Natural Treatment for Hypothyroidism & Low Thyroid in Vermont
Low thyroid function, also known as hypothyroidism, is a common complaint. When thyroid function is low, the body’s metabolic rate slows down, causing a variety of symptoms including the following:
- Weight gain
- Low body temperature
- Slow heart rate
- Dry skin
- Hair thinning or loss
- Impaired memory
- Muscle pain or weakness
There are a variety of simple blood tests available to diagnose low thyroid function. The most commonly used tests include the following:
TSH – Thyroid stimulating hormone is a hormone produced by the pineal gland, the gland in the brain that controls most of the glands in the body including the thyroid, adrenals, testes, and ovaries. When thyroid function levels become low, the pituitary produces more TSH to stimulate the thyroid to make more thyroid hormone. High TSH is therefore indicative of low thyroid function.
T4 – the primary form of thyroid hormone produced by the thyroid gland. It is called T4 because it has 4 iodine atoms attached to each T4 molecule. All thyroid hormones are bound to a protein called thyroid binding globulin in the blood. Only the free, or unbound, portion of this hormone is biologically active. The rest serves as a reservoir of thyroid hormone. The best test for T4 is therefore free T4, which measures only the unbound portion.
T3 – T3, which contains 3 iodine atoms instead of 4, is made from T4 outside of the thyroid gland by most cells in the body. It is 4-5 times more potent than T4, so it is the primary active form of the hormone.
Low levels of T4 or T3 or high levels of TSH in the blood indicate low thyroid function.
Thyroid Hormone Resistance
If you have a low body temperature (an oral basal body temperature of less than 97.8 degrees) and you have symptoms consistent with hypothyroidism, there is a good chance you have a problem with your thyroid system.
Sometimes these thyroid problems will show up on the standard thyroid tests mentioned above, and sometimes they won’t. One of the possible explanations for this is that some people appear to be able to develop a resistance to thyroid hormone. It has been well documented that it is possible to develop resistance to other hormones (insulin resistance, for example, is what causes adult onset diabetes). In the case of thyroid hormone resistance, cells in the body don’t respond properly to the normal levels of thyroid hormone that is present in the blood. This then presents with the symptoms of low thyroid hormone. There is no test that is capable of identifying thyroid hormone resistance. Treatment for this condition is generally a clinical trial of thyroid hormone under the careful guidance of a physician.
Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis in Hypothyroidism
The most common cause of hypothyroidism, by far, is Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. Hashimoto’s is an autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system attacks the thyroid gland. Over time, this reduces the thyroid’s ability to produce thyroid hormone. A simple blood test can be used to identify these antibodies and confirm the diagnosis of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.
Other Causes of Hypothyroidism
Iodine deficiency – iodine is a necessary component of thyroid hormone
Medications – some medications, such as lithium, can suppress thyroid function
Pituitary disorder – a relatively rare cause of hypothyroidism, it occurs when the pituitary gland does not make adequate amounts of TSH
Pregnancy – some women develop low thyroid during or after pregnancy
Natural Treatment of Hypothyroidism
The conventional treatment for hypothyroidism is the drug levothyroxine, which is a synthesized, bio-identical form of the thyroid hormone T4. This can work well for most people with low thyroid function. Most people are able to convert the T4 in levothyroxine to the active T3 form just like they do with the T4 produced by their own thyroid gland.
The benefit of this form of thyroid hormone is that it is stable in the blood for a long period of time, so once daily dosing works quite well. The disadvantage is that some people don’t appear to adequately convert T4 to T3, resulting in incomplete treatment of their thyroid condition. If you are taking levothyroxine and your basal body temperature is low and you still have symptoms of low thyroid function, this may be true for you. In this case a clinical trial of switching to a combination of T4 and T3 may be warranted. Armour thyroid is a commonly available brand of desiccated thyroid, which comes from animal sources. It naturally contains a mixture of T4 and T3 as well as iodine and other compounds necessary for proper thyroid function. In my experience many people who are still symptomatic despite taking levothyroxine feel much better after switching to Armour thyroid.
Many physicians don’t like to use Armour thyroid because they think that the amount of hormone varies from batch to batch. While this might have been true at one time, these days the amount of hormone in each batch is tested and tightly controlled for. The T3 in Armour thyroid is metabolized more quickly than T4, so some people do need to take Armour thyroid twice daily instead of just once in the morning.
How We Can Help
Naturopathic doctors are physician experts in treating the underlying cause of disease and using natural medicines to help people get and stay well. To find out which natural treatments for hypothyroidism or low thyroid are appropriate for you, schedule an office visit or make a selection below.