Should you get your thyroid tested?

woman checking her thyroid

How Healthy is Your Thyroid and Why Does it Matter?

Did you know that a tiny, butterfly-shaped gland nestled in your neck is responsible for producing some of the most important hormones in your body? This small but mighty gland is called the thyroid.  While it’s relatively small in size, it plays a huge role in our endocrine (hormone) system.

This gland produces hormones that interact with many other hormones (like insulin, cortisol, estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone).  Looking at how intimately all hormones communicate with each other, it’s no wonder so many symptoms are connected to a poorly performing thyroid!

How does this gland work?

Most of what the thyroid produces is an inactive hormone called thyroxine, or T4. Most of the active thyroid hormone, triiodothyronine (or T3), comes from the conversion of T4 to T3 in different areas of your body, including your liver, gut, brain and muscles.

This “active” T3 is then able to regulate many functions in your body including energy production and regulation of your metabolism. Think of the thyroid as the “gas pedal” for your body.  Constantly regulating the speed that everything else runs.  When all of the systems in your body are working well, the right amounts of T4 and T3 are produced. But if something is negatively affecting the thyroid or other organ systems in the body, this hormone balance gets disrupted and we start to experience various symptoms.

Some of the factors that impact a healthy functioning thyroid are nutritional imbalances, toxins, allergens, infections, and stress. All of these can all be problematic, leading to dysfunction of the gland, and potentially to wider spread systemic disease.

What happens when the thyroid can’t function normally?

When the thyroid is compromised, the body is unable to produce or convert the right amounts of thyroid hormone. Consequently, we experience disorders such as hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, and thyroid cancer. In fact, these diseases are highly prevalent in North America.  An estimated 20 million Americans and 1 in every 10 Canadians have some form of thyroid disease.  Over 12% of all Americans will develop such a condition during their lifetime. Because thyroid conditions are tied to so many varying symptoms, up to 60% of people with disease are unaware of their condition.   Women are 5-8x more likely to be affected than men. It is estimated that one in eight women will suffer from such a disorder during her lifetime.

Thyroid disease is tied to many less obvious disorders including acne, autoimmune diseases, eczema, fibromyalgia, gum disease, constipation or irritable bowel syndrome, migraines and infertility. Because the thyroid is like your gas pedal for all of your cells, it can be linked to almost every bodily function.  Symptoms of an underlying thyroid problem are wide and varied which can make diagnosis difficult.  As a result, many people are misdiagnosed and treated for other conditions before looking at their thyroid.

Hypothyroidism

Symptoms of an underactive thyroid

  • Lethargy or fatigue
  • Foggy thinking
  • Depression
  • Weight gain even if you’ve been exercising and eating well consistently
  • Persistently rough/scaly skin
  • Dry/tangled hair
  • Hair loss (particularly in women)
  • Sensitivity to cold
  • An inability to warm up in a sauna or to sweat during exercise
  • Consistently low basal (resting, first morning) body temperature

Hyperthyroidism

Symptoms of an overactive thyroid

  • Feeling restless, nervous, or emotional
  • Poor sleep quality or insomnia
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle weakness
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Frequent bowel movements
  • The disappearance of or irregular menstruation
  • Weight loss
  • Rapid, forceful, or irregular heartbeat
  • Eye problems (associated with Graves’ disease)
  • Swelling in your neck or having a goitre

Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis

Hashimoto’s is an autoimmune condition where your immune system is creating antibodies that are attacking your thyroid.  Over time, this autoimmune attack can damage the gland and cause it to cease working properly.  Autoimmune disorders are complicated, but they can be improved through natural medicine.  Factors like food sensitivities, latent infections, and adrenal fatigue all need to be considered to reverse Hashimoto’s.

Euthyroid Sick Syndrome

This is a condition where blood tests for the thyroid may show normal levels of TSH or thyroid stimulating hormone.  Yet, levels of T3 are low.  When T3 drops, your pituitary ought to respond by producing more TSH to stimulate more production of T4 and then conversion to T3.  Euthyroid refers to the fact that thyroid itself appears to be in working order as TSH is normal.  Treatment of Euthyroid Sick Syndrome often entails looking at the person as a whole and supporting the entire endocrine system as well as resolving stressors.

Thyroid Tests

Simple blood tests can identify a potential problem.  We prefer to do comprehensive thyroid blood work that includes TSH, free T3, free T4, anti-TPO (or anti-thyroperoxidase) and anti-thyroglobulin.  It’s a common misconception that if TSH is normal, then all of the remaining tests will also be normal.  This is not true.  I have reviewed hundreds, if not thousands, of thyroid test results and found that patients can have a normal level of TSH, and even normal levels of free T3 and free T4, but thyroid antibody levels are not normal.  If you suspect a problem, I would highly recommend having complete testing done.

Whether you have an obvious problem or not, it’s important to understand how the thyroid works so that you can keep your body functioning optimally.

Tips to Improve Thyroid Function

When it comes to managing the optimal function of your glands, the building blocks are almost always found in nutrition first and foremost.

6 Tips to maintain a healthy thyroid through diet

  1. Go gluten and dairy free: Most people go gluten and dairy free only when there is an obvious sensitivity like a gut problem to either type of food. Sensitivity to gluten and dairy can be much more subtle when it comes to the thyroid. These foods trigger inflammation, disordered immune system function and are associated with autoimmune thyroid issues.
  2. Focus on your iodine level: Iodine is present in almost every organ and tissue and has a direct effect on the thyroid. Iodine is just one of the most important nutrients for this gland.  Chemical agents in commercial food ingredients have the side effect of decreasing your iodine level. Daily exposure to chemicals found in water such as bromine, fluorine, and chlorine all negatively impact iodine levels by competing with iodine for absorption. You do not need to take iodine supplements, however, and too much iodine can also damage your thyroid.  Using a little bit of good iodized sea salt each day will meet your iodine needs.
  3. Look for “no bromine” or “bromine-free” labels on organic whole-grain bread and flours if you eat grains
  4. Increase your dietary intake of wild-caught seafood and ocean fish
  5. Seek out foods containing zinc and selenium: Zinc and selenium are two micronutrients that play critical roles in thyroid health. Because they can be toxic in very high doses, it’s best to achieve healthy levels through diet. Zinc-rich foods include oysters, beef, pork, egg yolks, shellfish and chicken while selenium-rich foods include Brazil nuts, fish, and liver.
  6. Manage stress: Stress and overall health are inextricably linked. Make sure you’re taking time to meditate, relieve stress, and get your mindset on track so that you can enjoy the benefits of overall health.

You can gain control over your health by learning how to manage and maintain your thyroid through nutrition, lifestyle, and naturopathic medicine support. If you’re dealing with, or suspect you have this or other health issues, please take time to book an appointment to visit us at our clinic. We want to help you take control of your health! Comprehensive testing and hormone assessments are available.

Call or email us at 416-481-0222 or Info@ForcesofNature.ca

To your best health!

The team at Forces of Nature Wellness Clinic

References:
https://articles.mercola.com/thyroid.aspx
https://www.thyroid.org/media-main/about-hypothyroidism/
J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2015 Aug 25:jc20152222. Epub 2015 Aug 25. PMID: 26305620

Hormones: Common Symptoms

picture of glands that produce hormones

Are your Hormones the Cause of your Health Issues?

Have you been experiencing nagging symptoms, affecting your daily life that you just can’t shake? It may be that the balance (or imbalance) of your hormones is the culprit.

Often we think of hormones as only being related to sexual function, but the truth is that a variety of hormones govern all of our body’s functions in some way or another because of the interplay of messages they relay to the body through the glands that produce them.

If you thought that the only hormones we have are estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone, well, you’d be in a majority. In actuality, a number of other chemicals that we talk about all the time at Forces of Nature are also hormones and have a lot to say in helping our bodies to experience optimal health.

There are several hormones that, depending on their current balance, most readily affect your overall health.

Some common symptoms and their hormones:

Our hormones are like an orchestra.  They play together to synchronize and harmonize our beings to create optimal health patterns throughout the day and night. Their job is to keep us healthy and balanced, physically and emotionally. Sometimes, our modern lifestyle creates habits and workloads that can disrupt our body’s natural ability to control and balance our hormones.

So, when we start to exhibit symptoms that just won’t go away, such as long-term anxiety or stress, brain fog, sleep or weight management issues, mood swings, and long-term shifts in libido, investigating and caring for the glands that produce our hormones could address and solve the root of the problem.

Symptom Glands Associated Hormones
Adult Acne/Cystic Acne Ovaries

Testes

Estrogen and Androgens (Testosterone, DHT, DHEAs, Androstenedione)
Anxiety/Stress Adrenals Epinephrine/Adrenaline, Norepinephrine, Glucocorticoids, Mineralocorticoids,  Cortisol, Cortisone
Concentration Issues/Brain Fog Pineal, Enterochromaffin Cells in the Gastrointestinal Tract, Hypothalamus, Pituitary, Thyroid, Ovaries, Testes Melatonin, Serotonin, Dopamine, Epinephrine, Norepinephrine, Estrogen, Testosterone, T4/T3
Digestive Issues Thyroid, Pancreas  

Thyroxine (T4), T3, Insulin

 

Libido Adrenals, Testes, Ovaries Estrogen, Progesterone, Testosterone, DHEAs, DHT
Mood Swings Pituitary, Enterochromaffin Cells in Gastrointestinal Tract, Ovaries, Testes Endorphins, Serotonin, Dopamine, Estrogen, Testosterone, DHEAs, DHT
Sleep Issues/Insomnia Pineal, Adrenals Melatonin, Epinephrine, Norepinephrine, Aldosterone, Cortisol, Cortisone
Weight Maintenance  

Adrenals, Adipose tissue, Pancreas

 

Cortisol, DHEA/DHEAs (as a precursor to Estrogen and Testosterone), Leptin, Insulin

How you can help your hormones

Your General Practitioner will have many suggestions to help treat the symptoms you’re experiencing.  But working with your whole health team including our integrative medicine practitioners (naturopathic doctors, chiropractor, acupuncturist, massage therapists & psychotherapist) will yield the greatest benefits because the therapies can complement each other.

For example, your GP might prescribe antidepressants or sleep aids to help manage your symptoms and ‘get you over the hump’ and on your way to recovery. Our Naturopathic and Integrative Health Practitioners will work on utilizing nutrition, supplements, stress reduction, exercise, lifestyle changes, acupuncture, massage and herbs to get at the root cause of the problems you’re experiencing and get your hormones back into balance.

Naturopathic medicine looks extensively at the whole body to determine what is causing your problem.  We often uncover a myriad of issues that all work together to create the person’s current health condition. Hormones often play a role but we also must uncover why they are imbalanced.

What Causes Hormones to Become Imbalanced?

There are a number of factors that may cause or contribute to hormone imbalance:

  • Chronic stress
  • Nutrient deficiencies – particularly vitamins B5 & B6, magnesium, zinc, L-5MHF (active folic acid) and vitamin B12
  • Poor diet – diets high in carbs and sugar provoke the need for plenty of insulin that then creates hormone imbalance
  • Lifestyle – lack of exercise, lack of sleep, working long hours, lack of exposure to sunlight, exposure to artificial light in the evening
  • Environmental pollutants – BPA from plastic, dioxin, PCB’s etc are all endocrine disruptors

How can we help your hormonal imbalance?

Once you’ve had a chance to share with your naturopathic doctor or integrative health practitioner the series of symptoms, situations, and concerns you’ve been experiencing, we can then start putting the pieces together to outline the best options for treatment just for you.

The first set of treatment and care options that your healthcare team will look at are nutrient deficiencies and habit patterns. It’s amazing how many maladies can be remedied when we have greater focus and dedication to providing our bodies with the right nutrition, nutrients, hydration, stress management, exercise, and adequate sleep.

The next set of options could be supplements and herbs. When you’ve begun to line up a more healthy routine of nutrition, exercise, and sleep, supplementation of key nutrients, minerals and herbs could yield even greater results. We have many tools in our toolbox to help get you on the right path to a balanced system, which in turn means a balanced life!

We’re here to help you. If you’re experiencing symptoms that you just can’t beat, it’s a good time to call us to investigate your hormones and provide you with a pathway to health. Our door is always open and your road to optimal health is just a phone call (416-481-0222) or email away.

Hormones Research

Schwartz DH, Romans SE, Meiyappan S, De Souza MJ, Einstein G. The role of ovarian steroid hormones in mood. Horm Behav. 2012 Sep;62(4):448-54. doi: 10.1016/j.yhbeh.2012.08.001. Epub 2012 Aug 8.