Find out the difference between a slow thyroid, a fast thyroid and it’s effect on the body. Make sure to check out Part 1 to catch up on the function of this important butterfly-shaped organ found on the neck.
- Weight gain for no reason,
- Frequent exhaustion, sluggishness,
- Slowed thinking, infertility, acne,
- Menstrual problems,
- Hair loss and dry hair, skin and nails
Autoimmune disease called Hashimoto’s disease is responsible for 75-80% of hypothyroid. This is a disease whereby the immune system attacks the thyroid. The two thyroid antibodies mentioned in Part 1, attack the thyroid and decrease functioning. It is typically caused by a genetic disposition for an autoimmune problem in conjunction with a trigger that pushes the immune system over the edge.
From the naturopathic perspective these triggers may include:
- Food intolerance,
- Environmental toxicity,
- Infectious diseases like a virus,
- Gut dysbiosis and
- Others causes.
- Pregnancy can be another trigger, and often thyroid diseases occur postpartum.
Generally TSH is run as a screening test for hypothyroidism but it does not provide adequate information. If it is higher than 2, it is good practice to automatically run FT3, FT4 and the two thyroid antibodies. Conventionally TSH is the only test, if results are above 4.5 the patient is often just put on synthroid (thyroxine, T4) for the rest of their lives, and often the dose is increased over time. The idea behind the medication is that T4 in the body can then convert on its own to T3. The reality can be much more complex then a simple conversion.
- If the TSH <5.5mIU/L, antibodies are positive and FT4 and FT3 are normal: address the underlying causes and treat using homeopathy, herbal medicine and clinical nutrition with no conventional medication. However, if antibodies are positive the Hashimoto’s disease needs to be addressed. Homeopathy is very effective addition to treating autoimmune diseases including Hashimotos and oftentimes this can be enough together with certain herbs and supplements. It is imperative to investigate other triggers. Take time to consider food intolerance. For example, gluten is very inflammatory to the thyroid. Other factors such as environmental toxicity including heavy metals, gut dysbiosis such as parasites, bacterial and fungal overgrowth can lead to leaky gut. Emotional and lifestyle stress plus chronic low grade stress can also trigger Hashimoto’s disease and needs to be addressed.
- If the TSH however is <5.5mIU/L but greater than 2 and antibodies are negative: Then generally high levels of stress and/or adrenal fatigue is the underlying issue and not the thyroid. Cortisol and its precursor (CRH) can inhibit thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). Cortisol can also inhibit conversion of the thyroid hormone T4 into T3. The adrenals need to be treated and the stress managed before any other consideration. Again a combination of homeopathy, herbal medicine and nutrition while modifying lifestyle stress too. As a Naturopathic Physician I am always looking at the whole person in all aspects of life to assess the whole health picture.
- If TSH above 5.5, antibodies are positive and symptoms are severe: Use medication either long term or for a period of time may often be necessary. Thyroid supplements/medication is available in two forms: glandular thyroid or synthroid. Glandular thyroid is a natural product made from animal thyroid glands (usually a pig) which naturally contains T4, T3, T2 and T1. Patient’s often feel better on this than just synthroid as it is closer to the what our thyroid naturally produces. Synthroid (thyroxine) is a synthetic T4 only, as it contains no T3 (the more active of the thyroid hormones). But some patients may be better on just synthroid or synthroid with separate synthetic T3. Often various forms need to be tried before the right fit is found. The important thing to note is there are lots of options.
In treating hypothyroidism there are some very controversial issues, of which to be aware. The Broda Barnes method of using basal body temperature is outdated, as labs are now far more sensitive if interpreted correctly. The Wilson Temperature Syndrome looks at Reverse T3. In reality, excess T4 is converted to RT3 and flushed out of the body’s system. RT3 is inactive, questioning the reason to test the RT3. Wilson’s way of treatment can be dangerous. Lastly, Dr. Guy Abraham 20 years ago thought high doses of iodine would be good for thyroid patients. His test hypothesis included taking iodoral. What wasn’t excreted through urine in 24 hours the body then needed to take . The truth is the body does not eliminate perfectly, high iodine can takes months to expel. Overdose of iodine can cause the thyroid to shut down and over time increase risk of goiters, Graves’ disease, Hashimoto’s disease and even thyroid cancer.
- Severe anxiety
- Panic attack,
- Hand tremors,
- Heart palpitations,
- Unexplained weight loss,
- Feeling overheated and
- Menstrual problems
80% of the time it is caused by Graves’ disease, which is also an autoimmune disease. In Grave’s disease the antibody thyroid stimulating hormone attacks the thyroid and causes it to overproduce thyroid hormone. We address it in similar ways from the Naturopathic standpoint as something has triggered the immune system to become over active.
In this case TSH would be low, Ft4 and Ft3 high and the antibody thyroid stimulating immunoglobulin is positive, oftentimes the Hashimoto antibodies are positive too and all three should be tested to differentiate. Hashimoto’s disease can begin looking like Graves’, but then later hypothyroidism develops. Conventional treatment involves medication or removal of the thyroid or radioiodine ablation. Graves’ disease often runs its course in 2-3 years, and naturopathic treatment can help speed this process along. If mild, it can be treated just with homeopathy, herbal medicines and certain nutrients while addressing the underlying causes discussed above, if more serious medications together with naturopathic approaches is used. Generally severity is determined by the clinical symptoms rather than the blood test results. As Graves’ disease can lead to goiter development and cause the eyes to enlarge and protrude.
A SIDE NOTE: Graves’ disease has a lot in common with Hashimoto’s disease as they are both autoimmune thyroid conditions. Both are responsible for the vast majority of thyroid disease. The key difference is the antibodies that cause Hashimoto’s attack the inner proteins of the thyroid, which breaks down its cells. In contract, Graves’ is caused by TSI antibodies that attack the thyroid’s receptors for TSH-and in the process continually stimulate them.
Naturopathic Physician / Homeopath Dr Benita Perch is a general family practitioner who treats all acute and chronic diseases with her own unique mix of homeopathy, herbal medicine and clinical nutrition.