All of us know someone who has suddenly…
- Put on 10-20 pounds without changing their diet or lifestyle drastically within a span of weeks or a few months.
- Lost a lot of weight suddenly and unexpectedly without trying, and is worried about it.
- Experienced a huge change in their appetite, and have either started eating a lot or eating very little, all of a sudden.
Can you guess what all these people have in common? Likely, thyroid issues.
The reason this is so common is that it affects at least 10% of all Canadians, as per thyroid dysfunction statistics. Women are at higher risk, with one in eight women experiencing some kind of thyroid dysfunction during their lifetime.
Thyroid diseases become more common with age, so preventive care is a much preferable option. As these issues cannot be cured (but are easy to manage with medical intervention), preventive measures should be adopted early. Some basic principles of naturopathy and ensuring timely intervention may help prepare your body as you grow older.
These symptoms are sometimes accompanied by increased stress levels, although not everyone experiences that. Thyroid issues like hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism are caused by the lack or excess of the hormone thyroid in the body. The hormone is released by a butterfly-shaped endocrine gland at the base of your neck, also called the thyroid.
Responsible for regulating your metabolism and heart rate and influencing the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis that determines stress resilience, the thyroid gland needs to secrete its hormones (thyroxine, triiodothyronine, and calcitonin) at a certain pace.
An underactive thyroid or an overactive thyroid leads to thyroid conditions that might require a visit to a naturopath or another primary healthcare practitioner. You can check out the checklists below to understand the symptoms to see if naturopathic treatment and medicines might be a good fit for you.
One thing worth mentioning here is that although there are options like thyroid replacement therapy, they often involve the usage of pharmaceutical products that can also have their own side effects. Whether you want to be treated with herbal medicine and other naturopathic supplements (herbs can reverse thyroid dysfunction) or with thyroid replacement therapy (more on that later!), the good thing is that there are options available for everyone.
What is Hyperthyroidism (Overactive Thyroid)?
One way of remembering what hyperthyroidism refers to is to focus on the first portion of the word, i.e., hyper. Hyper individuals are overactive. They do too much. So hyperthyroidism is when your thyroid gland produces too much thyroxine. It’s called having an overactive thyroid.
Easy enough? Now, remember the three hormones we mentioned before?
Thyroxine and triiodothyronine affect every cell in your body because they maintain body temperature and the pace at which the body processes fats and carbohydrates and produces proteins. Calcitonin regulates calcium levels in the blood.
A misbalance in these processes because of an overactive thyroid can affect the overall functioning of your body.
Supporting thyroid function is crucial, especially because thyroid disorders can impact your mental health as well.
The causes of hyperthyroidism are a bit complex, so let’s break it down:
The overproduction of thyroid hormones by the entire gland is called Graves’ disease and is the primary cause of hyperthyroidism. This cause of hyperthyroidism is responsible for 70% of cases and is frequently passed down the family tree. Antibodies residing in the blood overstimulate the thyroid gland, leading to excessive secretions. Graves’ disease requires autoimmune disorder treatment.
Lumps or nodules can also cause hyperthyroidism in the thyroid gland. If these grow, the thyroid secretions in the blood increase. This is called a nodular or multinodular goitre.
A third cause is a temporary condition called thyroiditis. When the immune system is compromised, or a viral infection attacks your body — the thyroid gland gets inflamed and leaks stored hormone. The thyroid gland, in this case, is not overactive or compromised, but when a viral infection attacks your body (the thyroid per se), then there is excessive thyroid in the blood at that time.
Imagine a garden hose. Either the hose is working with excess force, or it’s working with the force it usually works at, but it’s leaking from somewhere. In both cases, you may be diagnosed with hyperthyroidism.
Another cause is insufficient or excess amounts of iodine consumption. Salt helps produce thyroid hormones, and not regulating iodine intake can cause overactivity of the gland.
Lifestyle choices such as smoking, environmental factors such as exposure to heavy metals, and misuse of thyroid medication can also be possible causes.
Naturopathic treatment can help alleviate some of the imbalances stemming from an overactive thyroid. With a massive list of symptoms, there might be some anxiety about how you should treat your hyperthyroidism condition, but don’t get overwhelmed — a consultation with your GP or naturopathic doctor can provide you with more insight into the cause and the treatment plan.
- Weight loss despite an increase or no change in appetite and food consumption
- Rapid heartbeat, i.e., tachycardia (more than 100 beats per minute) or irregular heartbeat, i.e., arrhythmia
- Pounding of the heart
- Nervousness, anxiety, and irritability
- Irregularity in menstrual patterns
- Increased sensitivity to heat
- Changes in bowel patterns, especially more frequent bowel movements
- Swelling at the base of the neck in the case of goitre
- Fatigue and muscle weakness
- Thinning of hair and skin
What is Hypothyroidism (Underactive Thyroid)
You must have already guessed it, but here’s a quick overview. Hypothyroidism is a condition in which there are not enough secretions from your thyroid gland. Less thyroxine and triiodothyronine lead to slow metabolism and the symptoms that come with it. Your body’s processes start slowing down due to insufficient thyroid hormones. Untreated hypothyroidism can lead to obesity, joint pain, infertility, and heart diseases.
The most common cause is an autoimmune disease that prompts the immune system to perceive thyroid enzymes as harmful entrants in the body. Your immunity system will then try to “attack” these enzymes, thus causing a decrease in thyroid activity. This is also called autoimmune thyroiditis and can be in the form of either Hashimoto’s thyroiditis or atrophic thyroiditis.
Just like with hyperthyroidism, one of the causes of hypothyroidism is thyroiditis.
How can thyroiditis cause both hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism?
Consider the fact that with thyroiditis, the stored hormones are leaking. What if all the leakage happens at once and the whole supply of stored thyroid hormones enters the blood? This stage of hyperthyroidism is followed by hypothyroidism because the supply is less, so the thyroid gland is underactive.
Other causes include removing part or the entirety of the thyroid gland during surgery, congenital hypothyroidism, i.e., when a baby is born with it, damaged pituitary gland, and radiation treatment.
Having another cause common with hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism can be due to too little or too much iodine, which can skew the equilibrium of the gland.
Lastly, unsupervised or inaccurate use of thyroid medication can also lead to hypothyroidism.
Naturopathic doctors will go to the root of the cause and then work from there to determine your course of treatment for hypothyroidism. Ever heard the phrase, “not everything suits everyone’s bodies”? Well, it’s true. Our bodies can respond to different treatments and medicines differently, and this is why naturopathic doctors offer personalized treatments.
Depending on whether there is a nutritional deficiency, autoimmune triggers, or any other factor, the naturopath will assist in pinpointing what course of treatment would work best for your body.
- Fatigue and muscle weakness (same as with hyperthyroidism)
- Increased sensitivity to cold (as opposed to heat sensitivity because of hyperthyroidism)
- Constipation (instead of frequent bowel movements as is the case with hyperthyroidism)
- Dry skin
- Weight gain and puffy face (as opposed to weight gain because of hyperthyroidism)
- Elevated blood cholesterol level
- Muscle aches, tenderness, and stiffness
- Irregular menstrual periods (same as with hyperthyroidism)
- Thinning hair (similar to hyperthyroidism)
- Slowed heart rate (as opposed to rapid heartbeat because of hyperthyroidism)
- Impaired memory
- Enlarged thyroid gland or goitre (same as with hyperthyroidism)
Natural Treatment of Thyroid Disorders
The most critical step is tracing the cause of the disorder. As naturopathic doctors in Ontario with vast knowledge in therapeutic nutrition and botanical medicine, we administer multiple tests based on different biomarkers to zero in on the cause of the imbalance or dysfunction of your thyroid gland. After a naturopathic consultation and initial tests, we will advise you to implement a particular diet (after doing a sensitivity test to determine your food intolerances) and suggest some lifestyle changes, along with explaining all the natural therapies you can adopt.
A healthy diet featuring adequate iodine increased protein, and a reduction in alcohol, caffeine, and sugar is likely to give you some results because diet plays an important role in regulating thyroid function.
For hypothyroidism, microbiome imbalance is tested to rule out autoimmune diseases by incorporating nutritional therapies such as probiotics and a low carb/sugar/carbohydrates diet. Our microbiome or microbiota keeps us healthy and strengthens immunity, and foods for a healthy microbiome are usually suggested if autoimmune disease is the culprit.
Food allergy tests are also done for thyroiditis, and vitamin deficiencies are corrected by incorporating foods rich in B-12 (vitamin B12 deficiency can cause diarrhea or constipation), selenium, and zinc.
To restore the body’s thyroid levels, naturopathic doctors that work with digestive health can recommend herbs like Ashwagandha (regulates metabolism rate), Gum guggul (converts inactive hormones), and curcumin, which has anti-inflammatory properties.
We adopt a holistic approach, so our goal is not to eliminate your symptoms as much as it is to address the cause, as a product of which the symptoms will subside.
As an individual trying to take proactive steps, you can focus on having a balanced diet and then let your naturopath figure the rest!
While all this may sound worrying, we can help you familiarize yourself with the process of adopting lifestyle changes that you can implement using things in your fridge and spice cabinet.
Thyroid disorders can cause alarm or exhibit vague symptoms that you might not even be able to associate with an overactive or underactive thyroid without guidance. Either way, we may have all the naturopathic solutions you need to restore balance in your body and help you become the best version of yourself. Contact us today to begin your tryst with naturopathy to regulate your thyroid. We can address and work out your concerns – together.
FAQs About Thyroid Disorders
How do naturopaths treat hyperthyroidism?
For hyperthyroidism, herbal therapy in the form of Bugleweed, Motherwort, and Lemon Balm can help. These herbs can suppress thyroid activity and can also help reduce nervousness and trembling. We curate a personalized combination of these herbs that will work for your specific concerns and symptoms. Reducing oxidative stress through nutritional supplements will also help you reduce your mental and physical stress.
We can provide you with a specialized formulation that will relax your body’s processes and regulate the extremities of some of your symptoms.
Which thyroid disorder can be cured permanently?
Both hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism may require some kind of therapy for life. Surgical removal of the thyroid gland or making the thyroid redundant through medication in case of hyperthyroidism will be a permanent cure for your condition. However, once the thyroid gland is removed, you will likely have to be on thyroid hormone replacement medication for life.
Which therapy is best for thyroid disorders?
Thyroid hormone replacement therapy is considered the best port of call for thyroid disorders. Under conventional medication for hypothyroidism, synthetic T4 medication may be your safest bet as part of this therapy.
What is the best natural thyroid medication?
Under naturopathy, the purest natural desiccated thyroid hormone can be incorporated into your diet. It contains chicory root, medium-chain triglycerides, and Lactose Monohydrate. It has no artificial colors and is suitable for even those with gluten intolerance and corn allergies.
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