Supporting Thyroid Conditions
Updated: Jul 3
Thyroid conditions are becoming increasingly more common in North America, likely due to environmental and genetic factors. A large percentage of patients with thyroid conditions are under diagnosed due to the symptoms being vague and incomplete thyroid testing being done.
Do you have Hashimoto's, Hypothyroidism or Hyperthyroidism? I work with you to naturally support your thyroid disorder!
The most common forms of thyroid dysfunction include:
Hypothyroidism -- an under functioning thyroid gland
Hyperthyroidism -- an over functioning thyroid gland
Autoimmune thyroid disease -- antibodies (cells produced by our immune system) inappropriately attack the thyroid gland, leading to Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis or Grave’s Disease
Symptoms of an Underactive Thyroid
Depression, low mood
Joint and muscle aches
Symptoms of an Overactive Thyroid
Elevated heart rate
Physical exam of the thyroid is an important first step, as if there is any swelling, bogginess or nodules felt this could be an indication of thyroid dysfunction.
Lab testing is the next step, which involves examining all thyroid markers.
Free T3 - The active form of thyroid hormone in the body
Thyroid antibodies, anti-TPO and anti-TG - If these are elevated, it is an indication of an autoimmune component to thyroid disease.
Often times, only TSH is tested, which does not provide all of the information to rule out a thyroid condition. Many patients have a normal TSH, with abnormal free T3 and free T4 results, indicating a poorly functioning thyroid. As well, if there is any indication that a patient could have a thyroid condition or there is a family history, I will test the thyroid antibodies. This is because if there is an elevation of the antibodies, it is an indication that at some point a thyroid condition may develop.
Most patients with hypothyroidism are on synthroid, levothyroxine. This is the inactive form of thyroid hormone, T4, which your body is then required to convert into the active form of thyroid hormone, T3. If this medication is not adequately supporting thyroid function, I will explore alternatives to synthroid. This can include desiccated thyroid, which is a combination of T3 and T4, or getting thyroid hormone compounded specifically into a ratio of T3 and T4 suitable for you. Other options include prescribing just T3, commonly known as cytomel, or compounded slow release T3.
Uncovering the Root Cause
Working together to find the root cause of the thyroid disease is a foundation for treatment, as often times if we can find the source of the dysfunction, symptoms and thyroid lab markers will improve. In an effort to minimize medication, I may begin with an herbal and nutritive approach prior to prescribing pharmaceuticals however, if a thyroid prescription is required, I have the ability to prescribe most pharmaceuticals when necessary in the province of BC.
I always investigate if a patient has Hashimoto's Disease (by doing the above described testing), as it is important for me to know if you have Hashimoto's because when you have one autoimmune condition, it may put you at a greater risk of having another one.
Apart from pharmaceuticals, supporting the body in its ability to produce the active form of thyroid hormone, T3, from T4 is fundamental. This can be done by providing co-factors, including selenium or herbals such as ashwagandha. Usually a combination of herbals and co-factor nutrients are most effective.
An important approach for the treatment of thyroid conditions is supporting the production of other hormones, such as cortisol, estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, and DHEA. Often if there is support provided for these other hormones, it can lead to an improvement in symptoms.
Healing the Thyroid with Nutrients & Herbs
1.) Vitamin D3
Vitamin D levels are lower in individuals who have hypothyroidism, and vitamin D is a critical nutrient to produce thyroid hormones. Having sufficient levels of vitamin D is also important for your immune system, and is involved in many other systems including bone health, blood sugar, mood and energy levels. It is important to get your blood levels of vitamin D levels tested, as you want to ensure you are taking an adequate dosage.
I test all hypothyroid patients levels, then recommend supplementation based on the level of deficiency.
Selenium helps in the production of glutathione, which is the main antioxidant in our body, protecting us against inflammation and stress. I utilize selenium in cases of Hashimoto's hypothyroidism because there are a few studies demonstrating effectiveness in lowering antibody levels (anti-TPO). The conversion of T4 (inactive thyroid hormone) to T3 (active thyroid hormone) also involves selenium.
Many foods have selenium in them, including brazil nuts - consuming just two per day gets you close to 200 mcg per day. When choosing a supplement instead of food sources, I recommend 'selenomethioinine' as this is the form of selenium utilized in the research, as it is the most absorbable form.
Toxicity can occur with supplementing selenium unnecessarily, as your body will store it.
Ashwaghanda (Withania somnifera) is a a traditional Ayurvedic herb that has demonstrated effectiveness in improving T4, T3 and TSH levels. It can also improve an individuals resistance towards stress, and quality of life. I use this herb often in patients with thyroid concerns, especially when there is a high-stress lifestyle component.
Inositol in combination with selenium, has demonstrated effectiveness in lowering thyroid antibody levels, both anti-TPO and anti-TG. It also has improved general thyroid function, including TSH. The studies lowering antibody levels, supplementation was required for 6 months to see maximal benefit.
Generally it is safe to take, and well tolerated.
Zinc is an essential nutrient, that can help with thyroid hormone conversion of T4 to T3. Low zinc levels have been associated with decreased levels of thyroid hormone.
I often recommend people increase their food sources of zinc including nuts, seeds, legumes and shellfish. Zinc supplements can cause nausea when not taken with food, and can cause toxicity when supplementing long term without proper monitoring.
For more information on if Naturopathic medicine can help, call to book a
complimentary 15-minute meet and greet session with Dr. Stephanie!
- Nordio, M. et al. Treatment With Myo-Inositol and Selenium Ensures Euthyroidism in Patients With Autoimmune Thyroiditis.Int J Endocrinol2017, 2549491. 2017
- Panda S, Kar A. Changes in thyroid hormone concentrations after administration of ashwagandha root extract to adult male mice. J Pharm Pharmacol. (1998)
-Nordio, M and P. Raffaella. Combined Treatment with Myo-Inositol and Selenium Ensures Euthyroidism in Subclinical Hypothyroidism Patients with Autoimmune Thyroiditis. Journal of Thyroid Research.Volume 2013 (2013), Article ID 424163, 5 pages
-Sharma, A., Basu, I., Singh, S. (2018) Efficacy and safety of Ashwingada root extract in sublinical hypothyroid patients: a double-blind, randomized placebo-controlled trial. J Alt and Comp Ned, 24(3).
-Chandrasekhar, K., Kapoor, J., & Anishetty, S. (2012). A prospective, randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled study of safety and efficacy of a high-concentration full-spectrum extract of ashwagandha root in reducing stress and anxiety in adults.Indian journal of psychological medicine,34(3), 255.
-Maxwell C, Volpe SL. Effect of zinc supplementation on thyroid hormone function. A case study of two college females. Ann Nutr Metab 2007;51(2):188‑94.