The 3 Thyroid Nutrients I Check In Every Single Patient

nutrient deficiency thyroid

Today I want to share 3 specific nutrients that I make sure to check in every single thyroid patient I see. These nutrients tend to be chronically low in most people with thyroid conditions and this alone can be a major contributing factor to symptoms like fatigue, brain fog, hair loss, muscle aches and more. The first step in many of my treatment plans is to improve these nutrients to optimal levels as it often gets people feeling better than they have in a long time!

1. Ferritin (Iron levels)

Hypothyroidism and low iron often go hand in hand. We can test your iron levels by looking at ferritin, a measure of iron stores in your body. The most common signs of low iron include fatigue, hair loss, feeling cold, weak or brittle nails, and palpitations or shortness of breath. Your thyroid also requires adequate iron levels for two key enzymes that are vital to thyroid hormone production and activation. Without iron, your thyroid just can’t function properly.

If you experience heavy menstrual periods (common with low thyroid function), are vegan/vegetarian, or have a chronic digestive disorder it’s even more important to have your ferritin assessed on a regular basis.

2. Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 deficiency is frequently reported in those with thyroid conditions and I certainly see this in practice. A 2014 study stated that over 55% of patients with an autoimmune thyroid condition had low B12 levels. A series of Vitamin B12 injections often does wonders for thyroid patients in terms of energy levels, memory and concentration, as well as aches and pains.

We get most of our B12 from our diet in the form of animal products, so if you are vegan or vegetarian you should definitely have your B12 checked more often.

Another condition called Pernicious Anemia commonly co-exists with autoimmune thyroid disorders. If you have pernicious anemia your body is unable to absorb B12 from food sources and you will require supplementation long term.

3. Vitamin D

Most of us know that Vitamin D can be helpful for our immune system, but did you know that it is also an essential vitamin for preventing and healing thyroid conditions?

Low vitamin D levels have been implicated in the development, severity, AND progression of autoimmune thyroid conditions such as Hashimoto’s Disease and Grave’s disease. Vitamin D can also be anti-inflammatory for the thyroid and has a role in reducing thyroid specific antibodies.

Symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency include fatigue, muscle/joint pain, and frequent colds and infections. Our body makes its own Vitamin D but only with exposure to the sun. Many of us (especially as Canadians) are vitamin D deficient and require supplementation.

Test, don’t guess!
All of these important nutrients can be tested accurately with a simple blood test. Remember to check your labs carefully or review them with a knowledgeable health professional to make sure they are optimal, and not just falling within the ‘normal’ range. Your Medical Doctor or Naturopathic Doctor can run these tests, ideally alongside a full thyroid panel, which I talk about HERE.

Take good care!

Dr. Katie Rothwell, ND

 

References
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24630032
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19625225
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19625225
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25854833
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24532520

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 

 

The Thyroid Tests You Need (and what they mean!)

The thyroid Tests You Need (2)

Last week I had a patient come in with a story that I hear way too often. She had recently been to her family doc for a number of concerns including fatigue, weight gain, and constipation. She has a history of hypothyroidism and so had some blood work done to test her hormone levels. However, when her blood work came back everything was reported as normal. Understandably, she was both frustrated and confused about what was going on in her body. Sound familiar?

If you’re convinced your thyroid isn’t functioning properly but all your lab work comes back “normal”, you might not be getting the whole picture! These are the thyroid tests you need to fully assess thyroid function.


TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone)
What it is: TSH is the most common hormone that is tested to assess thyroid function. Often this is the only test done which is just not sufficient, especially if you are experiencing symptoms of low thyroid function.

What it does: TSH is produced by the pituitary gland in the brain and tells our thyroid to secrete more thyroid hormones (T4 and T3)

Why it’s important: TSH is a general measure of thyroid function. NDs like to see this value in a very narrow range, from about 1.0-2.0. The conventional medical system uses a range from 0.30 – 4.0, but we often see people with symptoms of thyroid dysfunction within this range.

Free T4 (Thyroxine)

What it is: T4 is the main hormone produce by the thyroid gland. Free T4 is the amount of available or ‘active’ T4 in the body. Although there is more T4 in the body than T3, only around 10% of the T4 we have is metabolically active.

What it does: T4 is converted to T3, which is used by the cells of our body to increase metabolism and energy.

Why it’s important: Indicates if the thyroid is producing hormones at the right level.

Free T3 (Triiodothyronine)
What it is: The most active thyroid hormone and the best marker for monitoring thyroid function, clinical symptoms, and treatment.

What it does: T3 is “the gas” that acts on the cells of the body to increase metabolism, energy, and growth. When your T3 is low, you will likely be feeling symptoms of hypothyroidism regardless of what your T4 and TSH levels are.

Why it’s important: Indicates if T4 is converting properly to T3, and if there are high enough levels of active thyroid hormones present in our cells. This is a widely overlooked test that absolutely needs to be included as part as a thorough thyroid panel. I find this lab value best correlates to how patients are feeling day to day.

Reverse T3 (RT3)
What it is: RT3 is the inactive form of T3, which is formed from T4 under certain conditions (such as stress)

What it does: This is “the break”, as it blocks T3 from doing its job correctly.

Why it’s important: Can be increased due to factors such as stress, obesity and inflammation. If RT3 is high, other thyroid lab values can be normal but you can still be symptomatic.

Thyroid Antibodies (TPOAb, TGBAb, TSI)
What they are: Antibodies are produced by our immune system and attack the thyroid gland directly, affecting its ability to function. These include Thyroid Peroxidase Antibodies (TPO Ab), Thyroid Stimulating Immunoglobulin (TSI), and Thyroglobulin Antibodies (TGB Ab).

What it does: The presence of these suggest inflammation and destruction of the thyroid gland, as part of an autoimmune thyroid condition, such as Hashimoto’s or Grave’s disease.

Why it’s important: The presence of antibodies indicates an autoimmune (and therefore, inflammatory) process. Current statistics state that autoimmune hypothyroidism is responsible for up to 90% of all cases of hypothyroidism in women! Autoimmunity is essential to rule in or out, as this greatly changes the way we as Naturopathic Doctors treat thyroid conditions.

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Our Thyroid Hormones

Other:
The thyroid is greatly affected by other hormones, nutrients, and vitamins. Other lab tests that may be important include Vitamin D, ferritin (iron stores), estrogen, progesterone, and cortisol. Stay tuned for future posts on how these factors directly affect thyroid function.

If you suspect your thyroid isn’t functioning properly or are currently on thyroid medication but still aren’t feeling well, a full thyroid panel investigating all of the above values can not only help reveal what’s really going on but can also guide the best treatment protocol for you and your body.

Got questions? We’re here to help.

Dr. Katie

Confused about Food Sensitivities? Here’s the Deal…

Food allergies vs. intolerances vs. sensitivities. What’s the difference and why does it matter?

The terms food sensitivities, intolerances and allergies are often confused or (incorrectly) used interchangeably. When Naturopathic Doctors are investigating digestive concerns, we use all three of these terms to determine what might be causing your symptoms and how to best to test for and treat them.

food-breakfast-egg-milk

Eggs, dairy, and wheat are three of the most common food sensitivities we see clinically!

Food Allergies
A true food allergy occurs when the immune system responds immediately to a particular food. Common food allergies include peanuts or shellfish. Symptoms can include hives, shortness of breath, or anaphylaxis and typically present within minutes after ingestion. Testing for immediate-type food allergies is typically unnecessary as it is usually readily apparent which food caused the problem. If testing is needed it is done via skin prick or blood testing. Food allergies usually need to be avoided life long, however some children do out grow them over time.

Food Sensitivities
Food sensitivities are also caused by an immune system reaction, but instead of an immediate reaction they cause delayed symptoms which can appear anywhere from hours to days after ingestion. These symptoms can include digestive complaints such as bloating and constipation, as well as non-digestive complaints such as headaches, fatigue, skin concerns, and joint pain. Identifying food sensitivities can be difficult due to the delayed nature of their symptoms. A supervised elimination type diet or specialized blood testing through your naturopathic doctor are the most effective ways to identify food sensitivities. Generally, food sensitivities are avoided or eliminated from the diet for several months and then gradually reintroduced following a gut-healing protocol.

Food Intolerances
Intolerances (unlike allergies and sensitivities) are NOT due to the immune system reacting to food. Instead, they are typically due to the body not being able to properly digest, absorb, or metabolize certain foods. The most common example of this is a lactose intolerance, in which the body does not produce the lactase enzyme. This stops the body from breaking down and digesting lactose or milk products and results in symptoms like bloating, flatulence, cramping, pain and diarrhea. You can reduce the uncomfortable symptoms of food intolerances by supplementing with the enzymes your body is lacking (for example: lactase pills) or avoiding the food all together.

The digestive system (or ‘the gut’ as we fondly refer to it as) is vital to overall health. As many of our patients can attest to, a poorly functioning gut can result in a variety of health concerns and chronic complaints down the line. 

If you’re frustrated with confusing food reactions, random symptoms, and can’t seem to identify what the problem is, it is important to have yourself properly assessed and tested by a qualified professional. You could have an allergy, sensitivity, intolerance, or any combination of the three!

Still have questions? Let us know, we’re here to help!

Dr. Katie

Veggie Soup with Chicken Broth

I’m pretty proud of this soup! It really is a homemade soup. The veggies came from my neighbours freezer but really came from his abundant garden last summer. I used some chicken bone broth I made in a slow cooker overnight after a delicious roast chicken dinner one Sunday night awhile ago.

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Ingredients:

4-6 cups of chicken bone broth

4 cups of frozen veggies – I had grape tomatoes, zucchini and green beans.

Sprinkle of thyme and oregano

Add salt and pepper to taste.

Bring to a boil then simmer 20 minutes.

Enjoy!

Dr. Whitney Young, ND & Dr. Kerri Fullerton, ND

Cosmetic Surgery for Your Eggs

Hi there,

Make your eggs new again! The latest, greatest research can turn back the time on your eggs.

Well, kind of. Older women who are struggling with getting pregnant often have issues with the quality of their eggs. Their eggs are as old as they are. I have older women ask me, should I bother to keep trying? Well, here’s another option that will keep them in the game a bit longer.

IVF

If they are doing IVF – invitro fertilization – they may have embryos that just don’t make it. The cells may not have the energy they need to do all the rapid divisions needed to make a baby.

In recent clinical trials, Fertility Clinics, including a progressive one in Toronto called TCART, are experimenting to sort of make the old eggs new again.

The mitochondria of the cells are the “powerhouse” of an egg to give it the energy it needs to function optimally. Researchers have found that the ovaries possess cells like stem cells where they can take newer mitochondria and then inject them into the older egg. Egg with young mitochondria meets sperm.

This new technology has some good anecdotal success and we are waiting for official results.

In the meantime, taking some supplements like CoQ10 and eating foods with CoQ10 can improve your mitochondrial function.

Talk soon,

Whitney

Source: Globe & Mail Fertility Treatments