Thyroid Gland Dysfunction
The Thyroid gland is located in the front of the throat and functions to maintain optimal metabolic rate in tissues. Our pituitary gland produces a hormone called TSH or thyroid stimulating hormone. This stimulates the thyroid to make T4 and T3 out of iodine and the amino acid tyrosine. The T3 and T4 then go out and act on the tissue to controls the rate of fuel used in the body and its sensitivity to hot and cold. The thyroid also supports immune function and protects us from bone loss during pregnancy.
Some signs that thyroid function is low (hypothyroid) include symptoms like:
- poor memory, slow thinking;
- anxiety and depression that is worse in the morning and better when physically active;
- dry skin, decreased sweating;
- weight gain; infertility
- hair falling out; brittle hair; husky voice;
- intolerance to cold; slow digestion, gas and constipation.
Signs that the thyroid gland is overactive (hyperthyroid) include
- nervousness, restlessness, irritability, insomnia;
- palpitations, rapid pulse;
- bulging eyes; enlarged thyroid;
- increased hunger; and weight loss,
A hypothyroid state is much more common than an overactive thyroid. The most common cause of hypothyroidism worldwide is iodine deficiency but in areas that are iodine replete, the most common cause is autoimmune in nature (eg Hashimotos thyroiditis).
Thyroid Blood Tests
TSH is the standard blood test run by most medical doctors to assess thyroid function. TSH stands for thyroid stimulating hormone and it is secreted by the pituitary gland. Its role is to stimulate the thyroid gland to produce the thyroid hormones T4 and T3. When the thyroid hormone levels start to drop there is a feedback mechanism to the pituitary and TSH levels rise to compensate for this. When TSH levels rise the body recognizes the need to make more thyroid hormones. If the TSH rises high enough, meaning the thyroid is no longer responding appropriately with increased T4 and T3 production, a diagnosis of hypothyroidism will result.
As naturopathic doctors focused on prevention and health optimization, we respond to rising levels of TSH earlier so that we can support the thyroid in ways that can minimize the need for synthetic thyroid hormone replacement. There are nutrients, herbs, homeopathics, lifestyle and diet changes that will support the thyroid before severe under functioning occurs
If you suspect your thyroid is playing a role in your health and you have had your TSH levels checked (and told they were fine) then consider meeting with our Naturopathic Doctors to see if any further testing and treatment may be warranted.