Your thyroid is a small gland located at the base of the front of your neck. Despite being small, your thyroid has the big job of regulating your metabolism. It does this by secreting just the right amount of thyroid hormones to keep your body in balance. When it’s doing its job well, it’s likely that you rarely think about your thyroid or metabolism in general. However, your thyroid levels can become out of balance when the gland secretes either too much or not enough thyroid hormones.
An overactive thyroid means that your thyroid gland secretes excess thyroid hormones. Called hyperthyroidism, it causes your metabolism to speed up and can produce symptoms, such as weight loss, anxiety, a rapid heart rate, excessive thirst, appetite increases, irritability, muscle weakness and hand tremors.
An underactive thyroid, however, is far more common. That’s when the gland doesn’t secrete enough hormones to keep your metabolism up to speed. This condition is called hypothyroidism, and common symptoms associated with an underactive thyroid include feeling cold, weight gain, constipation, fatigue, poor energy, and a slow heart rate. Interestingly, both hyper and hypo thyroid conditions can cause sleep problems.
The conventional treatment for thyroid imbalances is medication. For people with an overactive thyroid, medications or surgery are used to stop your thyroid from producing excess hormones. For those who have an underactive thyroid, additional thyroid hormones are prescribed to bring thyroid levels up to normal.
It’s a common belief that once a patient is taking thyroid medications, that’s the end of the story. However, at BodaHealth we don’t see it that way. Having had a thyroid issue since my teen years, I’m very familiar with the fact that thyroid conditions are associated with ups and downs, and often require lifelong management. My own experience with a thyroid imbalance has played a huge role in how I work with patients who have similar imbalances.
I have worked with many people who have a thyroid imbalance—those who choose to avoid taking medications, and those who are taking thyroid medications—often for a very long time. It has always been my philosophy not to ask my patients to change their medications or dosages. However, in some cases their body tells them that their thyroid is out of balance or their medications need adjusting. When that happens, I ask that they do this in consultation with their naturopath, Western general practitioner and/or their endocrinologist.
In working with thyroid patients, I use acupuncture, herbal medicine, nutritional guidance, cold laser therapy and microcurrent (a mild pulsed electric current applied to acupuncture points and other areas on the surface of the skin). The reality is that even when a lab test says that your thyroid is in balance, sometimes symptoms linger. These may include:
- Weight gain or loss
- Sleep disorders
- Fertility and menstrual cycle issues
- Digestive problems
- Chronic infections, including yeast, urinary tract infections and frequent colds
- High or low blood pressure
- Anxiety, depression and mood issues
- Memory problems
- Hair loss
- Muscle, ligament and tissue weakness
- Plantar fasciitis—shockwave therapy, cold laser and acupuncture are incredibly effective for this!
The takeaway is that thyroid imbalances can produce different symptoms in different people, and metabolism affects every system in your body. In addition, taking a thyroid medication doesn’t mean that you’re good to go forever. Your thyroid hormone levels will need to be monitored and the subtle and not-so-subtle symptoms of a thyroid imbalance may be chronic, despite having lab values within the range of normal. For more information on thyroid support at BodaHealth, please give our clinic a call.
Dr. Jeda Boughton is a Doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Registered Acupuncturist in Vancouver. She is also a Registered Herbologist and the founder of BodaHealth.