Hypothyroid, Sluggish or Low Thyroid
What does hypothyroid mean?
Hypothyroid means that your thyroid isn’t working well. When your thyroid is underperforming, low levels of thyroid hormone (T3 or T4) will be in your bloodstream. It also means that your thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) is too high, trying to push your thyroid to keep working.
What are hypothyroid symptoms?
Because your thyroid is like the gas pedal for your body, if your thyroid is low, then everything in your body will run too slowly. Symptoms of a sluggish thyroid include:
- Hair loss
- Slow metabolism, easy weight gain, or difficulty losing weight
- Feeling mentally sluggish or lethargic
- Low energy or feeling tired all the time
- Feeling cold all the time
- Irregular periods
What are the tests for the thyroid?
- TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone). This hormone is released from your pituitary gland and stimulates your 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 your thyroid, particularly in people who are struggling with infertility.
- Free T4. This test measures the hormone that your 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 14-16 pmol/L.
- Free T3. This is the active form of thyroid hormone. This is what regulates your metabolism, your body temperature, and gives you energy. Normally the range for free T3 is 3.5-6.5 pmol/L. I find 4.0-5.0 pmol/L to be best for free T3 in healthy patients.
- Reverse T3. Under conditions of stress or increased inflammation, your thyroid hormone, T4, can be overly converted into an inactive form of T3 known as reverse T3. Because it is inactive, it can block the effects of active T3, causing symptoms of an underactive thyroid.
- Anti-TPO or anti-thyroperoxidase or anti-thyroid peroxidase. These are antibodies that your immune system may be making that would attack your thyroid and destroy the tissue, causing you to become 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, free T3, free T4, yet still have high levels of anti-TPO antibodies. As a result, I always incorporate this test into my thyroid screening.
- Anti-thyroglobulin antibodies. These antibodies are similar to anti-TPO in that they are indicative of an immune system attack on your thyroid. They should also be 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:
The thyroid requires copper, zinc, selenium, iodine, and tyrosine to work normally. Too much iodine can be harmful to your thyroid, as can too little iodine. Always consult a professional before supplementing with iodine.
Autoimmune thyroiditis or Hashimoto’s
Hashimoto’s is actually quite common. Determining if this is the problem requires testing of anti-TPO and anti-thyroglobulin. These are often not done, even with an obvious thyroid problem. If these antibodies are positive, the right approach is to moderate your immune system.
Environmental toxins and hormone disruptors
Mercury is hard on your 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.
Stress can disrupt the endocrine system generally and also negatively impact your immune system.
Can a Naturopathic Doctor Treat Hypothyroidism?
Yes. In Ontario, at present, I cannot prescribe thyroid hormone medication. However, many of my patients have been able to successfully fix their thyroid problems without medication.
Natural Treatment for Hypothyroid
The best steps to fix your thyroid naturally include:
- Nutritional support for your thyroid
- Moderate your immune system in the case of autoimmune disorders of your thyroid
- Enhance healthy phase I and phase II liver detoxification to remove toxins and heavy metals that disrupt your thyroid
- Moderate stress and support your hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis
For help with this or any other health problem, book an appointment here or call the office for more information at 416-481-0222.
by Dr. Pamela Frank, BSc(Hons), ND
Dr. Pamela has been in practice as a naturopathic doctor in Toronto since 1999. She has been the recipient of numerous “Best Naturopath in Toronto” awards. She is registered with the College of Naturopaths of Ontario.
Dr. Pamela Frank uses a natural treatment approach that may include acupuncture, herbal medicine, nutrition, diet, vitamins, supplements, and other natural remedies to restore balance and provide long-term resolution of almost any health problem.
Natural Treatment for Low Thyroid: A Sample of the Research:
- 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.
- Overall, the current study demonstrated that vitamin D supplementation among hypothyroid patients for 12 weeks improved serum TSH and calcium concentrations compared with the placebo, but it did not alter serum T3, T4, ALP, PTH, and albumin levels. Source: Indian J Endocrinol Metab. 2018 Sep-Oct;22(5):584-588. doi: 10.4103/ijem.IJEM_603_17. The Effects of Vitamin D Supplementation on Thyroid Function in Hypothyroid Patients: A Randomized, Double-blind, Placebo-controlled Trial. Talaei A1, Ghorbani F1, Asemi Z2.
- Selenium supplementation could restore euthyroidism in one third of subclinical hypothyroidism patients with autoimmune thyroiditis. Endokrynol Pol. 2016;67(6):567-571. doi: 10.5603/EP.2016.0064. Selenium supplementation could restore euthyroidism in subclinical hypothyroid patients with autoimmune thyroiditis. Pirola I, Gandossi E, Agosti B, Delbarba A, Cappelli C1.