Thyroid disorders: improve your hormonal balance naturally

Feeling crabby? Gaining weight? Feeling tired all the time? Or maybe you have a racing heart? Excessive sweating? Trouble sleeping? These symptoms could be down to your thyroid not functioning properly.

Thyroid disorders are widespread. As many as 200 million people globally are diagnosed with a thyroid disorder and many more are unaware they have a disorder. Women are 5 to 8 times more likely than men to have a thyroid problem.

But integrated medicine can help to heal thyroid disorders.

The thyroid is a very important gland controlling the metabolic function of every single cell in your body. This is why when you have a thyroid condition so many different symptoms can arise.

Thyroid hormones are responsible for regulating a wide variety of functions such as metabolism, heart rate, temperature, weight, muscle strength, menstrual cycles, cholesterol levels – even the rate at which your body digests food!

When your thyroid is underperforming (also known as underactive /hypothyroidism) it doesn’t produce enough thyroid hormones, causing fatigue, cold intolerance, irritability and weight gain.

When the thyroid is overworked (also known as overactive / hyperthyroidism) it makes too many hormones and the body’s processes speed up. This can cause symptoms like trembling, excessive sweating, diarrhoea and weight loss.

Traditional medical treatment provides T4 hormone replacement, which is the commonly prescribed thyroid medication known as Levothyroxine.

The thyroid is a butterfly shaped gland at the front of the neck. A healthy thyroid acts as the ‘conductor’ of the body, releasing crucial hormones that travel through the bloodstream to reach numerous receptor sites. When the thyroid is working correctly the whole body plays in tune, however when thyroid function is suboptimal the whole orchestra is out.

Most conventional doctors will use one or two tests (TSH and T4) to screen for thyroid problems, however it is very important to test FT3, FT4 and thyroid antibodies.

TSH can sometimes be higher than optimal when the antibodies are normal. It is usually a stress/adrenal issue that needs to be treated accordingly, and sometimes there is no need for replacement thyroid hormones.

Symptoms of hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid)

  • Fatigue despite having adequate rest or needing to take a nap daily
  • Mind issues such as brain fog or memory loss
  • Weight gain or difficulty losing weight, especially around the middle
  • Cold hands and feet, or feeling cold when others are not
  • Dry skin and hair, brittle nails and excessive hair loss
  • Mood issues such as depression or anxiety
  • High blood pressure
  • Hormone imbalances such as problems with periods or low libido
  • Muscle pain, joint pain
  • Constipation or sluggish digestion

Symptoms of hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid)

  • Appetite change (decrease or increase)
  • Hair loss
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability or moodiness
  • Sweating or sensitivity to high temperatures
  • Trembling or shaking in your hands
  • Missed or light menstrual periods
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Heart palpitations
  • Heat intolerance or increased sweating
  • Problems with fertility
  • High blood pressure
  • Shortness of breath
  • Frequent bowel movements such as diarrhoea

There are multiple causes of thyroid problems and it is crucial to address the root cause to have the best response to treatment.

Autoimmune conditions - Autoimmune conditions can cause your immune system to produce antibodies that attack the thyroid gland, affecting your thyroid's ability to produce hormones.

Nutritional deficiencies - The trace mineral iodine found primarily in seafood, seaweed, plants grown in iodine-rich soil and iodized salt is essential for the production of thyroid hormones. Zinc, selenium, and vitamin D are also used for the production and conversion of thyroid hormones. Nutritional deficiencies are more common in Hong Kong where most food is imported from China, or overseas resulting in a loss of nutrients.

Ongoing stress - Your thyroid works in conjunction with your adrenal glands. The adrenal glands handle small or short durations of stress well as they release cortisol, a hormone that supports your body's stress response.

However, long term stress and cortisol work by slowing your metabolism, causing thyroid hormones T3 and T4 to fall, which can handicap thyroid function and can worsen symptoms.

Poor gut health - Leaky gut and food intolerances cause a prolonged heightened immune response which can trigger antibody production against healthy tissues resulting in autoimmune conditions. Additionally, long-term damage may cause the adrenal glands to produce the stress hormone cortisol which can suppress thyroid function over time. The H. pylori bacteria is also linked to poor thyroid health.

Pregnancy - Some women can develop hypothyroidism during or after pregnancy often because they produce antibodies to their own thyroid gland. Left untreated, hypothyroidism increases the risks of pregnancy.

Medications - There are a number of medications that can contribute to hypothyroidism like lithium, or steroids.

Radiation therapy - When your neck or head is exposed to radiation, it can affect your thyroid gland and lead to hypothyroidism.

Pituitary disorder - A relatively rare cause of hypothyroidism is the failure of the pituitary gland to produce enough thyroid-stimulating hormone TSH.

We believe in a more personalised, holistic approach to thyroid health management.

Even when you are taking a thyroid pill and being monitored by your doctor, symptoms can still occur. Hormonal dysregulation, high stress, fluctuating blood sugar levels and more will have an impact on your medication's efficacy.

The good news is that there are many different ways to improve and heal your thyroid.

Our practitioners identify the underlying cause of your thyroid condition and create a personalised treatment plan to correct them.

We address your whole body health through nutrition, botanical medicine, stress management, elimination of reactive foods and detoxification from heavy metals and toxins. Balancing your hormone or repairing a leaky gut may also help support your recovery. These therapies help strengthen your body’s own healing power for a long term sustainable result.

Naturopaths don't just look at one part, they assess your whole body to treat thyroid issues holistically and eliminate symptoms. A naturopath will look at how diet, lifestyle, nutritional and genetic factors may be contributing to an underactive or overactive thyroid and make sure you have a diet plan to support your health.

Your naturopath may carry out additional testing to assess your sex hormones and adrenals to optimise your thyroid health.

Herbal and nutritional supplements can also have a huge impact, “Ashwagandha, which is also known as Indian ginseng and one of the most powerful herbs in Ayurvedic healing, can really help with the thyroid and adrenal glands,” says IMI’s senior naturopath Dr Benita Perch. If you are currently medicated with thyroid hormones through your doctor, an experienced naturopath can work with this and help your body respond to the medication more effectively, reducing symptoms.

Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) regards both hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism as a yin/yang imbalance. It also involves the energetic functioning of the kidneys and spleen organs, both yang organs. When treating either condition, TCM will use acupuncture, herbal medicine, and dietary therapy to rebalance your yin and yang energies.

Homeopathy Homeopathic treatment is an energetically matched medicine that bases treatment on your individual constitution. Homoeopathic remedies work by stimulating your body's own healing power to restore thyroid function.

Additional support such as receiving counselling or attending our weekly Monday mindfulness and meditation classes can help to reduce stress levels and support long term thyroid health.

What’s next?

If you think you may have a thyroid problem, our naturopaths can help diagnose issues and treat them at their root cause.

Find the support you need with our naturopaths. Connect with us below, and we'll be in touch shortly.

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