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Hypothyroidism affects about 5 million people in Canada, 90% of which are women. An underactive thyroid causes the body’s metabolic rate to slow down. The thyroid gland is the body’s internal thermostat. The thyroid hormones T3 and T4 control how quickly the body burns calories and uses energy. If the thyroid secretes too much hormone, hyperthyroidism results; whereas not enough thyroid hormone results in hypothyroidism. Thyroid problems can cause many recurring illnesses and fatigue. Thyroid treatment such as replacement hormone is often not even prescribed to patients suffering with hypothyroidism symptoms in the conventional medical system. The basic screenings completed in most blood assessments have left a virtual epidemic of undertreated hypothyroidism in Canada
An autoimmune condition called Hashimoto’s disease is an extremely common cause of underactive thyroid. Evidence now suggests that dysbiosis and food antigen response may contribute to this condition, along with environmental toxins such as halogens, heavy metals, or endocrine disruptors. Many individuals become hypothyroid as a result of surgical or chemical treatment of hyperthyroidism.
Subclinical hypothyroidism is also gaining a lot of attention. Individuals with subclinical hypothyroidism exhibit the signs of hypothyroidism, yet blood values for Triiodothyronine (T3) and Thyroxine (T4) are normal.
Thyroid treatment | What are the symptoms of hypothyroidism?
The symptoms of an underactive thyroid disease can vary and not all individuals will present in the same way.
- Frequently feeling cold or having an intolerance for cold temperatures
- Unexplained weight gain or an inability to lose weight
- Unexplained fatigue or lethargy
- Increased need to sleep
- Unhealthy and splitting nails
- Dry and scaly skin
- Brittle and coarse hair
- Hair loss from the head and outer eyebrows
- Decreased memory or concentration
- Irregular menses or heavy menstrual bleeding
- Decreased libido
- Yellow-orange coloration in the skin particularly the palms of the hands and soles of the feet
- Lack or diminished ability to sweat during exercise
- Muscle weakness and cramps
- Elevated cholesterol
Thyroid treatment | What causes hypothyroidism?
Many factors cause an underactive thyroid. Women are most susceptible, especially during times of hormonal stress for instance during menopause and pregnancy. High levels of estrogen or a converse deficiency of progesterone inhibits thyroid function. Most cases of hypothyroidism are due to lack of iodine in the diet. Poor nutrition and lack of exercise will also contribute to thyroid gland dysfunction. Some studies suggest that ingestion of excess fluoride from drinking water and toothpaste may inhibit thyroid gland function.
How is hypothyroidism diagnosed?
Several diagnostic tests may be completed to get the most accurate picture of your thyroid health.
Measuring levels of different hormones in the blood can determine if the thyroid gland is working properly. A blood test is used to measure the levels of the thyroid antibodies(anti TG and anti TPO), thyroid hormones (free T3 and free T4), and thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). TSH is secreted by the pituitary gland and in turn helps regulate thyroid hormone production. Even a modest increase in TSH has been proven to accelerate weight gain and to interfere with healthy metabolic rate in both men and women.
Adrenocortex stress profile
The health of the adrenal glands may be assessed through urine and saliva to determine the levels of cortisol and DHEA in the body. These adrenal hormones influence thyroid function. A deficiency of DHEA and abnormal amounts of the stress hormone cortisol may inhibit thyroid hormone function.
Dried Urine Iodine.
This test which is equivalent to a 24 hour urine iodine value with a lot less hassle, is an accurate marker of iodine status. Especially in women of reproductive age, iodine deficiency is epidemic. The iodine forms currently added to salt are poorly absorbed thus women of reproductive age often are iodine deficient. This simple test can assess your levels of iodine accurately.
This test can help identify deficiencies in minerals such as iodine, selenium, and zinc, which are needed in the production of the thyroid hormones. It will also measure the levels of mercury and other toxic heavy metals in the body. Mercury fillings in the mouth or consuming large amounts of mercury-laden ocean fish may inhibit thyroid gland function.
Basal body temperature
Functional thyroid activity, as indicated by basal metabolic rate, can be estimated by measuring basal body temperature. A temperature of 97.6 F or lower may indicate an underactive thyroid.
Thyroid treatment | What is the Naturopathic treatment plan for hypothyroidism?
A naturopathic treatment plan can reverse hypothyroidism and restore the function of the thyroid gland. During the visit, the patient’s urine sample will be collected in order to check for levels of mercury and adrenal function. The other diagnostic tests mentioned above may be ordered for further testing.
Treatments often involve diet changes, supplements, and an exercise program.
Foods high in iodine, selenium, zinc, and vitamin A, which are needed for thyroid hormone production are essential. A heavy metal detoxification program may be suggested if the hair and urine analysis shows high levels of toxic heavy metals.
Alternatives to the use of thyroid hormone, Synthroid, may be provided in the form of supplements, herbs, and glandular extracts. An exercise regime may be implemented to stimulate thyroid gland secretion and increase tissue sensitivity to thyroid hormone. Stress management techniques and supplements to address cortisol levels may also be suggested.
Overall, thyroid disease has an enormous effect on overall well being and health as the thyroid hormones are basically the metabolic drivers of the body. Though each patient has a different optimal level for thyroid function, once this is found, the results can be far reaching; improving energy, hormones, fertility, health, mood and metabolism.
References for this article
- Pizzorno, J. and Murray, M. Textbook of Natural Medicine. 2nd Edition. 1999. Turner, N. The Hormone Diet. 2009.