Thyroid conditions are one of the most common reasons patients come to see naturopathic doctors. Conventional medicine has a limited approach when it comes to treating thyroid issues. Even though the thyroid is such an important part of overall health, many patients are left thinking they don’t have many options. This isn’t the case as there are several naturopathic options for treating thyroid issues.
What is the Thyroid Gland?
The thyroid is a gland that sits in your throat and plays a major role in your energy levels and metabolism. Years ago, it was discovered that North American diets were too low in iodine, an important nutrient required for your thyroid to work. This is exactly why table salt has iodine added to it, to ensure proper thyroid function and prevent goiters.
When the thyroid is functioning well, the body can regulate your temperature, and your energy levels are normal. When the thyroid isn’t functioning properly, it can cause problems with your energy levels, your weight, your skin and hair, and even your mood and menstrual cycle. The thyroid gland can either not work well enough, called hypothyroidism, or it can work too hard, called hyperthyroidism.
Hypothyroidism is when your thyroid gland isn’t working as well as it should. If you have hypothyroidism, you might have some of the following symptoms:
- Easy weight gain or trouble losing weight
- Feeling cold all the time
- Inability to tolerate cold weather
- Hair loss, especially at the ends of your eyebrows
- Low mood
The main lab test for thyroid function is thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH). When your TSH is high, it means your brain is trying to stimulate your thyroid to work better and you have hypothyroidism. From a naturopathic medicine perspective you can still have hypothyroidism even if your TSH is normal.
Hypothyroidism may be a result of high-stress, iodine deficiency, or an autoimmune disorder called Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. If you have other autoimmune diseases, your chance of developing a thyroid condition goes up.
Hyperthyroidism is when your thyroid gland is over-functional. This is less common than hypothyroidism, but still relatively common, and symptoms include the following:
- Increased energy
- Weight loss no matter how much you eat
- Feeling hot all the time
- Racing heart
Hyperthyroidism is most commonly caused by Graves’ disease, which is an autoimmune condition.
Proper diagnosis of what is causing your thyroid condition is a critical step on the way to health. Conventional testing usually measures TSH only, and if your TSH is in range, no further testing is suggested.
Naturopathic doctors aren’t satisfied with just the TSH numbers, especially when there are symptoms present. We often test a whole panel of thyroid markers, including some or all of the following:
- Free T4, a precursor to active thyroid hormone
- Free T3, the active form of thyroid hormone
- Anti-thyroid peroxidase antibodies, an autoimmune marker
- Reverse T3, a storage form of thyroid hormone
Testing in this comprehensive way will help give a more complete picture of what is going on, and give a much clearer direction for treatment.
How do Naturopathic Doctors Treat Thyroid Conditions?
Western medicine doctors tend to treat hypothyroidism most commonly with a prescription for a synthetic form of thyroid hormone. Many patients find that such a prescription is not enough to address all of their symptoms and then choose to turn to naturopathic medicine as a way to increase their energy and get their hormones functioning in a healthy and balanced way.
Naturopathic doctors have many tools to help patients with thyroid conditions feel better. Sometimes adding in other forms of thyroid hormone can help bring up energy levels where Synthroid fails. Desiccated thyroid and compounded T3 are two ways of doing this, but aren’t usually a first choice. Thyroid health is dependent on the health of the whole hypothalamic -pituitary – adrenal system. Supporting our adrenal glands, with herbs and stress management strategies can make a big difference.
If you have Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, it’s possible that undiscovered food allergies are making it worse. Hypothyroidism is a problem with your thyroid gland, Hashimoto’s is a problem with your immune system. Finding those foods and removing them from your diet can help increase energy, and assist with weight loss, additionally stress, sleep, nutrient status and inflammation should all be considered. Supplementation with micronutrients like selenium can help, as can making sure you have sufficient levels of iodine.
Want to find out for yourself how naturopathic medicine can help you with your thyroid condition? Book your complimentary 15 minute consult today to find out how we can help you attain your health goals.