Hypothyroidism affects approximately 5 million people in Canada, 90% of which are women. 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.
For our page on hyperthyroidism and Grave’s Disease please go here.
What are the symptoms of hypothyroidism?
The symptoms of hypothyroidism can vary and not all individuals will present in the same way.
What Causes Hypothyroidism?
Many factors can cause an under active thyroid. Women are most susceptible, especially during times of hormonal stress, for instance during menopause and pregnancy. High levels of estrogen or a deficiency of progesterone can inhibit thyroid function.
Poor nutrition and lack of exercise will also contribute to thyroid gland dysfunction. Other factors that could contribute to hypothyroidism include; low iron (anemia), chronic stress, and excessively restrictive diets. Additionally, many individuals become hypothyroid as a result of surgical or chemical treatment of hyperthyroidism.
The most common cause of hypothyroidism however, is an autoimmune condition called Hashimoto’s disease. Hashimoto’s accounts for up to 90% of hypothyroidism in North America, where iodine deficiency is rare. Evidence now suggests that dysbiosis (an imbalance of the gut’s bacterial ecosystem) and food sensitivities may contribute to Hashimoto’s, along with environmental toxins such as halogens, heavy metals, or endocrine disruptors.
How is Hypothyroidism Diagnosed?
Measuring levels of different hormones in the blood can determine if the thyroid gland is working properly. TSH is the most frequently test run, it is a hormone secreted by the pituitary gland and tells the thyroid gland to produce T3 and T4 hormones. A comprehensive thyroid panel can be run to get a broader idea of what is going on within the thyroid gland. A comprehensive thyroid panel includes TSH, the two thyroid hormones (T3 and T4), markers of thyroid autoimmunity (anti-TG and Anti-TPO), and reverse T3.
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.
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.
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.
How is hypothyroidism treated?
Naturopathic treatment can uncover the cause of hypothyroidism in your body and improve symptoms while restoring the function of the thyroid gland.
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. 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.
Desiccated thyroid hormones can also be prescribed which include both T3 and T4 hormones.
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.