As many as more than 27 million Americans have an undiagnosed thyroid condition, most of the population being women over 40.
Oprah Winfrey told ABC’s Good Morning America host Robin Roberts that, “she blew out her thyroid.” What this means from my perspective as a naturopathic physician is that her adrenal glands – or stress glands became burned out, putting strain on the thyroid gland and “wearing it out” – or “blowing it out” in her words. Because her diagnosis was Hashimotos Thyroiditis, we know that there is an autoimmunity behind her imbalance which actually starts in the gastrointestinal tract. It would behoove her to look at food allergies to prevent future problems of an autoimmune condition, rather than just addressing the thyroid condition. Remember, we are more than one system; we are one complete system of integrated energy. What affects one gland, affects the whole body.
One exposure on Oprah stated,” She was simply over stressed and feeling exhausted. She is said to have taken vitamins, drunk Soymilk, munched golden flaxseed and ate fresh food and at the end of the month she felt better.” Her initial symptoms were lethargy and weight gain. The most common symptoms of low thyroid are fatigue, weight gain, constipation and depression. Additionally I see that most people are sensitive to cold, have memory issues, insomnia and experience hormonal shifts earlier in life. Sometimes simple PMS is a result of low thyroid. Unfortunately, many people with sub-clinical thyroid disorders (meaning they don’t show up on labs) are put on antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications when thyroid medication could have taken care of the symptoms.
Natural Therapies for Treating Thyroid Imbalances
There are many natural approaches to treating the thyroid gland, which in my opinion help before an “overt” thyroid condition exists. Once the overt symptoms and signs are present, thyroid hormones are the best approach. I use a blended T3T4 “natural” pharmaceutical called Naturethroid.
Nutritionally we become deficient in specific nutrients that the thyroid uses in it’s conversion of thyroid hormone like L-tyrosine, selenium, Vitamin D, Vitamin A. Some herbs to consider are equisetum, oatstraw, alfalfa, and gotu kola to promote a healthy thyroid. Homeopahtic remedies are also effective and are specifically chosen for each personality. The most common one that I use is called Thyroidinum – which is thyroid hormone in the energetic form – not thyroid at all, just the vibration of it.
Soy and the Thyroid
The US FDA is very critical of soy because of the goitrogenic effects, which means that soy enlarges the thyroid and causes imbalances. Although this is true, there is so much more to the story. Soy in our country is the most heavily pesticide sprayed plant. If you consume many non-organic soy products, you are not only negatively affecting your thyroid gland, but your whole body. Fermented soy is much healthier, carrying less risk for goiter formation. In our culture, if something is considered healthy, we believe that more is better. Unfortunately, in the countries that eat soy daily, they have less risks of disease, eat very small quantities and mostly fermented soy products.
The standard testing is to measure the TSH level. This is an antiquated use of labs and not specific or adequate for diagnosing. Optimally we should be looking at Free T3 and Free T4. The standard measurements, again in my opinion, are too low. Although I don’t force people into “numbers” – most people with low thyroid symptoms also have low hormone levels of free T3 and free T4. However, even if labs are within my optimal range as a physician, if patients have persistent symptoms that suggest low thyroid, I will do a “thyroid trial”. Immediately people will either have symptoms as it was the wrong therapy or they will have dissolution of their symptoms. Most important to know is that starting thyroid medication doesn’t always mean that you are on it for life. We can dose it high enough to give your thyroid a rest so that as we come off of the medication, your thyroid kicks in by making more appropriate thyroid hormone and it is once again effective for a healthy metabolism.