Feeling fatigued? Poor memory and concentration? Cold hands and feet? Weight gain? Struggling to conceive? These are common symptoms of hypothyroidism or subclinical hypothyroidism.
Commonly, a doctor will request a TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) test and if that is within the normal range of 0.4-4.00 mU/L, then you are usually told there is nothing wrong with your thyroid and no further investigations are conducted.
So why is it when you go to see your naturopath or nutritionist, you are told a different story? Put simply, we are looking at the test in a different way than your GP. A doctor diagnoses disease and writes a prescription for thyroxine if you are diagnosed with hypothyroidism, i.e. if your TSH is higher than 4 mU/L and your T4 and/or T3 is low.
A naturopath is assessing your body for optimal functioning and wellness and wants to stop the deterioration in its tracks and reverse it before it becomes a disease, i.e. an optimal TSH level is between 1.0-2.5 mU/L and optimal T4 is higher than 14 pmol/L. You may hear that you have a sluggish thyroid if your TSH is higher than 2.5 mU/L and T4 and/or T3 is low.
T4 and T3 are thyroid hormones. When the level of T4 drops (usually due to a lack of iodine in the diet) then the pituitary gland pumps out higher levels of TSH to try and produce more T4. T4 converts to T3 and T3 is the more “active” hormone in the body. If there is a deficiency of zinc and/or selenium, then T4 doesn’t convert efficiently and there may be a decline in T3 levels.
So usually the prescription includes iodine, zinc, selenium (usually as part of a multi. NaturoBest’s Ultimate Multi & Antioxidant contains excellent levels of these minerals as well as activated B vitamins).
I will usually prescribe the herb Withania at night as well which is excellent for thyroid support and helping to reduce stress and anxiety. Controlling stress is important as high cortisol levels interfere with proper thyroid hormone functioning. Usually during the day I will prescribe herbs to support energy levels and give the person more motivation to exercise which is another important factor in healthy thyroid function.
A subsequent test is performed 6-8 weeks later and if they haven’t responded well to this protocol I dig a little deeper and test their thyroid antibodies (although this may be performed straight away depending on their first tests). If these are high it indicates the person has Hashimoto’s disease, an autoimmune condition in which immune cells attack the thyroid causing inflammation and eventually causes destruction of the gland. An excellent herb for this is Echinacea although you need to be wary about the quality – if it’s not good quality, it simply won’t work. I love Mediherb’s Echinacea Premium.
Alongside this I will suggest bovine thyroid extracts which can be purchased from iherb. A randomised controlled trial has shown that people have the same response to bovine thyroid as thyroxine with less side effects and a better feeling of well-being.