By Dr. Bianca Drennan, ND
As the fall approaches and summer comes to an end, it’s time to re-evaluate your goals, especially your health goals. The beginning of a new season is the perfect time to assess your overall health and take the opportunity to optimize it – specifically your thyroid health. The thyroid is an often overlooked organ that deserves time in the spotlight. An underactive or sluggish thyroid, also known as Hypothyroidism, can cause a variety of symptoms that may be mistakenly attributed to other conditions. These symptoms include:
- Low mood/depression
- Dry skin
- Thinning/brittle/or coarse hair
- Weight gain
- Heavy menstrual bleeding
- Irregular menstrual cycles
- Brittle nails
During a routine physical, your Medical Doctor (MD) will test your TSH level – Thyroid Stimulating Hormone. A high TSH level suggests Hypothyroidism. The normal range for TSH is quite large in conventional medicine, and levels under 5mIU/L are not typically flagged as abnormal. Therefore, once your TSH reaches 5mIU/L or above, pharmacological treatment is initiated. It can take time for your TSH level to get that high – so you could be suffering from symptoms long before treatment. To Naturopathic Doctors (ND), we generally consider TSH levels above 1mIU/L abnormal. The reason for this is because there are often many signs and symptoms of thyroid dysfunction well below 5mIU/L. The technical name for this is “Sublaboratory Hypothyroidism.” In other words, the TSH level is within the conventional normal range, but the person is experiencing symptoms of an underactive thyroid. This is one advantage of seeing an ND – we identify dysfunctions and imbalances at an earlier stage, preventing you from suffering longer, only to eventually be prescribed a pharmaceutical drug.
The most common medication prescribed for hypothyroidism is Synthroid. Synthroid is generally a well tolerated, moderately effective drug to bring a patient’s TSH level into the normal range. However, many still suffer from hypothyroid symptoms, despite being on medication. New research is emerging that this is becoming a more common phenomenon, suggesting that Synthroid is not as effective as we once thought it was, even if a patient’s TSH is in the normal range. So you might think to yourself, “I am on medication, but I still don’t feel right.” This is a great opportunity for an ND to support your thyroid, whether you are on Synthroid or not. There are several dietary, vitamin, mineral, and herbal options to bring your TSH to the optimal level and improve your quality of life. Fortunately, many naturopathic therapies can be used alone or in conjunction with Synthroid to support your thyroid health and optimize how you feel.
If you think your thyroid may be out of balance, get tested through your MD and ask for a copy. Then make a visit with an ND to identify any issues and discuss options. Or, have testing done directly through an ND (not covered by OHIP, but often more efficient).
Dr. Bianca Drennan ND, provides nutritional consulting and naturopathic medicine services at Pacific Wellness and is available for appointments four days a week. If you would like to detoxify and trim your body, improve your lifestyle or address certain health concerns please call us at 416-929-6958 or submit your online appointment request to arrange your initial appointment. The naturopathic appointments are covered by most employee benefits.