Expert Interview with Lee Dennis, ND: How to Care for Your Thyroid?
Dr. Lee Dennis is a licensed Naturopathic physician in the state of Oregon and an associate Naturopathic physician at Namaste Natural Healing Center in Portland, Oregon. He strongly believes in the core tenets of Naturopathic medicine and in striving for a holistic and balanced approach to patient care. In a candid interview with CureJoy, Dr. Dennis acquaints us with one of the largest and the most important endocrinal glands in the human body, the thyroid, and how its smooth functioning is critical for our general well being.
Q: Dr. Dennis, why is the health of the thyroid gland critical to a person’s wellbeing?
The thyroid gland is a butterfly shaped gland that is situated in the front of the neck just below the Adam’s apple. It produces two types of thyroid hormone known as T3 and T4. These hormones help to regulate an enormous number of metabolic processes in the body. In fact, the thyroid acts very similar to a thermostat. When it’s turned up, the body warms up and everything works a little faster and more efficiently. But, if you turn it up too high or down too low, then a number of unpleasant symptoms can begin to develop. It is much more common to have an underactive thyroid (a thermostat turned too low), than an overactive one. This underactive thyroid is known as hypothyroidism, whereas an overactive thyroid is known as hyperthyroidism.
Q: What, according to you, are the common causes of hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism?
One of the most common causes is autoimmunity. This occurs when the body’s immune system makes antibodies against the thyroid gland. When the attack results in hypothyroidism, it’s known as Hashimoto’s disease. On the other hand, if autoimmunity leads to hyperthyroidism, it’s known as Grave’s disease. Which disease manifests depends on the type of antibody produced and where/how it affects the thyroid gland.
Another cause of thyroid problems is nutrient deficiencies. Iodine deficiency tends to be more of a problem world-wide than in the United States. Since iodine is a part of thyroid hormone, a deficiency in this nutrient can lead to hypothyroidism. Other nutrient deficiencies may also be involved with thyroid problems.
Q: How can one detect if they are suffering from hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism? Are there any classic symptoms? What tests can corroborate our observations?
Symptoms of hypothyroidism can vary from person to person, but an individual with low thyroid function will often feel more tired than usual, have dry skin, dry/brittle hair, feel achy and have joint pain. As processes in the body slow down, they may begin to feel cold more often, have weight gain (or difficulty losing weight), experience more constipation, poor concentration or mental “fogginess” as well as depression. Though other symptoms can manifest, these are some of the more common ones we see.
The symptoms of hyperthyroidism are essentially the opposite of what you see in hypothyroidism. An individual with hyperthyroidism may experience nervousness or anxiety, feel their heart pounding in their chest, likely be warm, sensitive to heat and may have excessive sweating. They may also be hyperactive, have trouble sleeping and find themselves losing weight unintentionally.
To confirm a suspected thyroid problem, your doctor will typically check your TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) levels. This is the hormone produced by your pituitary gland that tells your thyroid gland when to release more thyroid hormone. It will generally be elevated in a low functioning thyroid and depressed in an over functioning thyroid. Naturopathic physicians will also often test your free T3 and T4. There are also additional tests can be used to identify the cause of the problem.
Disclaimer: The content is purely informative and educational in nature and should not be construed as medical advice. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical or healthcare professional.