Desiccated Thyroid: 5 Things You Need To Know

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Recently I’ve been getting a ton of questions about desiccated thyroid from my thyroid patients and as Naturopathic Doctors have recently gained access to the prescribing of this medication, it’s a great time to do some Q&A.

So, here’s the top 5 things you need to know about Natural Desiccated Thyroid (NDT)

1. What is desiccated thyroid? (NDT)
NDT is used for the treatment of low thyroid function. It’s considered a more natural form of thyroid medication and is sourced from porcine (pig) thyroid glands. NDT is NOT the same as natural thyroid “extracts” (the ones found online and in health food stores – these should be avoided!). NDT can be used in place of synthetic thyroid medications such as levothyroxine (T4) or cytomel (T3).

2. What is the difference between NDT and levothyroxine (Synthroid)?
Synthroid is the synthetic version of T4 which is only one of our thyroid hormones. NDT is sourced from actual thyroid glands and contains the full spectrum of thyroid hormones including T3, our most metabolically active thyroid hormone.

3. Where can I get desiccated thyroid?
NDT is available at most pharmacies by prescription only through your medical doctor or naturopathic doctor. In the US, desiccated thyroid is called armour thyroid or nature thyroid. Here in Canada, it’s referred to as desiccated thyroid, ERFA, or just plain ‘thyroid’. You don’t need to go to a compounded pharmacy to get desiccated thyroid.

4. My doctor says desiccated thyroid isn’t safe, is that true?
Historically there has been concerns about NDT doses not being standardized, meaning that one pill could have different amounts of hormone than the next. Because the thyroid gland is so sensitive to changes, this is definitely a serious concern! However, NDT is currently produced by only one manufacturer in Canada (a pharmaceutical company called ERFA) and is standardized to contain specific amounts of hormone in each tablet. Like any other pharmaceutical, it has a drug identification number (DIN) which means that it has been reviewed and approved by Health Canada. This also allows for quality control, inspections, and all the other regulations that go along with any pharmaceutical drug. In short, ERFA Thyroid is closely monitored for standardized dosing.

5. Is desiccated thyroid better than Synthroid?
This is a tough one and it really depends on the person and their current state of health. Some people do feel better on NDT due to the fact that it better represents our natural hormone production and contains T3, our most active thyroid hormone. There hasn’t been much research comparing the two, however a 2013 study compared levothyroxine to NDT and found that 49% preferred desiccated thyroid, 19% preferred levothyroxine, and 23% found no difference. So, while NDT may work well for many, it’s not for everyone.

Hope that helps!
Dr. Katie Rothwell, ND

Decode your Thyroid! Get your free guide to optimal thyroid hormones herePBOOK008

 

Resources:
Hoang TD et al Desiccated thyroid extract compared with levothyroxine in the treatment of hypothyroidism: A randomized, double-blind, crossover study. J Clin Endo Metab 2013;98:1982-90. Epub March 28, 2013.

ERFA Pharmaceuticals www.eci2012.net/product/thyroid 

 

Are Low Iron Levels Sabotaging Your Thyroid Hormones?

Low iron thyroid

Iron Basics
Low iron is one of the most common things I see in women who walk through my door. It’s also one of the most common tests we run and we do this by looking at ferritin levels (a measure of iron stores in your body). The normal reference range for ferritin is anywhere from 10-291 ng/mL for women. Most often, if you’re not clinically anemic and your ferritin is within this range, you won’t be alerted to abnormal ferritin levels (even if they as low as 12, for example). However, recent studies show that women have improved energy and feel best with ferritin levels > 50, even if they’re not anemic.

Symptoms of Low Iron
Symptoms of low iron can include fatigue, low energy, hair loss, feeling cold, weak or brittle nails, palpitations or shortness of breath, brain fog and more. Many of these symptoms are also symptoms of low thyroid function or hypothyroidism. If you’ve been previously diagnosed with hypothyroidism and are still experiencing many of these symptoms, take the guess work out and have your ferritin levels checked.

Side note: If you experience heavy menstrual periods, are vegan/vegetarian, or have digestive disorders (such as celiac disease) that affect nutrient absorption, it’s also important to have your ferritin assessed on a regular basis.

The Iron-Thyroid Connection
Women are more likely to have low iron levels and we’re also more likely to have hypothyroidism or Hashimoto’s Disease (Lucky us!). We don’t usually think of iron as being essential to thyroid function, but it is!

Our thyroid needs adequate iron levels to produce the active hormones T4 and T3. If our body is low in iron, the enzyme responsible for this can be reduced in activity up to 50%. Iron is also essential to another key enzyme, which converts T4 into T3. (T3 is our most active thyroid hormone). If you are already on medication for your thyroid (such as Synthroid) having adequate iron levels is still important for converting the medication into active, usable, thyroid hormone.

There’s more: a very common symptom of hypothyroidism is low stomach acid, which decreases our ability to break down foods and absorb nutrients. Thus, a very common symptom of hypothyroidism is (you guessed it) low iron levels!

Low iron –> hypothyroidism –> low iron –> vicious cycle

So What Should My Ferritin Be?
For optimal energy and thyroid function, ferritin levels should be at or above 80 ng/mL. Hair loss or thinning can occur at levels less than 40. Anything below 30 is what I call “scraping the bottom of the iron bucket”. If your ferritin is really low, your thyroid won’t be functioning properly no matter what other medications or supplements you are taking. Most women I test ferritin levels on are somewhere between 20-50, and many are in need of some sort of iron support or supplementation. If you’ve been on iron in the past and have experienced digestive upset, constipation, or nausea, there are better supplements out there that don’t have these unwanted side effects and are more effective in bringing up iron levels.

That said, we also don’t want too much iron, as this can be harmful to the body. So supplement wisely and make sure to re-test your levels on a regular basis.

The Recap: 

  • Many symptoms of iron deficiency and hypothyroidism overlap. What you thought were low thyroid symptoms (such as fatigue and hair loss) could in fact, be due to low iron!
  • Your thyroid requires adequate iron levels for TWO key enzymes that are vital to hormone production and activation.
  • If you have low thyroid function or hypothyroidism, have your ferritin levels assessed and get a copy of the results. Use 80 ng/mL as a guide to optimal levels, although different people feel best at different levels.
  • Ask your Naturopathic Doctor about testing your ferritin levels and if needed, the best iron supplements to increase your levels quickly without causing you digestive upset.

Want more info on the thyroid tests you need? Check out my last blog post here

Take care!

Dr. Katie

 

 

Preventing Blood Clots with Herbs

PREVENTING BLOOD CLOTS NATURALLY

I was recently asked by a patient if there was anything natural for preventing blood clots naturally while on a long flight over to Europe.

The risk factors for clotting and deep vein thrombosis (DVTs) are being over 40, obese, recent surgery (past 3 months), use of estrogen contraceptives like the birth control pill, previous clots or family history of clots, and varicose veins.

So, here are some herbs that have anticoagulant properties that could also be used for other purposes too. 2-fers as our 2 pharmacist professions might call them. Drugs aka herbs that can be used for 2 or more purposes.

As with anything, check with your naturopathic doctor before going ahead and taking herbs. Even natural stuff can hurt you.

Here’s the Herbs:

HERB OTHER INDICATIONS CAUTIONS
Angelica Digestive, expectorant (bronchitis) Ulcers and GERD
Clove Digestive, analgesic, antimicrobial GERD
Garlic Blood pressure  
Ginger Antinausea, anti-inflammatory, digestive Ulcers, gallstones

 

Ginkgo Vasodilator, antioxidant, circulatory stimulant, cognitive  
Panax ginseng Adrenal fatigue, fatigue  
Horse chestnut Venotonic, antiinflamatory, antiedema GERD, don’t apply to broken skin
Meadowsweet Antacid, anti-inflammatory, astringent  

 

 

Managing Menopause Naturally: Herbs and Hormones

I was working with a patient for many months. We were trying to get her night sweats under control so that she could sleep. The lack of sleep was disrupting her daytime life with fatigue and brain fog. After many trials with many herbs, I brought up the possibility of bioidentical hormones to manage her menopause symptoms. She wanted to know if they were safe. After reading the results of the Women’s Health Initiative study back in 2002 she had concerns. They had shown a relationship between hormones and increased cardiovascular and cancer risks.

A wonderful article published in Integrated Healthcare Practitioners goes through what we currently know about the research.

While it concludes that we need more research done, especially comparative studies, it does point to some small studies done that support the use of bioidentical hormones over synthetic versions. They show less side effects and better safety profile for bioidentical estrogen and progesterone.

So what order should therapies occur in to treat menopause symptoms naturally?

  1. Follow good nutritional guidelines – a whole food, plant based diet.
  2. Move your body – daily exercise is helpful for symptoms and for prevention of cardiovascular disease and fracture risk.
  3. Herbs and vitamins – often these are enough to keep symptoms at bay. Sage, Black Cohosh and Soy all have evidence to support their use.
  4. Bioidentical hormones – when other interventions cannot provide the relief needed, adding some progesterone with or without estrogen can yield fabulous results.

How long have you been suffering with menopause symptoms? Is it time to get your sleep, sex and sanity back?

To see if naturopathic medicine could help your menopause symptoms, book a free meet-the-doctor session using our online booking system, or call the office at 705-792-6717

Well-Baby Visits

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We love seeing healthy babies in our practice. We also see the sick ones but we more often than not are assessing a new baby. Here’s what you can expect from your well-baby visit for the first visit:

  • review of pregnancy & birth history
  • recommendations for any current symptoms
  • physical exam including – hair, skin, lymph nodes, abdomen, ears, heart and lung check, weight, height and head circumference
  • charting on the growth chart
  • information for stages where you are at now e.g. natural solutions for fevers, coughs & colds, food introduction, teething

Our baby patient then come to see us at set intervals so we can help track their growth and development as well as address any concerns that have come up since we saw them last. This is a safe place for you to bring your baby where we have the time to listen to your concerns. Babies also come in for acute visits for 15 or 30 minutes to address things you don’t want to take them to the walk-in clinic for.

Also, check out our new baby scale that we can accurate weigh your baby and toddler up to 40lbs!

baby scale

Hate Getting Your Photo Taken?

Hi there,

We were at at tradeshow recently and asked the woman from the booth across from us to take our photo in front of our booth for our Facebook page and friends. When we asked if we could return the favour she said “I don’t do photos.”

Sadly, a reported 41% of women hate getting their photo taken. Another report found that 97% of women reported having at least one “I hate my body/body part/something about themselves thought each and every day.

Talk about an epidemic!

Now look at this photo of my daughter.

J holding up the trees

She’s looking straight at the camera, posing strong enough to hold up those two trees. Smiling, not hiding any parts of her body. She’s confident and ready to be exactly who she is.

Ok, she’s only about a year and a half in this picture but when will she start to hate her body or herself?

My hope? Never.

My calling is to help women all around the world raise powerful and confident daughters. There are too many sad statistics of what can happen to a young girl or teen with low self-esteem.

Let’s make a change in this next generation.

Well at least I’m going to give it a try with my daughter.

Talk soon,

Whitney