Hypothyroidism, or a low functioning thyroid gland is common, especially in the female population. The efficiency of the thyroid gland depends on many different co-factors and other hormones in the body.
Co-factors needed for proper thyroid function:
A low functioning thyroid can create symptoms such as:
- Low energy
- Cold intolerance, or always feeling cold
- Sluggish metabolism or weight gain
- Hair loss
- Brittle, thin nails
- Muscle aches and pain
While less common, hyperthyroidism is a condition where the thyroid gland is over-active. This condition presents with symptoms such as:
- Racing heart or palpitation
- Weight loss
- Exophthalmos (eyes protruding out)
- Warm, moist skin
- Increased perspiration
Both of these conditions can also be associated with an autoimmune component; Hashimoto’s thyroiditis (hypothyroidism) or Grave’s disease (hyperthyroidism). When there is an autoimmune component to a condition, it means that the body is attacking itself. In the case of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, the immune system is attacking the thyroid gland, causing it to be low functioning. In the case of Grave’s disease, the thyroid gland will be functioning too high, but then will be effectively destroyed by the immune cells and become hypothyroidism.
In many cases patients believe they are suffering from hypothyroidism based on their symptom picture and their own research, but when they go to their physician, the lab results indicate that they are “fine” or within the normal range. This is not your doctor’s fault, but the way that we are testing the thyroid. At the lab, if the value for TSH comes back within the normal range (~0.5 – 5.5) the values for T3 and T4 will not be tested or reported.
Generally, when you go to your GP and they run a thyroid panel for you, the only value that they get back is the TSH, while the T3 and T4 are canceled. This is a problem because TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) is the signal from the pituitary gland in the brain to the thyroid gland itself to release T4. T4 is the inactive or far less potent form of thyroid hormone released from the thyroid gland, and is then activated in the cells to, T3. As you can see, only looking at the TSH isn’t a good indicator for how the thyroid gland is functioning.
At Bay Wellness Centre, we are able to run the whole thyroid panel (TSH, T3, T4, anti-TPO) when we do lab testing. By doing so, we get the information we need to really assess the function of the thyroid gland, and if there is an autoimmune component present. By using all the values from the TSH, T3 and T4, we can determine if there is a problem and where it is occurring. We will also look at iron levels, stress levels and other hormones to determine if the thyroid gland has all of the co-factors necessary for it to make enough thyroid hormone.
Potential problems with thyroid function:
- Inadequate iron to make thyroid hormone
- Inadequate selenium to convert T4 to T3
- Inadequate iron and cortisol for cells to uptake T3
- Food sensitivities
- Adrenal fatigue
- High stress
As naturopathic physicians, we also aim to look at lab values along with the symptoms that our patients are presenting with. This way, we can develop a comprehensive treatment plan to resolve symptoms and improve your overall health.
If you think you’re experiencing some type of thyroid dysfunction book with us today!