Thyroid hormone imbalance is one of the most common presentations that I see in my office from patients (mostly women) looking for a holistic approach. The majority of these women experience hypothyroidism, and some are diagnosed with an autoimmune thyroid, or Hashimoto’s Autoimmune Thyroiditis. These individuals with thyroid imbalance have one thing in common, they are looking for an alternative solution that the traditional route of pharmaceutical intervention. The good news is that there are a variety of things that individuals with hypothyroidism, including Hashimoto’s can do in order to improve their overall wellness.According to the United States National Library of Medicine and National Institutes of Health, it is estimated that 27 million Americans experience some form of thyroid disease. They further estimate that there are an additional 13 million Americans with undiagnosed thyroid imbalance. Generally speaking, the risk and prevalence of thyroid imbalance increases as individuals age, and women are nearly seven times more likely to be diagnosed with thyroid imbalance than men.
The thyroid is a hormonal gland that is located near the middle of the lower neck, and plays a vital role within every cell, organ and tissue of the human body. The thyroid glad is responsible for regulating metabolism, body temperature, heart rate, ATP (energy) production, and proper cell reproduction. The causes of thyroid imbalance can vary, but the most commonly reported causes are:
- Nutritional deficiency – The two most commonly associated nutritional imbalances associated with thyroid symptoms are iodine and selenium. These are not the only two deficiencies that lead to poor thyroid health, but are certainly at the top of the list.
- Toxicity from radiation and heavy metal exposure – Many times when we think of radiation, we think of superheroes and villains. Radiation and heavy metal exposure can come from every day pollutants, smoking, car exhaust, poor quality foods and water, as well as occupational hazards. One of our patients was involved in a military rescue mission after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in 2011. The radiation exposure that he went through caused numerous nodules on his thyroid that required medical treatment through the Veterans Affairs Medical Center.
- Hormone imbalance – Mostly related to blood sugar hormone regulation, yet compounded by stress, too many carbs in the diet, and not enough fats.
- Food sensitivities – Certain food proteins have a tendency to trigger inflammatory reactions. The two most common foods that contribute to thyroid hormone imbalance are gliadin (gluten), and casein. Gliadin is most often found in wheat, barley, and rye containing products though cross contamination can also be present when products are made in a facility that handles these grains. Casein is the dairy protein found in mammalian milk (non-dairy milk and eggs do not contain casein).
Thyroid imbalance can lead to numerous symptoms depending on if the thyroid is going too fast or too slow.
Common Hyperthyroid Symptoms
Hyperthyroidism is most often associated with:
- Unexplained weight loss
- Muscle weakness
- Poor neurological reflexes
- Vision and eye issues
Hypothyroidism can be associated with:
- Difficulty losing weight
- Brain fog or forgetfulness
- Poor hair/nail quality
- Never feeling refreshed, even after sleeping/napping
Even though these common symptoms can be associated with thyroid imbalance, proper diagnostic testing is essential to determine if the thyroid is involved with the individual’s health concerns. The easiest way to test for and identify thyroid imbalance is through a blood test. Blood tests for thyroid hormone imbalance are inexpensive, and routinely performed in medical practices throughout the country. The most commonly prescribed medication to treat hypothyroidism is Synthroid, but this medication comes with potential side effects. The Physician’s Desk Reference warns against the following side effects of Synthroid (Levothyroxine):
- Increased appetite
- Weight loss
- Heat intolerance
- Hair loss
- Menstrual irregularities
- Pseudotumor cerebri (children)
- Slipped capital femoral epiphysis (children)
Due to the overwhelming number of potential side effects with these commonly prescribed medications, many people come into our office looking to a safer, more natural way to address their thyroid imbalance. The good news is that we look for the source of imbalance, rather than try to treat hypothyroidism, or hyperthyroidism. We attempt to identify where the patient is toxic, deficient, reacting to foods, or creating blood sugar imbalances through their diet. As we identify, and help support the patient in restoring balance to the areas of dysfunction, we often see patient report changes in their symptoms, and subsequently in their primary care physician’s blood tests.
Each patient is unique, and should be treated as an individual, not a diagnosis. Our goal is to get to the bottom of the patient’s thyroid hormone imbalance by looking for the cause, and not treating the blood test. Whether the patient has hyperthyroidism, or hypothyroidism, we like to take an upstream approach to health.