Are you tired or moody? Do you have difficulty losing weight, constipation or dry skin? Is your memory failing you? These are all common symptoms of hypothyroidism, or an under active thyroid gland. Up to 15% of the people have an under active thyroid gland, with many people going undiagnosed.
However it’s not always black and white, different people will present with different symptoms.
If you have hypothyroidism you may have some of the following symptoms:
- Chronic fatigue or low energy
- Depression or feeling melancholy and/or anxiety
- Constipation or harder stools
- Puffy face and eyelids
- Memory loss, confusion, brain fog
- Weight gain that is difficult to lose
- Dry coarse skin
- Intolerance to temperatures, hot or cold
- Menstrual issues
- Infertility/ recurrent miscarriage
- Cold hands and feet
- Muscle weakness
- Loos of libido
- Reduced sweating
So what exactly is the thyroid gland?
The thyroid gland is a small, butterfly shaped gland that sits just over your wind pipe in the middle of the throat. The thyroid gland has the job of regulating every tissue and organ in the body. Your thyroid controls your metabolism, moods, digestion, hormone balance, energy levels and much, much more.
How do I know if I have a thyroid problem?
As well as evaluating your symptom picture, there are several tests that may be useful to determine if your thyroid is under functioning.
TSH, or thyroid stimulating hormone, is secreted by the body to stimulate the thyroid to produce more thyroid hormones. The higher the TSH, the more the body is trying to encourage the thyroid to work harder. A high TSH indicates a lowered thyroid function.
TSH is a poor indicator of thyroid function, as it doesn’t really take into account the whole picture. Unfortunately this is the gold standard that doctors use to check thyroid function, and if you are ‘in range’ then you are dismissed as being normal.
T4 and T3
T4 and T3 are your actual thyroid hormones. T4, the inactive form, coverts into T3, which is the hormone used to regulate tissues in the body. You need to have adequate levels of both T4 and T3 in order for your thyroid to function optimally. By testing T4 and T3, we can assess if there is a problem with hormone production or the conversion of T4 to T3. There are different nutrients involved at each stage, so we are able to gain insight into nutrient deficiencies and know what to prescribe based on these results.
Reverse T3 occurs when T3 ‘flips’ into a reverse form. Reverse T3 attaches to receptors and prevents T3 from binding to them. Checking for reverse T3 is important as your T3 could be normal, however if you have high reverse T3 then you will still have an underactive thyroid. Reverse T3 is not recognized by most doctors as being important, however we find it an essential part of the picture when evaluating someone with hypothyroidism.
Thyroid autoantibodies can show if there is are immune factors that could be causing an autoimmune thyroiditis called Hashimoto’s disease. In Hashimoto’s, your immune system attacks the thyroid gland, leading to dysfunction. Autoimmune thyroid problems require different treatment to standard hypothyroidism, so it is important that this is ruled out.
Unknown to many, often the cause of high cholesterol levels is hypothyroidism. In fact, high cholesterol was previously used by doctors as an indicator of hypothyroidism. This was before the introduction of statin drugs, which it seems are the only thing that are looked at when a cholesterol issue arises. The problem with this is that you could end up on cholesterol lowering drugs, while the underlying cause is not rectified.
There are many nutrients involved in thyroid function. A deficiency in any of these nutrients can cause hypothyroidism to occur.
- Vitamin D
- Tyrosine (an amino acid)
Iodine is needed to make your thyroid hormones – T4 and T3. Iodine deficiency is a major cause of hypothyroism. Iodine is best tested through the urine, this test can be ordered through the clinic.
Hair mineral analysis
A hair mineral analysis can assess mineral levels in the body, as well as how your body is functioning. There are also many heavy metals that can inhibit thyroid function, so it is worthwhile ruling out this.
What treatment options are available?
Thankfully, there are many herbs and nutrients that have been clinically proven to improve thyroid function. If you have a suspected thyroid problem, seeing one of our naturopaths is a good first step. First we’ll make sure you have all of the right testing done, and then we’ll develop a treatment plan based on your individual symptom picture. Our naturopaths have helped hundreds of patients to overcome hypothyroidism so that they can get their mojo back.
Acupuncture is also a good option for those with thyroid problems, from a TCM perspective. Treatment can include a combination of acupuncture, herbs and nutrition in those with severe or chronic thyroid problems.
To make an appointment or to discuss treatment options with out team, call us on 07 3367 0337 and we’ll be happy to help.