thyroid hypothyroid hyperthyroid
Thyroid Gland

Hypothyroid, Sluggish or Underactive Thyroid

What does hypothyroid mean?

It means that for some reason there is insufficient levels of thyroid hormone (T3 or T4) in your blood stream and/or that your TSH level is too high.

What are hypothyroid symptoms?

  1. Hair loss
  2. Sluggish metabolism, easy weight gain, difficulty losing weight
  3. Feeling mentally sluggish or lethargic
  4. Low energy or feeling tired all the time
  5. Feeling cold all the time
  6. Constipation
  7. Irregular periods
  8. Infertility

What are the tests for hypothyroidism?

  • TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone) – this hormone is released from the pituitary gland and stimulates the thyroid to produce the hormone that it is supposed to make, T4.  The normal range for TSH is quite broad, usually something like 0.35-5.00 mIU/L.  TSH levels above 3.00 are not ideal and may warrant treating the thyroid, particularly in patients with infertility.
  • free T4 – this test measures the hormone the thyroid is responsible for making. Low levels indicate hypothyroidism.  Normally this level is 12-22 pmol/L, although the average for a healthy thyroid in my practice is around 15 pmol/L.
  • free T3 – this is the active form of T4, this is what regulates metabolism and body temperature.  Normally free T3 is 3.5-6.5 pmol/L.  I find 4.0-5.0 pmol/L to be the average in healthy patients.
  • Anti-TPO or anti-thyroperoxidase or anti-thyroid peroxidase – these are antibodies that your immune system is making that may be attacking your thyroid and destroying the tissue, causing you to be hypothyroid.  These antibodies are high in 90% of cases of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.  The normal value for anti-TPO is less than 35.  I have had patients with normal values for TSH, fT3, fT4 have high levels of anti-TPO antibodies, so I always incorporate this test into my thyroid screening.
  • Anti-thyroglobulin antibodies – these are similar to anti-TPO and also tested to determine if your thyroid is underactive due to Hashimoto’s.  The normal value for anti-thyroglobulin is less than 10.

What causes an underactive thyroid?

This varies from person to person, which is why naturopathic medicine is an excellent option.  We treat you as an individual and source out why you specifically are having thyroid issues.  Common causes of thyroid problems:

  1. Nutritional deficiency. The thyroid requires copper, zinc, selenium, iodine, and tyrosine to work normally.  Too much iodine can be harmful to the thyroid, as can  too little, consult a professional before supplementing iodine.
  2. Autoimmune thyroiditis or Hashimoto’s.  This is actually quite common. Determining if this is the problem requires testing of anti-TPO and anti-thyroglobulin.  These are often not done.  If these are positive, the approach is to moderate the immune system.
  3. Environmental toxins and hormone disruptors.  Mercury is hard on the thyroid.  Air and water pollution are sources of mercury exposure, along with consumption of certain types of fish and seafood and amalgam fillings. Xenoestrogens or environmental estrogens like BPA have been shown to disrupt thyroid hormones¹.
  4. Stress.  Stress can disrupt the endocrine system generally and also negatively impact the immune system.

Can a Naturopathic Doctor Treat Hypothyroidism?

Yes.  In Ontario, at present, we cannot prescribe thyroid hormone medication, however, many of my patients have been able to successfully resolve their thyroid problems without medication.

Naturopathic Treatment for Hypothyroid

  1. Nutritional support for the thyroid
  2. Moderate the immune system in the case of autoimmune disorders of the thyroid
  3. Enhance healthy phase I and phase II liver detoxification
  4. Moderate stress and support the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis


  1. Nashwa M. Saied, Wafaa A. Hassan, Long-term exposure to xenoestrogens alters some brain monoamines and both serum thyroid hormones and cortisol levels in adult male rats. The Journal of Basic & Applied Zoology. Volume 67, Issue 5, October 2014, Pages 205–211.

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