Weight issues, depression, dry skin and hair, slow digestion….a slow thyroid may be at the root of this array of seemingly unrelated symptoms. Thyroid medication does not always bring the relief you may be looking for – natural medicine can help you achieve optimal thyroid health to live symptom-free.
The thyroid is a gland located in the front of the neck and which produces a number of hormones (T3 and T4) responsible for affecting our metabolism, overall energy levels, digestion, weight management and skin health.
The health of the thyroid is closely linked to the health of our adrenal glands and gonads (ovaries/testes). The most common types of thyroid imbalances generally fall into two categories:
Underactive thyroid (Hashimoto’s thyroiditis) – characterized by high TSH, low T4 – symptoms typically include fatigue, weight gain, constipation, depression and dry skin.
Overactive thyroid (Graves disease) – characterized by low TSH and high T4 – symptoms typically include fatigue, painful or teary eyes, frequent bowel movements, heart palpitations and anxiety.
Both of these conditions are auto-immune, meaning that the body produces antibodies that directly create these thyroid imbalances. As such, different types of antibodies produced against the thyroid gland are detectable on a blood test.
Many studies have shown a link between our digestive health and the production of a variety of detrimental anti-self antibodies, which leads to the development of one or many types of auto-immune illnesses. As such, the naturopathic treatment of thyroid issues almost always involves investigating the health of the digestive system through certain specialized tests if necessary and balancing intestinal health. This can be a long process and is usually done through a combination of probiotics and intestinal mucosa supportive nutrients (glutamine, zinc etc..). Identifying food intolerances is also a crucial part of the process as many foods often need to be avoided for a period of time if they are inflammatory triggers for this person’s body.
Grave’s disease is generally harder to address than Hashimoto’s thyroiditis as Grave’s disease is often triggered by an acute and intense period of stress. The adrenal glands usually need substantial support through herbs and minerals/vitamins as well as the implementation of stress-coping mechanisms. Psychotherapy can be helpful as well. Nevertheless, food intolerances and digestive health also have an important role to play in Grave’s disease – such that a two tiered approach is necessary to work both on digestion and adrenal health.