What is Hypothyroidism?
Hypothyroidism is a common condition that affects more than 3.7% of the total United States population. The thyroid gland produces thyroid hormone, which acts as a major metabolic driver for thousands of processes in the body. Hypothyroidism refers to an under-active thyroid gland, or the under production of thyroid hormone. Deficiency of thyroid hormone has major implications for overall health and wellbeing.
Iodine deficiency is the most common cause of hypothyroidism worldwide. Common causes in the United States include Hashimoto’s and surgical removal of the gland.
Hashimoto’s disease (also known as autoimmune thyroiditis), is an autoimmune condition. This means that the body produces autoantibodies against thyroid gland tissue. In conventional settings, Hashimoto’s often goes undiagnosed because standard lab work does not investigate whether autoantibodies to the thyroid are present.
Symptoms of Hypothyroidism
Symptoms of hypothyroidism typically reflect a decrease in metabolic rate, which means the body is slowing down its normal biological processes. Here is how a decreased metabolic rate can manifest as symptoms:
- Tendency to gain weight
- Feeling cold, cold intolerance
- Loss of motivation
- Dry skin and hair
- Brittle nails
- Loss of the outer third of eyebrow
- Joint pain and stiffness
- Muscle cramps and aches
- Heavy periods
- Puffy face
- Slowed heart rate
What factors contribute to the root cause?
The thyroid gland is a part of the delicate endocrine system. The endocrine system governs hormone production and balance in our bodies, and is sensitive to external factors such as stress and environmental toxins. In today’s world, we are exposed to a vast amount of endocrine-disrupting chemicals and environmental toxins. Stress, trauma, chemical exposure, and nutrient deficiencies can all affect the balance of this small gland.
Nutritional deficiencies are pervasive in modern society due to a variety of factors from soil mineral depletion to inadequate dietary consumption of key nutrients. Deficiencies in selenium, iodine, zinc, vitamin B6 and B12 are the most commonly implicated in hypothyroidism.
Heavy Metal Toxicity
Heavy metals also impact the thyroid gland. Heavy metals are everywhere in the environment, but can also be specifically identified in many products. Common ones include cosmetics, dental amalgams, tattoos, and cigarettes. Excess heavy metals can inhibit the conversion of active thyroid hormone in the body, thereby inhibiting its action.
Insufficient organ function
Other organs such as the liver and adrenal glands also play a vital role in thyroid function. Liver congestion from the demands of daily function can make it difficult for the liver to properly metabolize hormones. The adrenal glands work with the thyroid to regulate metabolic function. For example, adrenal fatigue from the influence of chronic stress can impact the thyroid.
A variety of common environmental pollutants including xenoestrogens found in plastics, PCB’s, and phthalates are just some of the known endocrine disruptors. This means certain compounds found in these pollutants can mimic hormones inside of the body, bind hormone receptor sites and disrupt normal functioning.
In thyroid is governed by the 5th chakra or energy center which is located in the throat. This chakra can become imbalanced or blocks when we have experiences that prevent us from speaking our truth. The decreased flow of energy in this area can ultimately lead to pathological states. This is why addressing the emotional and spiritual aspects of disease is essential in treating thyroid disease.
Naturopathic Approaches to Hypothyroidism
Finding the root cause of your symptoms is the first step towards healing. It is important to determine whether your thyroid hormone levels are off because of an autoimmune process (Hashimoto’s), or a nutritional deficiency, environmental factors, etc. Identifying the root cause is the best way to find an appropriate treatment approach and heal your symptoms.
The naturopathic approach to treating hypothyroidism typically involves healing the gut using botanical medicine, nutrient prescriptions, homeopathy, emotional and trauma healing and more. A licensed naturopathic physician can help you adjust your thyroid medication to the optimal forms and dosage of thyroid hormone for you.
If you are still struggling with symptoms of hypothyroidism, it may be helpful to work with a naturopathic physician near you. Dr. Natalie Walch is currently accepting patients at her office in Kent, WA. Click here to find out more.