Are you feeling cold, tired, moody and constipated? Are you gaining weight, getting joint pains, having period problems? It could be your thyroid!
Your thyroid is a butterfly shaped gland in the front of your neck, and although small it has a MASSIVE impact on whole body health. Your thyroid hormones (known as T3 and T4) are critical regulators of nearly every cell in your body. That is why properly assessing thyroid function is key to health.
When it comes to thyroid concerns there are two main categories, hypothyroidism and the more rare hyperthyroidism (for more on that click here). In hypothyroidism women experience low levels of the hormones T3 and T4 but their TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) is often high. This is because TSH is essentially the brain screaming louder and louder at your thyroid to work harder to make more hormones. When this can’t happen (for any number of reasons discussed below) you will be given a diagnosis of hypothyroidism. It is estimated that 1 in 8 women will experience hypothyroidism in their lifetimes, and those are just the women getting a diagnosis!
Your thyroid is the canary in the coal mine and it is incredibly sensitive to your whole body health. That means that if you struggle with any of the following you may also have a thyroid issue:
- Chronic stress
- Fatigue and poor sleep
- High insulin levels, diabetes, unexplained weight gain
- Chronic digestive issues: IBS, bloating, constipation, past history of infections, SIBO
- Poor liver health: fatty liver, elevated liver enzymes
- Autoimmune disease
- Hormonal imbalance: PCOS, endometriosis, infertility, fibroids, irregular periods, heavy periods, PMS
- Toxic exposure: examples include living in a moldy house, on a conventional farm, around pesticide exposure
Although any of the above can contribute to hypothyroidism the main cause is actually an autoimmune condition known as Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. In this condition the immune system starts to see you thyroid tissue as an invader that needs to be destroyed. It will begin to attack the gland, damaging it and therefore reducing its ability to make thyroid hormone. In these cases we need to support your whole body health, but also begin to reduce the immune attack (we measure this attack by measuring ‘anti-bodies’ in the blood stream). Fortunately, there are many natural ways to lower these and get you feeling better!
“What if my Doctor says my labs are okay?”
This can mean any number of things. Remember TSH that I mentioned above? Well that is the most common test run by Doctors. And just because your brain isn’t screaming at your thyroid (AKA your TSH is high) that doesn’t mean you are thyroid healthy. Investigating thyroid antibodies and thyroid hormones is imperative to fully understanding how well your thyroid is working.
“But I have seen a functional doctor or ND and they still say my labs are normal.”
I hear this all of the time! If that is the case and your labs are truly within the ideal range and you are still experiencing the symptoms mentioned above then we need to look further! You may have cellular hypothyroidism (where your cells aren’t responding to the thyroid hormones) or some other adrenal concern, toxic exposure, mitochondrial issues etc. This does NOT mean that you cannot be well.
“Do I have to take a medication for the rest of my life?”
After a complete assessment of the thyroid if an issue is found then we will begin treatment. In some instances this will include thyroid hormones, but not always. As I mentioned above, we need to work on your insulin levels, your inflammation, mitochondria, your stress levels, nutrient levels, gut bugs and the like. If you do not have Hashimoto’s thyroiditis or other damage to your thyroid gland then you may not need to be on medication at all, or long term, after we correct these things. That being said, even if you have Hashimoto’s and need medication we highly recommend that you still investigate your whole body health to prevent further damage and feel at your best.
The Advanced Women’s Health Hypothyroidism Program
At AWH we realize that you are unique and therefore you need a plan that is customized to your individual needs. We also realize that it can be hard to figure out the best first step when so many things could be contributing to your thyroid issues. That is why we believe in a thorough investigation in order to give you the most customized and effective plan. Together we will customize your nutrition, lifestyle and supplement plan in our three phase system.
Phase 1 – Understand and Customize
It can be so difficult to deal with the symptoms of hypothyroidism and seeing a medical practitioner can be stressful if they don’t understand that so many of your symptoms are connected back to your thyroid. It is not all in your head!
In the first appointment you can expect that your Naturopathic Doctor will take time to hear your unique symptoms. We will also help you to understand what is happening in your body so that you can understand what we will do to fix it. We will need to work on your gut health, blood sugar signalling, liver health and hormone health, but as the main cause of Hypothyroidism is Hashimoto’s the first thing we need to do is investigate your immune system.
At the end of this appointment you can expect to leave with:
- Basic diet and lifestyle recommendations
- Personalized herbal and nutrient recommendations
- Where appropriate, in house testing for your adrenal health, gut health, and/or body impedance analysis
- Lab test recommendations may include a full thyroid panel (TSH, free T3, free T4, anti-TPO, anti-TG, reverse T3), insulin and glucose testing, female sex hormones, inflammation investigations and liver and cholesterol testing. We use both functional tests and standard blood tests to come to understand your health better.
After we receive the results of your testing your ND will explain all of the findings. No blanket normal statements here, we want to ensure you understand what it all means. From that point we will customize a meal system and supplements to your specific needs.
If thyroid hormones are required then your ND will discuss your prescription options and monitor your hormone levels every 6-8 weeks.
Phase 2- Tweak and Monitor
Step one in this plan is always to get your thyroid hormones to the appropriate level and then stabilize them. This allows for two big things, one you should be feeling better, more motivated, less fatigued, achy etc, and two, your ND can now see what other symptoms are left over. Altered thyroid hormones can cause digestive issues, skin issues, pain and innumerable other symptoms. When properly regulated many of these concerns may go away and phase two will focus on clearing up those that remain.
What are the most common concerns we work on in Phase 2?
- Ongoing weight loss struggles
- Stress and burn out
- Gut problems including bloating, constipation, loose stools, SIBO, blastocystis hominis
- Autoimmune support
- Hormone imbalance
Three to four months after embarking on your plan we will also be repeating any tests that indicated a problem area (such as inflammatory markers, autoimmune markers, insulin etc). This allows us to make sure that you are improving as expected and making your way into Phase 3.
Phase 3- Flourish and Maintain
Life changes, health changes and your thyroid hormones will respond accordingly! This is why it is important to have regular support from your ND. Not only does this help you to stay on track with your nutrition and lifestyle goals, but it can also prevent a stressful episode from heading into burn out, or a hormone imbalance from getting out of hand.
We all fall off and experience set backs so this phase helps to keep you on track, judgement free! For some this is a semi annual check up and for others they may dive into our other programs. No matter what this looks like for you we are here 100% of the way!