Fatigue is a common complaint in a physician’s office.  Many people are feeling run down and tired.  They don’t wake up rested and have a lack of energy in completing daily tasks of life. Naturopathic medicine aims to find the cause of fatigue.  Although there are many reasons for fatigue ranging from insomnia to vitamin and mineral deficiencies, under active thyroid function – or hypothyroidism – is often a part of the problem. Your thyroid could be making you tired.

The thyroid is a butterfly shaped gland located in the front part of the neck, just below the larynx – or “adam’s apple”.  When stimulated by signals from the hypothalamus and anterior pituitary – which are parts of the brain – the thyroid gland releases the hormones T3 and T4 into the blood.  The T3 hormone is the active form of the hormone that actually affects tissue, while the T4 hormone is mostly inactive and is converted to T3 in the liver and kidneys.  The thyroid hormones have many important functions in the body including regulating the body’s metabolism. When your metabolism is decreased, your whole body will feel it!  Not only will you feel constantly tired, you may also experience symptoms such as weight gain, water retention, loss of libido, constipation, cold feet and dry skin.

Causes of Hypothyroidism

One of the possible causes of hypothyroidism is an autoimmune condition called Hashimoto’s disease.  In this disease anti-bodies produced by immune cells attack the thyroid gland and destroy its capability of making T3 and T4 hormones.  Another possible cause of hypothyroidism could be deficiency of nutrients needed in the production or conversion of the T4 hormone to its active form.  Some of the nutrients required for proper thyroid function include iodine, essential fatty acids, selenium, tyrosine, zinc, vitamin C and B vitamins.  In women, the balance between hormones such as estrogen and progesterone can also affect thyroid function.

Wilson’s Syndrome

Thyroid function is often assessed through blood tests that determine the level of hormones being produced.  Often times lab testing will show that levels of thyroid hormones are within normal range.  At this point some doctors will tell their patients that their thyroid function is fine even though symptoms of hypothyroidism may be present.  Many patients will accept this as truth and go on feeling lousy. Others may seek another opinion.  When a patient comes for a consultation and explains the above scenario, I always consider Wilson’s Syndrome.  Wilson’s Syndrome was named after a doctor who identified it as a disease state in 1990.  It is characterized by symptoms associated with low thyroid function but normal lab values. Thyroid function is checked by  tracking temperature throughout the day using an older style thermometer.  Consistent low average temperature indicates an under active thyroid and appropriate therapy can then be given to restore the patient back to health.

Naturopathy for Hypothyroidism

Naturopathic physicians can evaluate the thyroid and provide treatment to restore its function.  This may involve adjustments to your diet, for example avoiding vegetables from the Brassica plant family or increasing foods high in nutrients needed for T4 to T3 conversion. Botanical medicine offers herbs such as Withania somnifera and Fucus vesiculosus which help to regulate thyroid function.  Homeopathic medicines can effectively stimulate the thyroid as well as improve overall health by working with your vitality.  Sometimes supplementation with the right doses of specific nutrients may be necessary to give your thyroid the building blocks it requires to effectively produce thyroid hormones.  In the case of Wilson’s Syndrome, cyclic T3 therapy greatly improves all symptoms.  It is advisable to see a Naturopathic Physician when considering supplementation with health products and homeopathic or botanical medicines so that your condition can be properly assessed and monitored.   A Naturopathic Physician can help you return to optimal health by addressing the cause of fatigue and offering natural health solutions to your health concerns.

Dr. Agnieszka Matusik, ND practices family medicine at Mountainview Wellness Centre in South Surrey/White Rock.