Is it my thyroid?
Over my 13 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.
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 – 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. Similarly, 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
- elevated cholesterol
If you have 3 or more symptoms/signs from the above list, it’s worth getting your thyroid more comprehensively tested.
Illnesses Related to Thyoid Imbalance:
- Auto-immune diseases (eg: Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, Grave’s disease)
- Celiac disease (strong senstivity to gluten-containing grains like wheat)
- Clinical depression
- Chronic fatigue immuneodeficiency syndrome (CFIDS)
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome
- Adrenal gland disease
- Low stomach acid production (known as hypochlorhydria)
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
Make sure to get comprehensively tested. You may have an auto-immune thyroid condition so it is important to first test the thyroid antibodies. 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 may not realize that low thyroid levels during pregnancy can lead to developmental and learning problems in the newborn baby. 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.
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 range itself includes people with hypothyroid symptoms! The 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. Hopefully more unanimous acceptance will happen with time.
There are a number of naturopathic treatment options for low thyroid function:
- Correct nutritional deficiencies
- Change the diet (eg: remove/reduce soy and possibly other problematic foods)
- Detoxify the body of thyroid-toxic chemicals
- Specific acupuncture points can help support thyroid function and reduce symptoms
- Adrenal gland support can assist thyroid hormone activation (eg: converting the inactive T4 hormone into the active T3 hormone)
- Thyroid gland extracts
- Herbal extracts
- Referral may be necessary for thyroid medications
To find out more or to get tested, call our office for an appointment – 905-597-7201.