Your thyroid gland sits in front of your neck, right below your voice box. It releases hormones that control your metabolism. Hypothyroidism means that your thyroid isn’t producing as much hormone as it should.
Hypothyroidism is on the rise in the population in general, but it is still more common in older women. See if you recognize yourself in any of the following symptoms:
- Sensitivity to cold
- Difficulty concentrating
- Depression, fatigue, and/or weakness
- Heavy menstrual bleeding
- Joint/muscle pain
- Thinning eyebrows, brittle hair or fingernails
- Unintentional weight gain
Factors that influence hypothyroidism include high stress (because when the adrenals collapse, the thyroid tries to compensate for the lack of energy), deficiency in the nutritional precursors necessary to produce thyroid hormone, certain drugs (including amiodarone and lithium), and toxicity, especially heavy metal toxicity. Hypothyroidism is also frequently due to inflammation of the thyroid gland, which may be viral or autoimmune.
There is some disagreement between the naturopathic and the traditional medical community over which lab tests ought to be run for hypothyroidism and how they ought to be interpreted. Most traditional doctors will run TSH only, or occasionally T4. TSH is the hormone produced in your brain that tells your thyroid to produce actual thyroid hormone, which is T4.
Naturopathic doctors believe that these tests alone could be misleading. Basically, there are several places where the production of thyroid hormone can go wrong: in the brain, in the thyroid, or in the rest of the body. TSH and even T4 can look normal in patients exhibiting clear hypothyroid symptoms. An accurate diagnosis may require several additional tests.
Additionally, I interpret the TSH values not based on the accepted normal range, but based on clinical presentation. Naturopathic doctors like to see TSH significantly lower than the accepted range in the traditional medical community.
This typically focuses on replacement of thyroid hormone only.
THE NATUROPATHIC APPROACH
While we may resort to thyroid hormone replacement therapy as well, we don’t usually start there.
First, it’s critical to ensure adequate nutrition, particularly of those precursors necessary for production of thyroid hormone and for its activation in the rest of the body. There are also botanicals that may jump-start a sluggish thyroid. For many patients, this alone is sufficient to reverse mild hypothyroidism.
Next, we have to look at the adrenals. This is one of those conditions where stress plays a major role. The adrenals need to be stabilized before treating the thyroid. Stress management techniques are also critical here!
If this doesn’t take care of the problem, we’ll need to assess whether you have antibodies against your thyroid. If you do, several other tests may be necessary in order to determine the root cause.
When necessary, there are natural thyroid medications derived from animal thyroid glands. These are generally considered to be superior to the isolated T4 hormone found in pharmaceuticals, because natural thyroid also contains the full spectrum of thyroid hormones (T1, T2, T3, T4, and calcitonin) in order to stabilize the effects of T4. Some patients find that natural thyroid medication works much better than the isolated pharmaceutical version.
There may be angles to supporting your thyroid that you have not tried. Let us work with you to find your best approach.