Hypothyroidism is a common hormonal disorder classified by under activity of the thyroid gland to produce thyroid hormones that maintain a healthy metabolism. This can occur as a result of insufficient thyroid hormone production, decreased conversion of thyroid hormones from T4 to T3, an overproduction of reverse T3, or when the body is not efficiently using thyroid hormones.
The three primary hormones that play a role in maintaining healthy thyroid function include thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), thyroxine (T4), and triiodothyronine (T3). Any abnormalities in these hormones in blood tests are generally classified as hypothyroidism.
However, your naturopath or nutritionist may suggest investigating further to test for subclinical or functional hypothyroidism. This involves comprehensive testing of thyroid function, including thyroid antibodies. Subclinical or functional hypothyroidism presents with some or all of the typical signs & symptoms, however returns a normal standard thyroid function blood test from your doctor.
signs & symptoms
- Dry hair & skin
- Hair loss
- Sensitivity to cold or cold intolerance
- Swelling of the thyroid gland
- Cognitive impairment
- Hoarseness of voice
- High blood pressure
- Slow heart rate
- Unexplained weight gain or difficulty losing weight
- Muscle cramps and weakness
- Puffy eyes
- Elevated LDL cholesterol
There are a number of reasons hypothyroidism may develop from a naturopathic perspective, including:
- Nutritional deficiencies e.g. iodine, selenium, vitamins A, D, and E, omega-3 fatty acids
- Oxidative stress
- Stress (high cortisol)
- Poor gut health
- Coeliac disease
- Estrogen excess
- Calorie restriction
- Chronic infection
- Treatment for hyperthyroidism
- Genetics – inherited enzymatic defects
- For women, reaching middle age and post menopause
- Avoid restrictive or yo-yo dieting
- Prioritize stress management
- Protect your gut health
- Exercise regularly
- Detoxification every 6-12 months
- Choose natural, toxin-free, clean, or organic products wherever possible
- Seek support for treating chronic inflammation, infections, allergies, intolerances, or autoimmunity
- Eat a varied diet of plant whole foods including nuts & seeds, fresh fruit & vegetables
- Maintain healthy omega-3 levels by choosing a high-quality fish oil supplement
- Treat hormonal imbalances by speaking to your naturopath or nutritionist
As mentioned before the standard thyroid function test requested by your doctor will investigate TSH, T4, and T3 levels. However, in order to identify possible subclinical hypothyroidism, we recommend also testing free T4, free T3, reverse T3, and inflammatory markers like thyroid antibodies, ESR, and C-reactive protein. You may request these tests through your doctor, however, we find it best if you speak to your naturopath or nutritionist for a referral first.
In addition to functional thyroid function testing your natural health professional may also recommend omega-3 index, cholesterol, blood glucose, vitamin B12, iron, vitamin D, and/or gut health testing depending on your unique presentation.
If diagnosed with hypothyroidism your doctor may prescribe pharmaceutical interventions like hormonal replacement therapy i.e. thyroxine/levothyroxine (T4) or triiodothyronine/liothyronine (T3/T4) medications.
Your natural health professional uses natural medicines, like nutritional and herbal supplements plus lifestyle education, to address the underlying causes of your hormonal imbalance in addition to managing other health concerns.
Examples of natural treatment used for thyroid imbalances:
- Nutrition – essential fatty acids, tyrosine, calcium, selenium, zinc, iodine, magnesium, B vitamins, vitamins A, C, E & D, alpha-lipoic acid (ALA), carnitine, coenzyme Q10, n-acetylcysteine (NAC)
- Herbal medicine – Withania, Kelp, Coleus, Curcumin, Boswellia, Liquorice, Rehmannia, Gymnema, Rhodiola
- Probiotics – Lactobacillus paracasei & rhamnosus (LGG)
- Regular exercise
- Stress management
- Detoxification & gut repair
- Avoid goitrogenic foods like turnips, cabbage, broccoli, swedes, mustard greens, radishes, horseradishes
- Choose organic wherever possible
- Avoid sugar, caffeine, refined foods, preservatives, colourings & additives
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