Our thyroid gland is one of our most important endocrine organs. The functioning of the thyroid directly affects more bodily functions than all the other endocrine glands because it controls cellular metabolism by secreting hormones which govern the metabolic rate of most of our body’s vital functions. Imbalances of the thyroid can have serious effects on your health, so you should always seek advice from your doctor when dealing with any hormone problem.
What thyroid problems can arise?
The thyroid gland can become either under-active (Hypothyroid) or overactive (Hyperthyroid). The causes can be multi-factorial. In cases of Hypothyroid, the gland doesn’t produce enough (T3) triiodothyronine and (T4) thyroxine, the hormones necessary for healthy metabolism. Symptoms of low thyroid functioning can include constipation, dry skin, loss or thinning of hair, weight gain, fatigue, poor memory and low body temperature. Because there may be other imbalances creating these symptoms, the thyroid can often be overlooked.
Hyperthyroid is much less common. Symptoms of an overactive thyroid include weight loss, sweating, a sense of anxiety, heart palpitations, high blood pressure and a bulging of the eyes.
A third condition, in which the Thyroid gland becomes inflamed, is called Hashimoto’s disease and it is as an auto-immune disorder. The symptoms are those of an under-active thyroid and the cause seems to be genetic in nature.
How are thyroid disorders diagnosed?
Your doctor will diagnose Thyroid gland imbalances by taking a history of your symptoms as well as a blood test. Typically we will measure TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone), an hormone produced by the pituitary gland in the brain and stimulates the thyroid to produce T4 and T3.
It is important also to test the levels of free T3 and T4 and not just TSH, which is sometimes regarded as sufficient.
If Hashimoto’s is suspected, then antibodies levels are measured in the blood. Can Naturopathic Medicine effectively treat thyroid disorders? You bet. And with a high degree of success as well. The nature of our approach is in individualization of the diagnosis. In addition to directly treating the thyroid using non-toxic methods, a Naturopathic Doctor will also work to discover the underlying cause of the imbalance- acknowledging that the thyroid is impacted by the health of the body’s entire system. Another way of saying ‘treating the whole person.’ For example, supporting the health of the adrenals is especially important. Often we note that once we balance out the adrenals, the thyroid will then too become balanced. You may also note that often irregular menstrual cycles occur for women with thyroid imbalances. Again, the endocrine system connection.
Another key element is ensuring that the body has all the minerals it needs for proper functioning. A Naturopathic approach will likely include dietary recommendations, specific nutritional supplements, glandulars, homeopathics and/or herbal medicines. And if needed, Naturopathic Doctors may occasionally write prescriptions for thyroid medications when appropriate.
The outcome will be not only a balance Thyroid gland, but a higher level of overall health and wellbeing.
Originally published in Natural Medical Solutions.
Dr. Ruth Bar-Shalom graduated from the National College of Naturopathic Medicine, one of four accredited postgraduate Naturopathic Medical schools, in 1987. Dr. Bar-Shalom has been an Associate Professor of Rheumatology and Geriatrics for The Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine. She has presented workshops at Bastyr University and her alma mater.
She served as president of the Alaska Association of Naturopathic Physicians from 1992-1994. Dr. Bar-Shalom has over 23 years of practical and clinical experience in naturopathic medicine. She founded the Holistic Medical Center in Santa Cruz in 2003. For more information, call (831)475-6666 or visit www.naturalmedicalsolutions.com