12 Nov 2019
Naturopathy for Hypothyroidism
12 Nov 2019
The thyroid is a small gland found in the front of the neck that absorbs iodine and creates thyroid hormones that regulate our metabolism – a common way to understand this is to think of it as your body’s thermostat. When someone has been diagnosed with hypothyroidism, their thyroid isn’t producing high enough levels of thyroid hormones and it creates symptoms like fatigue, brain fog, weight gain and depression.
What are the hormones involved in thyroid function?
- Thyroid Releasing Hormone (TRH): This hormone is released by the hypothalamus (a part of the brain) to tell the pituitary to release TSH to signal the thyroid to increase its efforts. If we go back to the thermostat analogy, the hypothalamus is like the person controlling the thermostat – turning the temperature up or down.
- Thyroid Stimulation Hormone (TSH): this is the hormone that is released from the pituitary (another part of the brain) and passes into circulation to tell the thyroid to produce and release more T4 and T3. It’s a messenger really! TSH doesn’t have any direct action on how the rest of the body is functioning; its job is to encourage the thyroid gland’s activity.
- Thyroxine (or T4) and Triiodothyronine (or T3): thyroid hormones that are produced by the thyroid and regulate metabolism. T3 is the more potent thyroid hormone. When T3 isn’t high enough, you can experience symptoms of hypothyroidism and still have a TSH that is showing up as normal on you lab report.
Some people have thyroid glands that just are not responding to the hormone pathways laid out. The result is the brain continues to send its messenger – TSH – and the levels in the blood start to climb. Blood testing for TSH is one way to diagnose hypothyroidism. Another way is to look at the hormones the thyroid is actually producing. Naturopathic doctors often want to see what is called a complete thyroid panel – a blood test that includes TSH, T4 and T3 as well as anti-thyroid antibodies. This allows us to see how the brain is signaling to the thyroid as well as how the thyroid is responding.
Top 3 Naturopathic Treatments for Hypothyroidism:
- Iodine: Thyroid hormones are made from iodine binding to an amino acid called tyrosine. If you don’t have enough iodine in circulation, your thyroid can struggle to produce thyroid hormones and you may start to show symptoms of hypothyroidism. Many Canadians are deficient in iodine and that comes with thyroid function issues but can also increase your risk for cancer.
- Supplementing by adding salt to all your food isn’t the best way to get your iodine up!
- Food sources of iodine: According to Dieticians of Canada, the best source of iodine is saltwater seafood – especially haddock and cod. For vegetarians, beans, kelp and seaweed also provide iodine.
- Thyroid- Loving Vitamins and Minerals: There are a number of moving pieces involved in thyroid hormone production. Supporting your treatment with these co-factors (vitamins and minerals) can improve how well you feel. The specific helpers to look for are A and B vitamins, Zinc, selenium, chromium, copper and manganese.
- If you struggle with taking your vitamins, all but Vitamin A can be infused in through an intravenous treatment!
- (Book a free-15 minute consult if you’d like to chat about this option and whether or not it’s the right fit for you!)
- Herbs: Plants have powerful pharmacological properties that can provide different kinds of support for hypothyroidism. Here are some of the ones I use most frequently:
- Ashwagandha: helps with cortisol regulation.
- Guggal Myrrh: whole thyroid health support and enhances the conversion of thyroid hormone T4 to T3 (the more active form). This herb works well alongside Ashwagandha for best results.
- American ginseng: Supports balanced conversion of thyroid hormone and helps maintain healthy cortisol, blood glucose and insulin levels.
- Coleus Forskohlii: supports healthy TSH function and normal breakdown of body fat to use as energy.
- Warming herbs like ginger help with circulation to the thyroid gland to improve function – and it’s so easy to have as a tea or add to soups, smoothies, stir-fries.
Most thyroid health products contain some combination of all of the above but it is important not to self-prescribe based only on your symptoms! Consider seeing a naturopathic doctor to get a full thyroid panel and for personalized recommendations.
- Bonus Tip:
- Gluten: If your thyroid panel is showing elevated thyroid antibodies this means your immune system is attacking the gland. This is a different form of hypothyroidism called Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. The research has shown for these people struggling with thyroid function, we can reduce the flares of antibody levels by introducing a strict gluten-free diet.
- If you have hypothyroidism and have never had your antibodies (Anti-TPO, Anti-Tg) checked I would highly recommend asking your healthcare provider or naturopath to check these for you.
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