Thyroid Health | How To Identify + Take Control Of Thyroid Issues June 28 2018
On Wednesday, June 27th we hosted an informational webinar with our own in-house naturopath, Dr. Nastasia Irons. She walked viewers through how the Thyroid works, how it can malfunction, and what you can do about it.
The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland that sits in the base of your neck, kind of where a bowtie would go. It shouldn’t be visible, and you can rarely feel it. Although it may seem like a mysterious organ, it plays a huge role in the body’s daily functions. One of its biggest jobs in the body is to control the metabolism.
Have you been noticing increased fatigue in the morning? Puffy face and neck? Infertility? Thinning hair? Changes to your menstrual cycle? Chronic constipation or high blood pressure and weight gain that won’t change no matter how healthy you eat? Your thyroid gland might be signaling that it needs some attention.
So why is the thyroid gland not working like it used to before?
Many things can alter the health of this tiny (but mighty!) gland. Stress, especially emotional – is one of the main causes of Hashimoto’s disease (when the body’s immune system attacks the thyroid gland). Another common cause of thyroid problems are nutrient deficiencies. The thyroid depends on certain nutrients in order to work properly.
Many years ago, when the soil was full of nutrients and table salt wasn’t “less cool” than its sea salt counterpart, we were getting everything we needed for our thyroid gland to be happy and healthy. Selenium, an important nutrient found in the soil (and also on the dirt in the cracks of our vegetables!), is needed in order for the thyroid to not become damaged when making thyroid hormone. It is an antioxidant that protects the gland from oxidative damage. Iodine is another one. It is commonly consumed with iodized table salt (not found in sea salt or Himalayan salt) and is needed to make Thyroid hormone – the thing that runs our metabolism. In women, it is also essential during pregnancy for the baby’s neurological development. Low Iodine and low thyroid function prior to conception are linked to lower IQ in infants. With changes to farming and eating practices, we are getting less and less of the nutrients our thyroid gland needs. These nutrients are important and without them, being tired and gaining weight are just the tip of the iceberg. There is also a link between a hyperfunctioning thyroid and increase in heart problems and arthritis. It is important to make sure your thyroid gland is working optimally before becoming pregnant, and when faced with other lingering health concerns.
Aside from feeling really bad, how do you know when the thyroid isn’t working like it should?
First of all, you might notice a weird lump in the middle of your neck. It might swell in response to constant stimulus from the brain, or you may start to notice bulging eyes and changes to skin coloration. Your naturopathic doctor will do physical exams to have a look out for this. They can also run blood work to measure direct hormone levels in your blood. Some of the lab markers to look for are TSH (the message from the brain to tell your thyroid to work harder), Free T3 and T4 (the hormones that the thyroid releases in order to stimulate other parts of the body, like the metabolism). Naturopathic doctors can order these lab tests, which can be the first step in figuring out why you are experiencing all of these symptoms. Occasionally, lab tests will come back and your levels of thyroid hormone are “within a normal range” but you may still be feeling terrible. Naturopathic doctors can help you interpret what these results mean, and help you to understand what your personal levels mean about your health. Each person is an individual, so shouldn’t our lab tests be interpreted individually?
So if it is my Thyroid, how can a naturopathic doctor treat it?
Herbs: There are many herbs that are used to naturally boost the thyroid hormone levels, help the thyroid work more efficiently, or to temporarily reduce some of the symptoms of a sick thyroid gland. Herbs can be combined into individualized formulas depending on your needs.
Nutrients: As mentioned above, Selenium and Iodine are two important nutrients that we need for the thyroid to work at its best. These nutrients can become deficient in the body, but when taken in excess, they can also build up and cause some serious side effects. This is why you need to consult with a naturopathic doctor before starting supplements for the thyroid gland.
Diet: There are many foods that can help the thyroid work more effectively (like brazil nuts!) but also many foods that can alter its levels of thyroid hormone production (like raw cruciferous vegetables). Your naturopathic doctor can help you tailor your diet to something that will work best with your health goals.
Bioidentical Hormone: We saved the best for last! Naturopathic doctors in Ontario are regulated to prescribe natural desiccated thyroid hormone (DTE) – a natural thyroid hormone replacement derived from porcine tissue for patients whose thyroid is under-functioning. When compared to the pharmaceutical version (Levothyroxine), DTE was preferred, caused fewer side effects, had similar effectiveness, and patients experienced greater weight loss.
Learn more about naturopathy and book your consulstion with our licensed Naturopathic Doctor, Dr. Nastasia Irons, HERE!
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