Why I love working with thyroid patients
I have been a practicing Naturopath for over 20 years and have done so in the same country town all of those 20 or so years. I have preferred to see many different health conditions and patients, I haven’t chosen to specialise in any one condition due to being in a smallish community and I also love the variety and challenge of treating different health conditions.
One area I really have a big interest in is gut and liver health, as it is a major contributor to ill health and all disease begins in the gut so it is a great place to start in all of my patients, in getting the gut right.
Over the last 5 or so years, the number of patients presenting in my clinic with thyroid conditions has increased 10 fold. It was a real eye opener…This has ignited in me a passion to learn all that I can about this quite sensitive but major organ in the body, which basically controls all our bodily functions. When the thyroid gland is not happy, which I am seeing in about 75% of my clients, the whole body seems to shut down or rev up in some cases, such as hyperthyroidism, either way, the result can be very debilitating.
During this time, many clients presented with other health conditions, they didn’t actually come to see me about their thyroid. And it was only when I asked if they were taking any medication, they would mention that they were taking thyroxine and many had been on it for a very long time. I would ask when they were diagnosed and they would say a long time ago, I would ask, do you have hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism and most will say I think hypo. “Did you ever have Graves’ disease?”, and they would say that they didn’t know. “What are you thyroid levels like now?”, and they would all say fine but when I followed up with a full thyroid panel, it would show otherwise. Most were not regularly tested and had no idea if they had antibodies or Hashimotos or not. I discovered that many of their symptoms were due to high thyroid antibodies attacking their thyroid and that their medication was doing little to help. Some were finding that their medication was being increased at higher and higher doses, with little symptom relief.
So I have begun to really investigate, read and research all I can with up to date info on the thyroid gland and its potential imbalances. This quite small, cute butterfly shape gland at the base of the neck has so many important functions for the body.
One of the reasons that I found that I had to learn and research the thyroid was that when I began to look at all the different blood pathologies that my patients had for their thyroid, there were so many different clinical presentations of thyroid conditions, and like most diseases, the blood results and clinical pictures, didn’t match my patients symptoms. So I needed to research and find out why. I also found that one size does not fit all with the thyroid and in my naturopathic journals, their treatment protocols for the thyroid didn’t fit or work on some patients.
Just this week I had a patient that came in with blood test results. Her TSH was 1.17, a great level, and her T4 and T3 were ok, if not a little low. She was suffering from fatigue, weight gain, hair loss, headaches and depression, common thyroid symptoms. On paper, her thyroid looks fine, but when we tested her thyroid antibodies, they were less than fine, they were very elevated, causing tissue damage and causing her ongoing symptoms. As this patients TSH was well within range, her GP would not test for antibodies as they only test antibodies when TSH is elevated. So all this time her thyroid was being attacked by her immune system causing terrible destruction to her thyroid gland that was not picked up until I tested further. Another patient in the same week had a TSH of 6.87, way too high, but when we tested further her antibodies were less than 10 and not causing an issue. These two cases prove that our current standard procedure for diagnosing thyroid conditions is out dated and needs a review.
Everyone is different and there is no one size fits in Naturopathic Medicine. When I first began practicing Naturopathy, a patient would ring and say they had a certain disease and I would research that disease and have a treatment protocol ready for them. But all too often, they would have gut issues or another disease as well so my protocol would go out the door and I was forced to treat the individual person. No two patients are alike, but thyroid patients stand out even more, because there are so many different systems and bodily functions that the thyroid gland affects that when it is out of balance, there are many different systems in the body that are effected.
Another big reason that I have chosen to focus on the thyroid is that it is a very underdiagnosed and mismanaged condition in the medical system. Unfortunately in the medical profession, there is a one size fits all approach that I feel is to the detriment of anyone diagnosed with a thyroid condition and that is to be prescribed thyroxine, synthyroid, levothyroxine – they are all the same thing, the blanket response if you have hypothyroidism of Hashimotos disease which involves the immune system and is a much more serious condition. Only one thyroid hormone is looked at most times by a GP, and that is TSH- thyroid stimulating hormone. TSH is produced by the pituitary gland in response to a trigger, often more energy for example, to tell the thyroid to produce a thyroid hormone called triiodothyronine or more commonly, T4.
If you are within a massive reference range of TSH – 0.5 – 5.5, you are considered to be fine, nothing is wrong. If TSH is up around 5 or higher, it usually entails a “watch and wait” approach. Most often the thyroid antibodies, (antibodies that the immune system produces against the thyroid which attacks the thyroid and causes damage), are not checked for, so whilst we are “watch and waiting”, there are more antibodies being produced causing damages to the thyroid gland. THE MAIN CAUSE, TRIGGER, FACTOR OF ALL THRYID DISEASE IS AUTOIMMUNITY!!!!!!! When, for many different reasons, the body starts developing antibodies against the thyroid gland attacking the thyroid tissue, causing tissue destruction and major tissue damage to the thyroid and symptoms often get worse and worse. When the condition is finally diagnosed after waiting for around 3 months. It’s quite hard to treat because there is so much tissue damage. It would be so much better for this to be picked up early if only a full thyroid panel is done on every patient checking their thyroid, including TSH, T3, T4, reverse T3, and thyroid antibodies , so we can see what is actually going on with the thyroid early and treat accordingly before the condition progresses. If thyroid antibodies are not checked out then the thyroid will be under constant attack, the thyroid struggles to produce hormones and medication will not fix the autoimmune problem.
What happens in the body when the thyroid gland is under functioning and slows down? The whole body slows down including the digestion, so we get SIBO and IBS symptoms. The heart rate slows down bringing all sorts of cardiovascular problem such as cholesterol imbalances, The metabolism slows down which brings about weight gain. In the opposite condition- hyperthyroidism, everything speeds up – revs up the whole body burning fuels too quickly constantly.
When I first started noticing the influx of thyroid presentations to my clinic, I was quite frustrated by my lack of knowledge and lack of results. My standard treatment protocols for thyroid conditions weren’t getting the results that t I wanted. Patients were coming in with quite comprehensive pathology test results, and I was looking at them not understanding. In order to be able to help these people I needed to research and find out what was going on. So I began to read/research and go to seminars on everything thyroid. I began to hang out in thyroid Facebook groups and I began to notice just how many people all around the world struggling with their thyroid conditions and not getting the health that they needed. One Facebook group in particular had over 9000 members and their outreach for help was huge. Even some members were talking about ending their life as they were so sick of feeling the way they did! They were/are so frustrated with the lack of support, the lack of help and understanding that thyroid disease entails. I found this so disturbing. Why are there so many people suffering with thyroid disease? Why are they suffering so much and why are they not getting the help that they need? And that has spurned me even more to try to find a way to help as many people that I can suffering with thyroid disease,
There are over 20 million people in America diagnosed with a thyroid condition and an estimated 13 million undiagnosed. And 1:10 people in India.
It has been my quest for the last 7 years has been to get to know, understand and treat the thyroid gland so that I can help as many people as I can suffering with a thyroid condition. I am doing this with better education about testing, administrating a thyroid Facebook support group, writing a eBook about overcoming a thyroid condition, have been interview on 2 podcasts about the thyroid and am currently writing an 8 part series of webinar soon to be available this year. I continue to learn and research so that I can bring the best out come to every person that I see and support them on their thyroid journey.
For a comprehensive guide on thyroid conditions including actionable steps for diagnosis and treatment, check out my Ebook - Thyroid Reset.