The Thyroid Gland: The Master of our Metabolism

Hypothyroidism, or an underactive thyroid gland, is one of the most common concerns I come across in practice.  Thyroid disorders are so prevalent they are estimated to occur in 1 in every 10 Canadians and are approximately 7x more common in women than in men. 

What is the function of the thyroid gland?

The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped gland the wraps around the windpipe at the front of your neck. It plays an essential role in growth, development and metabolism. When someone experiences hypothyroidism, they experience symptoms of a slowed metabolic function including; 

  • Fatigue
  • Brain fog
  • Weight gain
  • Constipation
  • Dry skin
  • Hair loss 

Thyroid Hormone Testing

If you are experiencing some of the symptoms I listed above it may be time to get your thyroid health assessed. Traditionally, the only marker run to test thyroid function is Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH). If TSH is above the reference range, this can indicate hypothyroidism and lead to additional testing and treatment.

There is, however, a subset of people who’s TSH is in the upper end of the range or even well within normal range but they are still experiencing many symptoms of hypothyroidism. There are also some individuals who are treated for hypothyroidism yet find that symptoms still persist even if their TSH levels look normal.

In these individuals, a more comprehensive thyroid assessment may be needed. This involves looking at the actual thyroid hormone levels, known as T4 and T3 and looking for the presence of an autoimmune thyroid condition known as Hashimoto’s by looking for the presence of thyroid antibodies. 

Treating Hypothyroidism

Traditional treatment of hypothyroidism involves a medication called levothyroxine. This medication is the T4 thyroid hormone, and many feel huge improvements soon after starting this treatment.

If you have tried levothyroxine for hypothyroidism but are still experiencing signs and symptoms one of the possible reasons is an issue converting the T4 hormone to the active T3 hormone. In these cases doing a deeper dive into your thyroid health and health overall can make a big impact. 

For example, elevated levels of cortisol can impact thyroid hormone conversion, as well as iron deficiency. There is also a subset of individuals who, based on their genetics, do not convert T4 to the active T3 hormone efficiently. These individuals can benefit from an alternative treatment called natural desiccated thyroid (NDT), which I will go into more detail into in a future blog but prescribe frequently in practice. 

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Dr. Kelly Clinning, Naturopath at Body Co. Toronto

Dr. Kelly Clinning, ND

Dr. Kelly Clinning is a licensed and registered Naturopathic Doctor (ND) with a passion for research and evidence-based care. Her clinical focus is in treating women’s health with a particular concentration on reproductive health, PCOS, endometriosis and thyroid health. Her goal is to help women connect with their bodies, understand their remarkable physiology, and maintain sustainable balance in their health and life.

Dr. Kelly has her naturopathic prescribing license and incorporates natural desiccated thyroid (NDT) and bio-identical hormone treatment into her practice. She also uses nutrition, botanical medicine, acupuncture, and clinical supplementation.

After graduating from Western University with a Bachelor of Science and an Honours specialization in Kinesiology, she completed a Doctor of Naturopathy (ND) degree from the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine in Toronto. She is a member of the Ontario Association of Naturopathic Doctors, the Canadian Association of Naturopathic Doctors, and the Endocrinology Association of Naturopathic Physicians and is in good standing with the College of Naturopaths of Ontario.

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