Thyroid Function

By: Dr. Kimberly Oxbro, Nov 04, 2015
  Article

Thyroid Problem

 

What Would a Thyroid Problem Look Like?

There are two general kinds of thyroid dysfunction: when your thyroid is working too much (called hyperthyroidism) or too little (hypothyroidism). Hypothyroidism is the more common of the two.

  • By age 60, it is estimated that 17% of women and 9% of men will have underactive thyroid function (American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists).
  • Harvard Medical School studies indicate that as many as 75% of North Americans are „sub-clinically‟ hypothyroid and not aware of it. This means that their thyroid is not working properly, but conventional testing has not been able to detect this.
  • Recently, the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists stated that as many as 27 million Americans may have hypothyroidism. They have recently stated that the guidelines for diagnosing thyroid function should be changed, as the current guidelines indicate that some patients have „normal‟ TSH, when in fact they do not.

Symptoms of Hypothyroidism:

  • Coldness (especially hands and feet)
  • Fatigue, low energy
  • Hair becoming coarse and dry, hair loss
  • Mental confusion and poor memory
  • Dry skin and skin problems
  • Weight gain and/or difficulty losing weight
  • Constipation and/or digestive difficulties
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Depression (it is estimated that 5% of people with depression have been
    misdiagnosed and are hypothyroid
  • Migraines and headaches
  • Pre-menstrual syndrome
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Breast cancer

Testing for Thyroid Dysfunction

  • Routine blood tests conventionally only screen for a hormone called Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) and occasionally for a second hormone called T4.
  • TSH is a measure of how the pituitary gland is stimulating the thyroid, and T4 measures the amount of inactive thyroid hormone being produced.
  • Neither TSH nor T4 represents the actual thyroid hormone responsible for controlling your metabolism (a hormone called T3).
  • There are actually three classifications of hypothyroidism, and two of them include normal TSH levels. Your doctor cannot tell if you do or do not have hypothyroidism if your T4 and T3 levels aren‟t checked. The Basics of Thyroid Hormone Function
  • TSH is secreted by the pituitary gland in the brain- its job is to stimulate the thyroid to secrete T4 (90%) and a small amount of active T3 (10%)
  • T4 then travels into your body and is converted to T3. This occurs primarily in the liver, with the help of the adrenal glands- as such, your adrenals and liver must be working properly for your thyroid to be working properly.
  • The three types of hypothyroidism are primary, secondary and tertiary. Since TSH is elevated only with primary hypothyroidism. Conventional Medicine and Thyroid Dysfunction
  • Standard treatment is to prescribe drugs which provide more (synthetic) T4 to the body (not active T3). Common names are Synthroid and Eltroxin.
  • The problem, as pointed out by the Harvard study, is that many people cannot effectively convert T4 into T3.
  • The American Food and Drug Administration (FDA) pulled Synthroid from the United States market in 2000 (after 46 years of availability). The reason was that it had never been properly tested.
  • In March 2001, the FDA made the statement that synthroid “has not shown to demonstrate consistent potency and stability” and thus “is not generally recognized as safe and effective”.
  • The Canadian government has not pulled Synthroid. Many Canadian MDs are not even aware it was pulled in the US.
  • As well, extensive clinical research proves that many synthetic thyroid hormones cause osteoporosis. Patients receiving long term treatment with synthetic thyroid hormones could be at a higher risk for osteoporotic fracture (Eur J Endocrinol 2000 May; 142(5): 445-50), as well as decreased bone density (JAMA 1991 May 22-29; 265(20): 2688-91). It was also found that synthetic “thyroid hormones enhance osteoclatic (bone destroying cell) formation and their excess is an important cause of secondary osteoporosis” (Biochem Biophys Res COmmun
    2002 Mar 8; 291(4): 987-94).

Naturopathic Medicine and Thyroid Dysfunction


Proper Testing and Investigation
  • Basic blood tests will give an idea about your thyroid status, but they are not the whole picture and can appear normal even when the thyroid is not. Your doctor must interpret blood results with this in mind.
  • Salivary thyroid assessment- blood tests are not fully accurate because they test for both bound and unbound hormones. What this means is that of the total value of hormones shown on a blood test, some of the hormones are „stuck‟ to other molecules (and hence, cannot be used in your body) and other are free (unbound) to work in your body. Only the unbound hormones will affect your metabolism and only salivary testing will examine for them.
  • Testing for antibodies which may be attacking your thyroid- many patients find that their thyroid function oscillates between normal and abnormal- their doctors are always adjusting the dose of their medication and it never seems to be quite right. The reason is that their thyroid gland is constantly being attacked by their body‟s own immune system. Testing for these antibodies will help determine why a treatment has been unsuccessful and will identify why the doctor must also address the immune problem. 

Diet and Nutrition

  • Foods called goitrogens block iodine uptake, and therefore should be eaten in moderation by patients with hypothyroidism. Putting a patient on medication will not help him or her if their food is blocking the medication from being used by their body.
  • Goitrogenic foods include: cabbage, kale, broccoli, mustard greens, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, turnips, cassava root, spinach, walnuts, almonds, peanuts, pine nuts, apples, peaches, pears, tomatoes, millet, soybeans and mustard.
  • Cooking these foods at high temperatures may destroy their iodine-blocking effects
  • Iodine, zinc, copper and selenium are minerals needed for proper thyroid function- again, if they key building blocks needed for T4 to be converted to T3 are missing, no medication alone will provide relief.
  • Fasting and skipping meals can slow thyroid function and affect the metabolism
  • Avoid foods which slow down liver function. Coffee, alcohol and refined foods all tax liver function and impair its ability to convert T4 into T3
  • Food fortified with calcium (eg. Orange juice and enriched beverages), as well as high fiber foods (if taken in the morning), can bind to and prevent the absorption of thyroid hormones

Botanical Medicine

  • Kelp (Alaria vesiculosus) provides iodine which increases thyroid function.
  • Dandelion (Taraxacum officinalis) and artichoke (Cynara scolymus) help cleanse the liver and, therefore, help your body convert T4 to T3.
  • Licorice (Glycerrhiza glabra) and siberian ginseng (Eleuthrococcus senticosus) support adrenal function (which is critical in converting T4 to T3) and decrease fatigue. (Do not use licorice if you have high blood pressure.

Glandular Medicines

  • "Glandulars‟ are actual whole glands extracted from animals whose glands are biochemically similar to those of humans (usually bovine or porcine in origin). They are freeze-dried and made into pill-form in a lab.
  • Glandulars provide the enzymes and cellular material needed for a human gland to function – adding botanicals and vitamin „co-factors‟ will often have limited success if the needed enzymes have become depleted. Glandulars will replace them in a safe and natural manner.

Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine

  • In Chinese Medicine, the two organs that are usually involved with thyroid dysfunction are the Kidneys and the Triple Warmer.
  • The Kidneys store the Essence, house the Will (Zhi) and provide the „fire of life‟. Intense or prolonged fear depletes the kidneys.
  • The Triple Warmer regulates relations between the chest, abdomen and pelvis. It also regulates heat.
  • Signs that the Triple Warmer is out of balance include depression, suspicion, anxiety and poor elimination of harmful thoughts.
  • Acupuncture and herbal remedies (called Patents) may also be used to increase thyroid function. The points and/or herbs used differ between individuals and should be assessed by a licensed professional according to your individual needs.

Lifestyle

  • Stress and illness can interfere with thyroid function- meditation, yoga, prayer and tai chi can all help reduce stress and speed recovery from injury.
  • Regular exercise will help increase thyroid function.
  • Hydrotherapy uses hot and cold water over the throat to stimulate function.
  • Heavy metals in the system are sometimes the root cause of thyroid function. Removal of mercury amalgams (fillings) and other heavy metals through IV therapy can solve this problem.

Dr. Oxbro completed her undergraduate science degree in Biology and Psychology at Trent University and then completed a Masters of Science Degree in Pharmacology at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. Upon completion of her Masters degree, Dr. Oxbro entered the 4-year Naturopathic Medical Program, obtaining her Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine upon graduation in 2008. She currently treats patients, at her naturopathic medicine clinic Nova Health Naturopathic Centre in Kingston, Ontario