Thyroid health is at the core of Naturopathic Medicine.
This article will explain why this gland you don’t seem to hear much about is actually one of the most essential glands in the body.
The Thyroid is a bi-lobed gland situated in the anterior aspect of the neck.
This small gland (weights less than 1oz in an adult) determines many functions that maintain life in a living organism.
Thyroid regulates breathing, heart rate, body weight, menstrual cycles, body temperature, cholesterol levels, digestion, skin health, cognitive functions and much more.
As Naturopathic Doctors, we pay particular attention to its health and well being.
In the USA, thyroid issues are on the rise.
In particular, under-reactive thyroid or hypothyroidism has become a silent endemic.
Thyroid function is not typically tested by doctors unless patients start exhibiting symptoms, such as chronic fatigue, constipation, dry skin, anxiety, weight gain.
Thyroid health is connected with various nutritional deficiencies (iron deficiency anemia[i], zinc deficiency[ii], low protein intake), gut health, and adrenal functioning.
When a person goes through stressful times, sometimes not even realizing it, some of the adrenal hormones produced by adrenal glands can be diminished or imbalanced (low cortisol in the morning creating fatigue and high cortisol in the evening making a patient go to bed later than normal).
In some patients, symptoms can be more subtle but the thyroid function is already compromised.
Possible reasons that lead to low thyroid function are: a lack of iodine in the body (absorbable, easy to digest form), deficiency of Magnesium and Zinc, heavy metal poisoning (such as with mercury, lead, arsenic, and cadmium) , surgical removal of the thyroid gland or treatment with radioactive iodine, pesticides, family history of thyroid conditions, radiation and X-rays (thyroid is very sensitive to ionizing radiation).
Such changes in a woman’s body such as pregnancy and menopause can also predispose somebody to thyroid problems.
The best way to ensure the thyroid is functioning properly is to do a blood test for thyroid hormones (TSH, Free T4 and Free T3 and others).
By addressing adrenal health, iron deficiency (anemia), as well as optimizing digestion and absorption can help improve thyroid function as well.
When you come to a Naturopathic Doctor, we can use a number of different natural approaches to optimize and recover thyroid health – herbal formulations, homeopathy, nutrition and life style changes, determine deficiencies and address them through supplementation and diet.
Mental and emotional factors are always considered as well.
[i] Saroj Khatiwada, Basanta Gelal, Nirmal Baral, and Madhab Lamsal. Association between Iron Statue and Thyroid Function in Nepalese Children. Thyroid Res. 2016;9;2. Published online 2016 Jan 27. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4729155/
[ii] Maxwell C, Volpe SL. Effect of Zinc Supplementation on Thyroid Hormone Function. A case study of two college females. Ann Nutr Metab. 2007;51(2):188-94. May 30, 2007. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17541266