Your Thyroid May be Talking but Are You Listening?


June is Thyroid Awareness Month in Canada!

According to the Thyroid Foundation of Canada, recent studies indicate that 1 in 10 Canadians suffer from a thyroid condition of one type or another, and that of those, as many as 50% are undiagnosed. And around the world, as many as 200 million people suffer from thyroid disease.

Thyroid disorders are amongst the most undiagnosed and misdiagnosed disorders in Canada. While many physicians are now looking at the thyroid, it still often goes unexamined or looked at as a culprit for other symptoms and disease states as thyroid disorders come on slowly and often the symptoms can be vague and ambiguous.

In the cases where doctors test the thyroid, it is always done through a blood test that checks for TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) levels. A high TSH level indicates that the thyroid gland is not producing sufficient amounts of T4 (thyroxine) and T3 (triiodothyronine). This leads to the condition of hypothyroidism, or underperformance of the thyroid gland. On the other end of the spectrum, a low TSH level indicates that the TG is making too much T4 and T3. This leads to the condition of hyperthyroidism, or overperformance of the thyroid gland.

What is the Thyroid?

The thyroid is a gland that is located at the front of the neck, consisting of a right and left lobe that blankets the front of the upper airway in the throat area.

Click on the adjacent image to view a larger picture of the thyroid gland and its location in the throat area.

What are the symptoms of a thyroid imbalance?

Because the thyroid can affect the normal performance of numerous systems with the human body, the list of symptoms is quite large and sometimes it is very difficult to determine whether a thyroid condition exists or not. It is always advised that you seek the guidance from a licensed health professional, like your medical doctor, or a licensed Naturopathic Doctor, if you believe you may have a thyroid condition.

Here is a point-form list of symptoms of a thyroid imbalance:

  • Excess fatigue
  • Lower than average body temperature
  • Unexplained weight gain
  • Constipation
  • Brain-related issues including memory problems, lack of focus and concentration
  • For women, a change in their period where it is very heavy or missed in some cases
  • Dry, brittle hair and nails
  • Hair loss
  • Dry, rough, or itchy skin
  • Sore muscles and joints
  • Depression
  • A general feeling of being “unwell” regardless if your physician says you are fine

Will a Naturopathic Doctor request the same testing as my MD?

The quick answer is YES, but of course this will depend on the Naturopathic Doctor and the MD that you are working with.

Generally speaking, NDs use a different range to determine a naturopathic diagnosis of hypo or hyperthyroidism. If a report has a TSH reading of 3 or above, an ND may diagnose ‘probable hypothyroidism’, where a MD would not consider anything until the TSH level reaches above 5, and therefore would not even consider treatment.

NDs also have a tendency to assess T4 and T3 levels alongside TSH. This is because the ND will typically have a ‘wider lens’ and also consider other possible medical conditions, aside from the thyroid condition itself. In a nutshell, NDs will have more of a HOLISTIC approach.

Are there any natural things that I can do that will not have any side effects before I book an appointment with a Naturopathic Doctor?

From the natural health side of things, yes, there are many things you can do to help your body if you suspect a thyroid condition, however, please note that you should never use “Dr. Google” as your guide to determining if you have a thyroid imbalance or not. ALWAYS seek the expertise and guidance from a medical physician or Naturopathic Doctor.

From a natural perspective, what you are looking at are easy and simple things that you can incorporate into your daily life that will help you to balance your body, and give it the energy it needs to recover and heal.

A Natural Approach to Balancing Your Thyroid

  • Avoid foods that are processed, contain preservatives, and have sugar added, as all these substances can put excess burden and actually harm the body, including the liver, thyroid, and adrenal glands.
  • Consume a whole foods nutrient rich diet that consists of organic vegetables, some fruits, beans, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and organic animal products such as eggs and meat.
  • People with low thyroid function (hypothyroidism) should reduce eating foods that contain goitrogens which are found in cabbage, brussel sprouts, kale, mustard, cauliflower, peanuts, turnips, spinach and soy.
  • Consume foods that contain the trace mineral iodine which can be found in sea salt, seaweed, beans, nuts, swiss chard, onions, and garlic.
  •  Reduce your stress levels naturally; go for more walks in nature, meditate more often, listen to calming music, or close your eyes for 5-minutes and create the most beautiful visualizations in your mind.
  •  Get better quality sleep! Your sleep is so important to your health. Do you best to get on a proper sleep regimen and make sure that you sleep in the dark.
  •  Take natural supplements like B-vitamins, omega 3 oils, iron, vitamin D, selenium, zinc, copper, and chromium.

Dr. Valerie Penton-Power, MSc, ND

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