Is your Thyroid working the way it should? Your thyroid is your body’s powerhouse. Your energy levels, metabolism, and heart rate are all controlled by this small, butterfly-shaped gland. Without enough thyroid hormone, your mitochondria aren’t able to produce the energy that your cells need for optimum performance. At the other end of the spectrum, your body can go into “overdrive” if it produces too much thyroid hormone. Both of these conditions have negative implications for your heart health, so best keep on top of things.
Thyroid Issues are
More Common Than you Think
One in eight women produce either too much or not enough thyroid
hormone. Females are at higher risk for thyroid issues than men, and the risk
for both genders increases with age. In fact the stats for those with
undiagnosed thyroid disease are shocking. Hormonal changes like pregnancy or
menopause can also make women more vulnerable to thyroid problems –I see a lot of women in my office
whose thyroids have gone off course after having a child. It’s also easy to attribute
thyroid symptoms to age or menopause instead of getting to the root of the
issue, but please don’t fall
into this trap! Too often people excuse their symptoms as “getting old”, but
such is not always the case. You deserve better.
Here we go with the thyroid.
TSH, The Master
To understand how your thyroid can
wreak havoc on your health, you need to understand how it functions. Your
thyroid sits at the base of your neck, where it performs the vital task of
secreting thyroid hormone which in turn triggers a cascade of other hormones
and processes throughout the body. The key point about thyroid hormone is that
your body is very sensitive to the amounts it receives. Any imbalances can have
The amount of hormone your thyroid
secretes is controlled by the amount of thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) secreted by your brain. In
other words, TSH is the “master” hormone, and it’s produced in your pituitary
gland and tells your thyroid
to secrete its hormones—it is not a thyroid hormone itself.
Can Affect Your Thyroid
What’s more, your thyroid is vulnerable to autoimmune disorders.
The autoimmune disorder Grave’s disease causes too much thyroid hormone to be
produced. In contrast, Hashimoto’s disease causes your autoimmune system to
attack your thyroid, slowing down thyroid hormone production.
Your thyroid can also become
inflamed (this is called Thyroiditis), or develop nodules or small lumps which
can disrupt your normal thyroid function. Autoimmunity is a main reason for thyroid nodules, as is iodine
Your Body Slows Down
If your thyroid isn’t producing
enough thyroid hormone, your body slows down, resulting in a condition called hypothyroidism. The symptoms of
hypothyroidism show up in many troublesome ways and include:
|Feeling cold all the time
Dry hairMuscle weakness
Depression - thyroid can impact serotonin
Weight gainHoarsenessElevated cholesterol
Could You be
Experiencing Hypothyroid Symptoms?
Despite this long list of issues,
about 60 percent of people with hypothyroidism aren’t aware of it. One reason
for this is that it’s easy to blame thyroid symptoms on a poor diet or growing
older. As well, hypothyroid symptoms tend to develop slowly, and we often blame
ourselves for weight gain.
If you experience any of the
symptoms above, it’s a good idea to dig deep and figure out the root cause -
including a detailed checkup
of your thyroid that I
often order for my patients. These uncomfortable symptoms do not have to
be part of your “normal” day
if we find the root cause.
Consequences of Too Much Thyroid Hormone
In contrast, when your body
produces too much thyroid hormone, the condition is called hyperthyroidism. With hyperthyroidism, your body’s functions
accelerate. Although this might sound appealing, many of the symptoms are
debilitating and harmful.
Some signs of hyperthyroidism include:
|Feeling hot all the time
A rapid heartbeat
As with hypothyroidism, the
symptoms of hyperthyroidism are often attributed to other issues, such as
stress. Stress is something we
should attribute symptoms to only when everything else has been ruled out!
With So Many Symptoms,
Why Are Thyroid Disorders Hard to Diagnose?
One challenging problem with
identifying thyroid issues is that many conventional medical doctors run one
test for thyroid, only testing the amount of TSH in your blood. However,
testing one hormone often doesn’t give the complete picture of thyroid health.
A more holistic approach which tests various hormone levels throughout the
system can often yield more information - and more effective treatment. We run a full thyroid panel in for
our patients so we can see the entire scenario.
Prevention: How can
you Avoid Thyroid Problems?
Unfortunately, prevention isn’t
always possible, since triggers can sometimes be genetic. Other risk factors include chronic stress and
a history of autoimmune diseases. Hormone balances can also block proper thyroid function. In
addition, more research is pointing to the role of environmental factors in disrupting thyroid hormones.
Addressing the lifestyle factors
which can cause inflammation of your immune system can do a lot to help
stabilize thyroid hormones whatever the cause of your imbalance, but especially for those with
autoimmune thyroid issues.
Strategies for protecting your thyroid health:
Since stress can interfere with
thyroid function by slowing the production of TSH, addressing your stress
levels is important. Exercise is a good way to both reduce stress and improve
your metabolism, which can help balance the effects of hypothyroidism. Need help with stress reduction:
good news – Naturopathic Doctors are great with this!
Cut your sugar intake.
Your thyroid is a crucial component
of your endocrine (hormonal) system. Sugar is metabolized by another vital
organ in the interconnected endocrine system, your pancreas. As a result, there
is a complex relationship between diabetes and thyroid disease. Managing your
glucose levels can help stabilize your thyroid. Your body will thank you for cutting out sugar
for so many reasons!
Eat to protect your gut health.
Maintaining enough good bacteria in
your digestive system can protect your immune system and reduce the risk of
Thyroid-friendly foods are high in nutrients such as Iron, Vitamin A, and
Watch your iodine intake.
Iodine is essential for good
thyroid function, but too much can also lead to problems. Fortified salt,
seaweed, and some seafood all contain high levels of iodine.
Pay attention to how gluten affects you.
People with celiac disease are
three times more likely to have a thyroid problem. Celiac disease can interfere
with the absorption of nutrients such as iodine. If you have trouble digesting
gluten, consider eliminating it
and have your thyroid checked.
Look for high-fiber foods
Especially if you’re hypothyroid.
Having hypothyroidism can slow your digestive system and lead to constipation,
so you want to focus on keeping things moving
In general, the key is to focus on
a whole-foods diet that will reduce inflammation. Avoiding artificial ingredients
and regulating your blood sugar will reduce dietary stress and help maintain
thyroid health. We can help
with this issue, too.
I’m Concerned About My
Thyroid. What’s the Next Step?
When it comes to resolving thyroid
issues, early detection is the key. It’s also important to complete thorough
testing- evaluating thyroid hormone levels can be complex and often left
undiagnosed by the conventional healthcare system. If you’re experiencing any
of the symptoms of thyroid issues - either hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism -
give us a call! Thyroid issues do not have to affect your daily life.
Hungry for more thyroid info? I blogged all about the ins and outs of
thyroid testing here: https://www.greenathome.ca/when-thyroid-needs-more-than-a-detox/
Want to get started but not sure where to start? Book your free Hormone
Reset Assessment Call here https://calendly.com/drwebsternd/hormone-reset-assessment-call
Your Hormone Advocate,
Dr. Hillary Webster, ND is a Naturopathic Doctor with a thriving hormone-focused practice in the Danforth area of Toronto. Are you having trouble losing stubborn weight, or finding that your energy isn't what it used to be? Call Dr. Hillary for a free consult. Naturopathic hormone or thyroid testing and balancing could be just what the doctor ordered!