Hypothyroidism

Do you tend to feel cold, sluggish and struggle to lose weight? If you can relate to these symptoms you may have an underactive thyroid. Women are up to ten times more prone to disorders of the thyroid than men. Subclinical hypothyroidism is chronically under-diagnosed and blood tests don’t always reveal a dysfunction. The thyroid is our body’s thermostat, its job is to rev up the bodies metabolic rate by increasing the number and activity of mitochondria, which are our bodies tiny “furnaces” located in every cell in our body. These little furnaces use oxygen to convert energy from food (glucose) into carbon dioxide, water, heat, and cellular energy.1 The thyroid is in charge of the rate of every metabolic reaction in the body, which is a large task at hand and when it isn’t working up to optimal function it can affect many processes in the body, creating lots of unwelcome symptoms.

Hypothyroid Symptoms (most common but not only)1

Morning underarm temp. lower than 97.8 degrees F PMS, prolonged heavy period, longer cycle Yellowing of the skin, especially on palms
Carpal tunnel syndrome Severe menopausal symptoms Thin, brittle nails with transverse grooves
Puffy face (especially around eyes) Slow pulse (<60 beats/min) Fatigue and muscle weakness, anemia
Slower speech Low blood pressure Depression, memory loss, poor concentration
Cold all the time Sleep apnea Slow thinking, emotional instability, anxiety
Frequent or chronic infections (fungal or viral) High homocysteine and lipoprotein Slow reflexes, particularly Achilles tendon reflex
Low DHEA, DHEA-S, and pregnenolone Dry hair, brittle, falling out, loss of lateral one-third of eyebrow Constipation, frequent headaches
Low libido Dry scaly skin Low stomach acid, mineral deficiencies

Hormones Affecting the Thyroid and their Function

There are four important thyroid hormones, thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), thyrotropin-releasing hormone (TRH), triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). TSH and TRH do not come from the thyroid itself, TSH comes from the pituitary gland and TRH from the hypothalamus. TSH’s job is to signal the thyroid to produce more or fewer thyroid hormones (T3 and T4), depending on the bodies need. TRH reads the cues from the blood and signals the pituitary to produce TSH. When the thyroid gland is stimulated by TSH, it produces T3 and T4 from Iodine and the amino acids tyrosine and phenylalanine. Although T4 is 93% of what the thyroid gland produces, T3 is the more biologically active hormone (has a large impact on the body in little amounts), T4 is also converted to T3 in the liver, kidneys, and body cells. This conversion is mainly based on the trace mineral selenium.1 A lot of the thyroid dysfunction comes from the improper conversion of T4 to T3, there is another T3 form called reverse T3, which is an inactive (stored) form.

Causes for Hypothyroidism (common causes but not only)1

Estrogen dominance, hormone replacement therapy, birth control pill Sluggish liver Toxic metals- lead, cadmium, and mercury
Progesterone deficiency Iodine deficiency, which may cause a goiter or thyroid swelling Fluoride in drinking water, bottled juices, soft drinks, and toothpaste
High or low cortisol and low DHEA Tyrosine and dietary protein deficiency Injury to the neck with misalignment of cervical vertebrae
Increased stress or stressful event Iron deficiency anemia Candida overgrowth and bowel toxicity
Times of hormonal transition (pregnancy, childbirth, menopause) Low levels of zinc, selenium, copper, magnesium, manganese, or Vitamins A, B-2, B-3, B-6, B-12, C, and E Radiation exposure from X-rays, radiation therapy, nuclear fallout, and proximity to nuclear power plants

Assessments of Thyroid Function

Underarm Test
The most simplified way to test for thyroid function is to take your morning underarm temperature before getting out of bed. The normal range for body temperature is 97.8 to 98.2 degrees Fahrenheit or 36.6 to 36.8 degrees Celsius. There will be fluctuations that occur during your menstrual cycle so this needs to be taken into consideration. If your temperature is regularly under the normal range then you may have an underactive thyroid and if your temperature is consistently higher than the normal range it may be overactive (hyperthyroid). There are a few other factors that can affect low body temperature such as, low progesterone, low cortisol, low iron, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, fasting, eating disorders, poor circulation, and kidney failure. So it’s important to rule out these first to be able to differentiate.1

Blood Tests
Commonly TSH is the only blood test ordered by many medical doctors, and the normal range considered is .38-5.5 IU/mL, although some practitioners consider anything above 1.9 to be potentially hypothyroid. Ideally testing the TSH, T3, T4 and reverse T3 is the best analysis for assessing thyroid function.2

Prevention and Treatment

*It is very important to have an adrenal assessment with your Naturopathic physician before treating hypothyroidism.

Some dietary changes that can help with addressing thyroid function are to eat more sea vegetables (kelp, dulse, nori, hiziki, and wakame) as a source of iodine. Use warming foods such as cinnamon, ginger, cayenne and fennel. Eat three Brazil nuts daily to consume selenium and a handful of pumpkin seeds for zinc and magnesium. Consume small frequent meals, eating every 3 hours, with vegetarian protein sources.1

If you think you may have hypothyroidism there are many different methods of addressing the imbalance, on an individual basis. Many factors have to be taken into consideration with supplementation, food intolerances, environment, and lifestyle. In some cases, medication is necessary if the Hypothyroidism is an autoimmune dysfunction called Hashimoto’s. See one of our knowledgeable naturopathic physicians if you are concerned.

References:

  1. Danylak-Arhanic, Mary, MD. “Thyroid Conditions.” The Complete Natural Medicine    Guide to Women’s Health. By Sat Dharam Kaur. Toronto: Robert Rose, 2005. 416-26. Print.
  2. Smith, Pamela Wartian. “Thyroid Hormone.” What You Must Know about Women’s Hormones: Your Guide to Natural Hormone Treatment for PMS, Menopause, Osteoporosis, PCOS, and More. Garden City Park, NY: Square One, 2010. 43-56. Print.

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