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Low Thyroid (Hashimoto’s)

Low Thyroid (Hashimoto’s)

Is it my thyroid?
Over my 16 years in practice, I’ve either heard this question from my concerned patients, or thought of this gland as a cause of the symptoms many of my patients face.  It is a confusing area of hormonal health and I will give some of my experience and understanding to help clarify the health effects of thyroid imbalance and what to do about it from my naturopathic perspective.
The thyroid is a small gland that produces vital hormones for the entire body.  When there are low levels of activated thyroid hormone (called ‘T3′), the body’s reactions and functions slow down (see symptom list below) – like a thirsty and hungry construction worker, you just can’t work well without the food and drink, that is, without T3 – this is the hypothyroid state.  In contrast, when the T3 level is elevated, your awareness, heart rate, thoughts and mood are heightened – like a person who has had much too much coffee, this is like the hyperthyroid state.  Eighty percent of thyroid problems relate to a low functioning thyroid, and this is what I will mostly write about.
Symptoms & Signs of Low Functioning Thyroid (Hypothyroidism):
  • low energy, quick to exhaustion
  • sensitivity to the cold
  • weight gain and difficulty losing weight
  • weak muscles
  • mentally foggy and forgetful
  • depressed mood and possibly nervousness
  • hair loss or thinning hair
  • rough, thin, itchy, cold, acne-prone skin
  • puffy appearance
  • enlarged neck, hoarse voice
  • numbness or tingling hands and feet
  • menstrual problems
  • low libido
  • infertility
  • constipation
  • anemia
  • elevated cholesterol

Not all people with hypothyroidism show all of these signs and symptoms, but if you have 3 or more symptoms/signs from the above list, it’s worth getting your thyroid more comprehensively tested (see below).

Illnesses Related to Thyroid Imbalance:
  • Auto-immune diseases (eg: Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, Grave’s disease)
  • Pernicious Anemia
  • Celiac disease (strong senstivity to gluten-containing grains like wheat)
  • Intestinal infections (bacterial, fungal, parasitic)
  • PMS
  • Clinical depression
  • Dementia
  • Hypoglycemia
  • Chronic fatigue immuneodeficiency syndrome (CFIDS)
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Polycystic ovarian syndrome
  • Adrenal gland disease
  • Low stomach acid production (known as hypochlorhydria)
  • See other autoimmune illnesses below
Causes of Hypothyroidism:
  • Iodine deficiency
  • Excess iodine
  • Selenium deficiency
  • Zinc deficiency
  • Mercury toxicity
  • Lead toxicity
  • Excessive radiation exposure
  • Medication induced
  • Excess consumption of soybean isoflavones
  • Many other toxins (click for a more comprehensive list)
  • Impact of excessive or chronic stress
  • Other factors that disrupt immune system activation (triggering autoimmune hypothyroidism)

Naturopathic Perspectives Make sure to get comprehensively tested.  You may have an auto-immune thyroid condition so it is important to first test the thyroid antibodies (anti-TPO and anti-TG).  Those with auto-immune thyroid problems tend to be low in nutrients including iodine, selenium and zinc.  Other nutrients may also have an impact such as vitamin B12.  Many do not realize the importance of knowing if your low thyroid symptoms is due to an autoimmune condition – if it is, it is important to treat and balance your immune system so other autoimmune illnesses do not additionally develop (eg: pernicious anemia, Addison’s disease, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, premature ovarian failure, vitiligo, etc.).  Often patients will see me for help with these other autoimmune conditions and we discover that part of the root of their problems was a pre-existing autoimmune thyroid condition such as Hashimoto’s disease. Thyroid and Pregnancy Thyroid function is fundamental for pregnant women as low thyroid levels during pregnancy can lead to developmental and learning problems in the newborn baby.  Even borderline thyroid weakness in pregnancy can be problematic, this situation is called ‘subclinical hypothyroidism’ (SCH) and is found in approximately 15% of all pregnancies in the United States and 28% of those in China.  Several studies have found mixed conclusions with treating women with SCH but a  study published in the July 2016 issue of the medical journal Thyroid found that treating pregnant women with SCH led to a much less likelihood of having a low birth weight baby (16X less likely).  This study also found that APGAR scores were much better with treatment of SCH.  Studies have also found that Autism may be higher in children born from mothers who have low functioning thyroid.  Be sure to be tested before conception and at every trimester, or every 6-8 weeks if there is a history of miscarriage or presence of structural or developmental anomalies in previous pregnancies.  A naturopathic perspective can be helpful in situations of sub-optimal thyroid function, or with overt hypothyroidism.

The Diagnostic Dilemma
Millions of North Americans have an undiagnosed low functioning thyroid, however, they are not being treated.  They may have many of the symptoms, but their blood tests often are showing in the ‘normal’ range.  Unfortunately, the commonly accepted normal range may be inaccurate, since in the determination of the normal range itself includes people with hypothyroidism!  The general indicator test for thyroid function is the TSH test.  The standard normal range is from 0.4 to 5.0.  However, other studies using confirmed healthy people (who did not actually have a thyroid problem) found a more optimal range for TSH: between 0.3 to 2.0.  This is an enormous difference and explains why so many people have multiple symptoms of low thyroid function, however, because their TSH test results are interpreted with a large normal range, they are cleared of the low thyroid diagnosis and unfortunately they continue to suffer with their symptoms.  In 2002, even the American Association of Clinical Endocrinology recommended that the TSH range change to 03.-3.0 (though only up to 2.5 in the first trimester of pregnancy).  Hopefully more unanimous acceptance will happen with time.
Naturopathic Treatments
There are a number of naturopathic treatment options for low thyroid function:
To find out more or to get tested, call our office for an appointment – 905-597-7201.

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