Thyroid Disease: The Missing Piece of Your Health Puzzle
Naturopathic Nuggets about Thyroid Disease
- Over 25 million North Americans exhibit symptoms of Thyroid Disease, with almost 50% undiagnosed and many more improperly treated.
- You may be at greater risk for Thyroid Disease if you are Female, Aging, Peri or Post-Menopausal), Bipolar, Prematurely Gray, Caucasian / Asian / South Asian, Diagnosed with other Autoimmune Diseases (Alopecia, Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS), Celiac, Crohn’s or Ulcerative Colitis, Diabetes Type I, Lupus, Multiple Sclerosis (MS), Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA), Sarcoidosis, Vitiligo).
- The Autoimmune Disease, Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis is the most common cause of Hypothyroidism, affecting over 14 million in North America alone
- Thyroid Disease may be caused by Stress, Genetics, Surgery, Cancer, Pregnancy, Viral Infection, Environmental Toxins, Food Allergies, Nutritional Deficiencies, Autoimmunity (Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis or Graves’ Disease), Radioactive Iodine Treatment for Grave’s Disease (High Thyroid) often causes Low Thyroid, and Certain Medications
- If you are experiencing weight gain, tiredness, hair loss, chilliness, joint & muscle aches/weakness, itchy or dry skin, depression, concentration or memory problems, constipation, heavy or irregular periods, your thyroid health may be an issue.
- It is advisable to seek professional advice from a licensed Naturopathic Physician, for proper evaluation of your thyroid function.
January is Thyroid Disease Awareness Month
Thyroid health is a global concern with over 200 million people suffering from various thyroid dysfunction. Over 25 million North Americans exhibit symptoms of poor thyroid health, with almost 50% undiagnosed and many more improperly treated. Although thyroid disease is genetic, family members may experience different types of thyroid dysfunction. If you are experiencing weight gain, tiredness, hair loss, chilliness, joint & muscle aches/weakness, itchy or dry skin, depression, concentration or memory problems, constipation, heavy or irregular periods, your thyroid health may be an issue.
Thyroid Disease Affects Everything
The thyroid is a butterfly shaped gland in the neck that produces hormones that affects every part of your body. Thyroid hormones affects every system in your body by regulating metabolism, muscle building, stress mechanisms, protein, fat & carb metabolism, body temperature and heart function, heart rate & circulation.
Thyroid Disease is Like Goldilocks
When the thyroid gland produces too little or too much of its hormone, the body starts to become symptomatic either way. Normally, the thyroid hormone produced is inactive (T4), and needs to be converted to its active form (T3) in the tissues. There are so many steps for optimal thyroid health and things can go wrong at each level. Thyroid health can be compromised by affecting the body’s production, conversion or use of thyroid. Many things can cause thyroid dysfunction.
Thyroid Disease: Are You Feeling Fat & Fatigued?
The symptoms of thyroid dysfunction span many organ systems as the thyroid hormones affect every part of your body, from heart and brain to muscles and skin. Initially you may just feel tired and experience weight gain. It is more challenging to diagnose a change in thyroid health, as symptoms may be present in other conditions.
You may have Thyroid Disease if you suffer from some of the following symptoms:
Fatigue, Low Energy
Loss Muscle Tone
Need More Sleep to Feel Rested
Waking Tired after Sleep
Difficulty Getting Pregnant
Increased Menstrual Periods
Change in Menstrual Pattern
Pain with Menstrual Periods
Low Sex Drive
Difficult Erections or Orgasm
Goiter/Swelling in Throat Area
Swelling Around Eyes or Eyelids
Bloodshot, Tearing Eyes
Hair & Skin:
Brittle, Coarser Hair
Hair Loss, Thinning, Bald Spots (Alopecia)
Hair Loss, Outer 1/3 Eyebrows
Dry, Scaly Skin
Rough Skin or Weak Nails
Difficulty Pronouncing Words
Foggy Head, Forgetful, “Brain Fog”
Difficulty Concentrating / Focusing
Sensitive to Alcohol/Anaesthetics or Sedatives
Abdominal Bloating or Pain
Gall Bladder Issues
Constipation or Difficult Bowels
Generalized Aches, Joint Pains
Heart & Circulation:
Anemia (Iron Deficiency)
Chest Pain Rapid, Irregular Heartbeat
Numbness Hands & Feet
Chilliness or Intolerance to Cold Temperatures
What Causes Thyroid Disease?
Thyroid Disease may be caused by Stress, Genetics, Surgery, Cancer, Pregnancy, Viral Infection, Environmental Toxins, Food Allergies, Nutritional Deficiencies, Autoimmunity (Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis or Graves’ Disease), Radioactive Iodine Treatment for Grave’s Disease (High Thyroid) often causes Low Thyroid, and Certain Medications for Bipolar Disorder, Arrhythmia and Cancer, including Lithium, Amiodarone, Interferon & Interleukin-2.
Thyroid Disease: Could It Happen To Me?
You may be at greater risk for Thyroid Disease if you are Female, Aging, Peri or Post-Menopausal), Bipolar, Prematurely Gray, Caucasian / Asian / South Asian, Diagnosed with other Autoimmune Diseases (Alopecia, Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS), Celiac, Crohn’s or Ulcerative Colitis, Diabetes Type I, Lupus, Multiple Sclerosis (MS), Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA), Sarcoidosis, Vitiligo).
What Kinds of Thyroid Disease Are There?
Thyroid Disease can manifest in various ways including:
- Hypothyroidism (Low Thyroid)
- Hyperthyroidism (High Thyroid)
- Grave’s Disease (Autoimmune High Thyroid)
- Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis (Autoimmune Low Thyroid)
- Post-Partum Thyroiditis (Pregnancy induced Low Thyroid)
- Thyroid Cancer
- Thyroid Nodules
My Doctor Said My Thyroid is Fine!
Your doctor may have tested your thyroid and deemed it healthy but you’re symptomatic in so many ways, which is frustrating! This is the case with many undiagnosed patients. Conventional testing may only include TSH hormone, which is the brain (pituitary gland) telling the thyroid to work, and rarely Free T4, the inactive thyroid hormone.
The Epidemic of Undiagnosed Thyroid Disease
The reason for millions of undiagnosed patients are two-fold. Firstly, doctors are not typically testing for the actual thyroid hormones, Free T4, the inactive thyroid hormone and Free T3, the active hormone, or thyroid antibodies (TPO Ab & Tg Ab) to rule out autoimmune thyroid dysfunction. Secondly, doctors use the lab reference ranges as their guide to diagnose, and are limited to the testing of TSH and sometimes Free T4 levels.
Why is Thyroid Disease So Difficult to Diagnose?
The primary issues of thyroid diagnosis are that doctors have little time to discuss the multitude of symptoms with patients, and when evaluating hormone levels, where in the lab range makes a difference, ie low normal versus high normal, typically not recognized by conventional medicine, wherein normal is normal. Most importantly, the functional effect of thyroid is from the Free T3 (active) hormone which is conventionally not tested. The Free T3 hormone works at the cellular level, binding to the tissue receptors to regulate your metabolism, your mood & brain function, your temperature, your bowels, your hair, skin, nails and your sexual function & fertility.
Treated Thyroid Disease is Typically Poorly Monitored
Even when diagnosed, thousands of patients think their thyroid is being effectively treated, but again monitoring includes only TSH. Conventional testing fails to include Free T3 & Free T4, the actual thyroid hormone levels, which are essential to know how effective treatment is, and whether the dosage of prescribed medicine is appropriate.
Naturopathic Approaches to Thyroid Disease
A naturopathic doctor not only takes the time to review your symptoms in entirety, but will evaluate your thyroid a number of ways, including your basal body temperature (a functional test of your metabolism) and complete thyroid lab testing that has not been done by your medical doctor including:
Thyroid Peroxidase Antibodies (TPOAb) if Autoimmunity is suspected
Thyroglobulin Antibodies (TgAb) if Autoimmunity is suspected
Autoimmune Thyroid Disease
An autoimmune disease is an abnormal response to normal immune function. A healthy immune system innately knows not to attack the body’s own tissues. In autoimmune diseases, the immune system confuses the tissues of the body as foreign, and attacks them. The thyroid gland is the most common organ affected by autoimmunity (McLeod & Cooper 2012).
Autoimmune Low Thyroid
Autoimmunity can lead to chronic inflammation from antibodies against the thyroid, which can either cause low thyroid function Hypothyroidism, known as Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis or high thyroid function Hyperthyroidism, known as Graves’ Disease. Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis is the most common cause of Hypothyroidism, affecting over 14 million in North America alone.
Thyroid Disease: Why Is My Body Attacking Me?
I believe that autoimmune diseases mean that the body has been stressed enough to trigger the negative expression of one’s genetics. These stressors may come in the form of mental, emotional and physical forms. Physical stressors may include food allergies, toxins, drugs, bacteria or viruses.
Thyroid Symptom List
If you experience some of the following symptoms, please see a Naturopathic Physician to evaluate your Thyroid Health. Do you have any of the relevant symptoms of Thyroid dysfunction:
- Do you have hoarseness of your voice that has not always been present?
- Do you have any swelling in your face?
- Have you ever had a goitre or swelling in the lower front of your neck?
- Are you unusually sensitive to alcoholic beverages/anesthetics or sedative drugs?
- Do you have dry, scaly skin?
- Do you have pallor or unusual whiteness of your skin?
- Have you ever had a yellow colour to your skin?
- Do you have decreased sweating?
- Has your hair become drier and coarser?
- Do you have a decrease in the amount of scalp hair?
- Have you had a decrease in the outer 1/3rd of your eyebrows?
- Have you noticed a ‘dirty’ or thickened skin appearance of your elbows and knees?
- Do you have delayed reflexes?
- Do you have persistent numbness and tingling in any part of your body and extremities?
- Do you ever get tired out more easily than you used to?
- Have you ever had protruding eyes?
- Do you have swelling around the eyes or of the eyelids?
- Do you often have blood-shot eyes?
- Do you have excessive tearing of your eyes?
- Have you ever been told you have an enlarged heart?
- Do your ankles swell or do you otherwise notice evidence of body fluid retention?
- Have you ever been told you have an abnormal electrocardiogram?
- Do you have less than normal energy?
- Have any of your blood relatives had thyroid gland problems or disease?
- Do you have headaches?
- Do cold temperatures bother you in the sense that you like the room temperature higher than other people OR do you need more bedclothes than others?
- Do you have difficulty in pronouncing words?
- Have you ever felt pain in the lower front part of your neck?
- Have you had an unexplained increase in weight recently
- Have you had a recent unexplained decrease in weight?
- Do you have rough skin or weakened nails that have not always been this way?
- Do you have difficulty in concentrating?
- Are you unusually forgetful?
- Do you feel that you are emotionally unstable but that this has been only in recent weeks or months?
- Do you feel tired after a usual night of sleep or has your sleep or rest requirement increased?
- Do you have blurred vision?
- Do you have ringing of the ears?
- Do you have dizzy spells?
- Do you have a decrease in your ability to hear?
- Are you inclined to be more nervous than is customary for you?
- Do you have times when you have difficulty breathing?
- Have you ever been told that you had angina (pain which comes from the heart and may have gone down to your left arm)?
- Do you sometimes have an attack of rapid or irregular heart beat?
- Do you have dyspepsia or indigestion?
- Do you have excess saliva?
- Do you frequently feel nauseated?
- Do you have any abdominal swelling?
- Do you have any abdominal pain?
- Have you ever had gall bladder trouble?
- Do you have constipation, delay or difficult bowel function?
- Do you frequently have diarrhea?
- Is there a problem with sex drive?
- Is there any problem with sexual capacity?
- Is there any problem concerning having children. Conception, etc.?
- Do you have any increased menstrual periods?
- Has there been any change to your menstrual pattern?
- Do you have menstrual pain?
- Do you have generalized aches?
- Do you have joint pains?
- Have you ever had difficulty swallowing?
This information is for educational purposes only and does not advocate self-diagnosis. Due to individual variability, consultation with a licensed health professional, such as a licensed naturopathic physician is highly recommended, prior to starting a natural treatment plan. For further information, see Terms of our Website.
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