medicine:


  • nutrient: iron, iodine, tyrosine, zinc, selenium, vitamin E, B2, B3, B6, C, D
  • factors that increase conversion of T4 to RT3  [RT3 and T3 compete for binding sites]  • Stress • Trauma• Low-calorie diet • Inflammation (cytokines, etc.) • Toxins • Infections • Liver/kidney dysfunction • Certain medications
  • factors that inhibit proper production of thyroid hormones • Stress • Infection, trauma, radiation, medications • Fluoride (antagonist to iodine)• Toxins: pesticides, mercury, cadmium, lead • Autoimmune disease: Celiac
  • factors that increase conversion of T4 to T3 • Selenium • Zinc
  • factors that improve cellular sensitivity to thyroid hormones• Vitamin A • Exercise • Zinc

In Naturopathic medicine, low adrenal function effects the endocrine glands especially the thyroid and can manifest as hypothyroid function and sometimes hyperthyroid function. Adrenal support helps the body convert inactive T4 (e.g. the thyroid hormone in Levothyroxine) to T3 (the active form) when stress impairs this conversion.

The food remedy is a high protein diet consisting of 5-8 gms per serving. Plus supportive micronutrients: pantotenic acid/ pantheine (100mg tid), B-complex, vitamin C/bioflavanoids (up to 1000mg tid as tolerated) with vitamin E (400IU qd), magnesium glycinate or aspirate (400mg qd), zinc (25mg qd) with copper (1-2 mg qd), selenium (200 mcg qd). Supportive herbs are licorice root (gan cao), Siberian ginseng and panax ginseng, ashwaganda root and astralagus root taken two times a day. 

But the best remedy for adrenal support is restorative rest, Rest & more REST!  So my #1 prescription and measure of effectiveness of any treatment is the quality, not necessarily quantity, of sleep a patient experiences. While good sleep benefits so many maladies, the problem is usually achieving a restorative sleep state. Why is one great nap (and one good laugh) like getting a new lease on life; and poor sleep like always being behind on the lease payment?

I repeat "Adrenal support helps the body convert inactive T4 (e.g. the thyroid hormone in Levothyroxine) to T3 (the active form) when stress impairs this conversion". In Chinese medicine adrenal restoration has to do with the storage of Kidney yang qi & essence, which in turn is related to restorative sleep. On these lines, Fruehauf (2009) says " It is only during sleep that we regenerate our yang qi... Human physiology needs periods of calm more than excitement. It is not just a matter of recharging an empty battery, but to prevent a vicious cycle of energy loss. It is the job of the Kidney yang to safeguard the yang qi".

Qianyang Dan, a classical formula from the Sichuan Fire Spirit School, is formulated to make the Chinese kidney remember how to safeguard yang qi. According Fruehauf, an indication for this formula is restlessness, anxiety, and utter exhaustion with inability to fall asleep! Classical Peals makes two modern formulas based on the classical version: Guanyin Pearls  for menopausal signs due to adrenal exhaustion, and Peace Pearls  for anxiety & insomnia due to adrenal exhaustion.  

In Chinese Medicine the symptoms of hypothyroidism present with 3 patterns, here are some basics: 

1. Qi & Blood Xu (fatigue & depression, memory & concentration, constipation etc.): Tonify qi & nourish blood with Ba Zhen Tang, and acupuncture points: ST10 11 36; SP3, 6, 10; RN6, 17; UB17, LI18. 

2. Spleen & Kidney Yang Xu (cold intolerance, somnolence etc.)> Tonify SP & K yang with You Gui Wan, Zhen Wu Tang, or Yu Quan Wan family, and  acupuncture points: ST10, 11, 36; UB20, 23, 26; K2, 3; DU4, GB25 LV13, LI18. 

3. Prenatal Qi Insufficiency (growth & development etc.). Tonify K yang & strengthen SP with Liu Wei Di Huang Wan or Bu Zhong Tang, and acupuncture points: RN4, 6, 12; K3, 4; ST36, PC6, UB23, SI5, GB34.

Aromatherapy & Chinese medical theory
Here are the essential oils (EO) that benefit the Chinese Kidney (Peter Holmes LAc). See also  5-Element EO Ko & Sheng cycle chart & 5 Element Patterns:

  • K qi: cedar atlas
  • K essence: grapefruit, vetiver, lemon,
  • K yin: patchouli
  • K yang: basil, rosemary, *black spruce (with mind disharmony = anxiety)
  • Tonify Metal (mother): grand fir, siberian, pine, hemlock spruce, frankincense, rosemary, hyssop
  • Tonify Water (horary)- frankincense, black spruce, cypress, cedar atlar, juniper.
  • Sedate Wood (son): roman chamomile. 
  • Sedate Water: vetiver, patchouli, angelica (seed & root)
  • Tonify Water (K sho): black spruce, cypress
  • Sedate Earth (K sho): sandalwood, cedar atlas
  • Sedate Fire (K sho):  lime, ma chang (listea cubeba) 

Recently nursing colleagues and I did some research on over-the-counter (OTC) products or complementary & alternative medicine (CAM) that would be appropriate for thyroid dysfunctions. Shames (2012) states supplements that have been shown to normalize mild hyperthyroid in some people: carnitine (3 to 4g daily); high doses (4g daily) of quercetin, a bioflavonoid; alpha lipoic acid (500 – 600 mg daily); and isoflavones (100 mg daily). Visser & Peeters (2012) showed that vitamins / hepatic hormones D1, D2 & D3 play important roles in general thyroid hormone regulation. D2 and D3 assists in the peripheral generation and production of T3. D2 has also been localized in the human thyroid gland. D3 mediates the degradation of thyroid hormone.

For hypothyroid function, recommendations by Podell Medical Practice (2012) were  primarily dietary, because a poor diet can inhibit the conversion of inactive T4 to active T3 hormone. For example, cruciferous vegetables: cabbage, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cabbage & cauliflower can inhibit thyroid functions. As can coconut oil.  Selenium may play are role in correcting hypothyroidism. It is interesting to note that selenium content in food is highly dependent upon selenium content in soil- which is often very low. 

While a diet low in iodine inhibits hypothyroid function, hypothyroid goiter due to iodine deficiency is not endemic in the U.S., According to Bove, bladderwrack (kelp) may benefit hyperlipidemia due to hypothyroid due to its iodine content. However, Long-term kelp supplementation may lead to an overconsumption of iodine which either exacerbates hyperthyroid; or triggers signs & symptoms of hyperthyroid in otherwise euthyroid individuals. Seaweeds should be avoided in people with iodine allergy. The iodine content in kelp ranges from 16 μg/ gm to 8165 μg/ gm), a wide variation that makes intake hard to monitor.

Demarque, Jouanny, Poitevin & Saint-Jean (2007), cite homeopathic remedies for thyroid dysfunction: Spongia tosta, and Calcarea fluoric or Lodum (if thyroid nodules are present). While low dose homeopathic remedies are sold OTC, and are associated with little if any adverse reaction and virtually no drug interaction, correct dosing of the precise homeopathic remedy can be tricky. 

Like Chinese and Western Medicine, Homeopathy is a Whole Medicine System. There are many presentations for any given Western disease; the homeopathic materia medica contains thousands of classical remedies; and there are modern homeopathic approaches. So, while self-treatment is safe and effective for many common complaints, a visit to a homeopath would be ideal. Only trained homeopaths and licensed health professionals can buy and prescribe some remedies at the highest potencies. 

INTEGRATIVE MEDICINE TIP: Chinese medical theory recommends that individuals with signs of excess internal heat avoid eating seafood, particularly shellfish. Western physicians also inform their patients with hyperthyroid to avoid foods rich in iodine, such as shellfish, kelp, and iodized salt etc. 

Iodine is used by the body to make thyroid hormones. Anything that will enhance this will exacerbate hyperthyroid. Thyroid hormones are responsible for all warming metabolic functions in the body as part of the HPA-axis (hypothatlmic - pituitary/thyroid-adrenal axis). Anything that enhances this process may also exacerbate  internal heat according to a Chinese medical theory. Conversely, if a person has internal cold, then shellfish like mussels, shrimp & lobster etc. are food-as-medicine.

Bove, M. BladderwracK (Fucus vesiculosus): An overview of the research and indications. In Plant Intelligence, Professional Resources.

Brogen, K. (2015). Rethinking psychiatry: Psychoneuroimmunology and the new paradigm. In Functional Medicine University.

DeGroot, L. (2014). The Non-Thyroidal Illness Syndrome. In Thyroid Disease Manager. Retrieved from www.thyroidmanager.org.

Demarque, D., Jouanny, J., Poitevin, B. &  Saint-Jean, Y.(2007).  Pharmacology and
Homeopathy Materia Medica.   France: C.E.D.H

Fruehauf, H. (2009). An in-depth  interview with Heiner Fruehauf. In Institute for Classical Chinese Medicine. Retrieved from www.classicalchinesemedicine.org

Holmes, P.  Lecture Series. In Snow Lotus Aromatherapy.

Podell Medical Practice. (2012). Practical steps: When are hypothyroid diets, Cytomel or Armour  thyroid alternative thyroid treatments indicted?

Shames, R. (2012). Diagnostic challenges and treatment options for thyroid
conditions.  Alternative & Complementary Therapies 18(1), 8-13. doi:10.1089/act.2012.18109 

Shomon, M. (2007). Thyroid disease: All about thyroid drugs. In About.com.

Visser, T. & Peeters, P. (2012). Metabolism of thyroid hormone.  Thyroid Disease
Manager. Retrieved from www.thyroidmanager.org.

Weil, A. (2008). Best thyroid treatment: Answer. In Q&A Library. Retrieved from

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