There is a huge problem in health care today. People are living with thyroid problems that are either being misdiagnosed, mistreated, or completely missed by their physicians. If you have any of the following symptoms, please read on to find out why your thyroid may be involved and what you need to do to get better.
Common symptoms of an under-active thyroid:
– fluid retention
– depression/anxiety/panic attacks
– hair loss
– decreased memory & concentration
– decreased sex drive
– unhealthy nails
– low motivation
– Irritable Bowel Syndrome
– weight gain/difficulty losing weight
– dry skin & hair
– needing sleep during the day
– arthritis & joint aches
– muscular aches
– itchiness of skin
– elevated cholesterol
– abnormal throat sensations
– sweating abnormalities
– heat and/or cold sensations
– low self esteem
– irregular periods
– severe menstrual cramps
– low blood pressure
– frequent colds and sore throats
– frequent urinary infections
– ringing in the ears
– slow wound healing
– easy bruising
– acid indigestion
– frequent yeast infections
– cold hands and feet
– poor coordination
– increased nicotine/caffeine use
– infertility or recurrent pregnancy loss
– increased skin infections/acne
– abnormal swallowing sensations
– changes in skin pigmentation
– prematurely grey/white hair
– excessively tired after eating
– Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
– dry eyes/blurred vision
– bad breath
Yes, this is an extensive list, and by looking at it, you could say that almost everyone would probably identify with at least a couple of symptoms on it. This is not an exaggeration. This is the reality of how involved the thyroid is in every other system of the body. When a patient comes to see me with several symptoms on this list, it is my responsibility to take a closer look at thyroid involvement and investigate whether this might be the common denominator or the root cause of their problems.
Assessing the thyroid is very easy to do, however most doctors don’t do it due to a lack of education and added cost for the health care system. We are extremely blessed in Canada to have health-care provided to everyone. However, when this is the case, care has to be quick enough in order to serve the high demand of patients. This type of model simply does not allow doctors to spend the time investigating and treating thyroid conditions that may not be obvious on a blood test.
Currently, the the reason why so many patients are experiencing symptoms despite having their thyroid checked or treated is because guidelines for thyroid assessment and treatment in Canada are minimalistic and ineffective.
Doctors are trained to assess the thyroid using a blood test called TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone). There are a few problems with relying on this test alone to assess thyroid function. First, TSH has a large “normal range” depending on the lab. Someone may have a TSH of 4 and be considered normal when in fact, they are symptomatic due an under-active thyroid. A lot of the time, doctors will not recommend treatment unless the test comes back outside of the normal range, meaning that if you are on the cusp, you may not receive treatment and the condition will only progress. The second important issue with TSH is that it is a hormone that is measured in the blood, however the active thyroid hormone T3 is only active within the cells of tissues. Therefore, TSH is not always an accurate reflection of what is actually going on where it counts – inside the cells.
With regards to treatment, most patients who are found to have an under-active thyroid are prescribed levothyroxine (synthroid). Synthroid contains a synthetic form of T4 – the inactive thyroid hormone which needs to be converted to T3 in the body in order to produce an effect on the target tissue.
Certain naturopathic doctors and integrative medical doctors who have had extra training in thyroid health and T3 therapy, are able to offer much more comprehensive tests and assessments for your thyroid. This is usually a combination of questioning, physical exam, tempearture tracking, and detailed blood tests. A comprehensive approach to assessing thyroid health is coupled with a comprehensive approach to treatment. There are a number of things that can go wrong with thyroid function, but mainstream medicine only addresses one problem, known as the “supply issue”. This is when there is not enough T4 being produced, in which case it would be helpful to medicate with synthroid (T4). However, much of the time, the patient is producing adequate amounts of T4 and the problem lies in the conversion of T4 to T3 (active thyroid hormone). There is no medication to address this problem and a lot of the time treating with synthroid can make this problem even worse, which is why many patients’ symptoms can persist or even aggravate while on synthroid.
Naturopathic treatment involves a holistic approach of dietary and lifestyle modifications, botanical medicine and natural supplements that support proper thyroid function and conversion, as well as medication if and when necessary. I also provide close and frequent monitoring for my patients to ensure that their symptoms are improving.
If you suspect that you may have suboptimal thyroid function based on your symptoms, I would be happy to chat with you during a free 15 minute phone consult and help you decide if this is something worth looking into for your specific case. To book, please call 604-873-9355 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.