Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) is made in the pituitary gland in the brain as a signal to the thyroid gland, a butterfly shaped gland which sits on the lower half of the front of your neck, to release thyroid hormones (yes there is more than one!). The thyroid makes inactive T4, which is converted to T3 throughout the body as needed. The thyroid controls and/or contributes to almost EVERY organ system in the body! Some big things it has an effect on are heart rate, maintaining normal blood pressure, muscle tone, reproductive functions (like fertility-it is so important for fertility), and metabolism. So many important functions that can have larger implications if the thyroid isn’t functioning properly. For simplicity’s sake, I will focus on low thyroid.
A well regulated thyroid, is extremely important for getting pregnant and maintaining pregnancy and should be tested preconception and at least once during pregnancy. Post-partum is another very important time to test thyroid levels as post-partum hypothyroidism is fairly silent and affects at least 5-10% of women.
What are the causes of hypothyroidism?
One of the most common is autoimmune hypothyroidism, called Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, but there’s also postpartum hypothyroidism, secondary or tertiary causes (due to defective signaling from the brain), or surgery/radiation to the thyroid, to name a few.
What are some symptoms of low thyroid levels?
Mental and physical sluggishness, cold intolerance, constipation, dry skin/hair, neck swelling, depressed mood and weight gain or inability to lose weight. There are SO many things that can cause many of these so it’s best to work with your Naturopathic Doctor if you are experiencing any of these symptoms!
One question I get often is, will I lose weight once I start taking thyroid medication if my levels were low? It is usually not the case. While the thyroid hormone does control metabolism, clinically there is not usually an increase of weight loss following proper treatment with thyroid medication. Think of it this way, proper function of the thyroid can lift some obstacles to allow you to achieve weight loss, but it will not cause fat loss unless you are already employing other tactics to do so.
How can we support and nourish our thyroids? This is where the foundations of health come in. A balanced, whole food diet rich in good sources of omega-3 fatty acids is important. Address stress levels. Stress can interfere with the activation of thyroid hormones throughout the body. Fixing any issues in the gut canu increase availability of thyroid hormone. Treatments ALWAYS depends on the cause, which is why it’s best to work with your licensed Naturopathic Doctor. For example, an iodine supplement can worsen symptoms for some people or glandular thyroid replacement MAY worsen symptoms if you have autoimmune hypothyroidism. With autoimmune hypothyroidism there is some correlation with gluten intolerance so it’s best to work with a medical professional to figure out what will work best for you. Again, I am not your doctor and I don’t think it’s safe for people to get medical advice on the internet. Definitely, if you are experiencing any of these issues you should work with your Dr or a Naturopathic Doctor!