Thyroid health, thyroid testing, thyroid disease, thyroid natural support, Doctor Meghan Van Vleet

Have your thyroid levels been tested at your primary care physician’s office and were returned normal, yet you are still experiencing unusual symptoms that are typically linked to this hormone’s imbalance?

If so, you’re not the only one.

Many of my clients come to me with results showing normal TSH, a thyroid-stimulating hormone that encourages the thyroid gland to release the hormones thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3) as well as Free T3 and Free T4 (the active hormones) and are frustrated or confused because they continue to suffer from signs of disfunction.

Commonly, these symptoms (most frequently for the state of hypothyroid) are:

– fatigue

– hair loss

– cold intolerance

– weight gain and difficulty losing weight

– hormone disruption/infertility

– constipation

– dry skin

as well as other unusual signs.

But if your tests results are within range and you are still experiencing unusual symptoms, can you still have thyroid disfunction?

Yes.

Following are three things to know about the health of your thyroid even if your general practitioner evaluation is normal:

  1. TSH is not the only thing to test for; antibodies can expand analysis of thyroid.

In addition to TSH, Free T3 and Free T4, thyroid antibodies can also be tested.  Results showing elevated levels can indicate attack on certain parts of the thyroid, its proteins, as well as any inflammation or disruption of thyroid function.

So why hasn’t your primary care doctor tested these?

Antibodies are not typically tested alongside TSH at a general practitioner office because TSH is the standard for determining whether actual thyroid disease is present such as hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism.

And if there isn’t a definitive disease present…there is nothing for traditional western medicine to treat.

The challenge with this is that nonstandard TSH levels are commonly one of the last signs to show up when thyroid disfunction is present.  This means that you may experience a variety of unwanted symptoms much earlier than nonstandard TSH results are reflected.

Frequently, this test is most valuable for women between the ages of 30-50 and most of the clients I treat with abnormal antibody levels are postpartum women in this age range.  I recommend periodic antibody testing throughout these years, particularly for those who have thyroid disfunction in the family.

  1. Thyroid disfunction may be linked to other underlying autoimmune conditions.

Autoimmune disorders happen when the immune system attacks certain cells in the body, disrupting systematic function – and one of those functions can be the thyroid.

This assail on healthy cells can begin to present signs or flare up in mid-life and although not all thyroid conditions are autoimmune related, they can still be linked which means it could very well be a root cause of the hormone’s imbalance.

Holistic treatment of elevated antibodies typically involves broad treatment of autoimmunity as well as specific treatment aimed at bolstering thyroid function.

  1. There are a variety of naturopathic options for thyroid disfunction. 

In addition to prescription hormones that may be needed to balance thyroid, there are naturopathic treatments that can work synergistically or aside from pharmaceuticals, especially for those whose TSH levels are normal, yet have elevated antibodies.

First, nutraceuticals can encourage thyroid production.  Tyrosine, selenium, and zinc can all be beneficial in boosting thyroid levels as well as other supplements that support adrenal health and blood sugar regulation as there can be subtle reverberations (i.e.: symptoms) throughout various systems in the body.  It’s important to take care of the entire body!

Another naturopathic treatment for elevated antibodies is hydrotherapy.  This spa like treatment alternates hot and cold water applications to the front and back of the torso and neck, and can help stimulate the body to produce heat and warm the body – valuable for those in a hypothyroid state.

What’s even better is that after a series of sessions, you can learn to modify the treatment for at-home use.

Finally, lifestyle changes can make a big impact on treating autoimmune effects in which I recommend:

– a clean diet for digestive health

– stress reduction

– good sleep habits

– frequent movement/exercise

– breathing exercises and meditation

as well as other self-care actions that support healthy living.

Paired with nutrient-focused supplements and hydrotherapy, lifestyle changes can be the key to lasting changes for a healthier you.

If you’ve received normal TSH results but still think thyroid disfunction is present, you don’t have to wonder any longer.

If you live in Boulder or the surrounding Denver metro area and would like to discuss your thyroid concerns further, please don’t hesitate to call my office at (720) 340-0193 or click here to schedule an appointment.

Are you ready to get your thyroid checked completely?  Let’s get started.

 

 

REFERENCES:
https://labtestsonline.org/tests/thyroid-antibodies

Hormone Health in the Reproductive Years

Hormonal health during reproductive years might play the most significant role in a woman gracefully moving through the different phases in her life, yet many doctors suppress women’s reproductive hormone production often as a matter of course, in some cases as soon as a young woman begins cycling. While the use of synthetic hormones is indicated in many cases, in just as many or more cases, practitioners prescribe it as an easy, quick, and short-sighted “fix” with long-term ramifications.

Many cases of difficult conception, as well as severely symptomatic perimenopausal years, could be prevented, or at least moderated, by focusing on hormonal health earlier in development. Rather than “controlling” menstrual irregularities, it would be of greater benefit to try to understand and address the underlying cause.

A Naturopathic Approach to Hormonal Health

A naturopathic approach looks to optimize biological functions. The human body exists not as a set of separate systems in isolation; its parts and roles are complexly interwoven, so suppressing one biological function will invariably affect the whole.

Additionally, naturopathic philosophy approaches the human body with an assumption that it possesses inherent wisdom in its functioning. Often, disrupted menses presents as an initial sign that some other less obvious function is experiencing duress. Biologically, fertility and reproduction are not required for survival, thus, they are considered higher functions—functions that can be neglected in challenging times, ie: when our bodies are dealing with more significant, even if yet unidentified, issues.

The body communicates to us with its symptomatology, asking us to pay attention. If you have struggled with hormonal health in the past or currently experience hormones gone awry and have concerns about your hormonal health for the future, read on, and consider working with a naturopathic doctor.

Oral Contraception Pill (OCP) Use

It may surprise you to learn that the prescription of oral contraception, or other delivery forms of synthetic reproductive hormones, often has nothing to do with contraception. Common reasons for prescribing synthetic hormones include:

  • Painful menses
  • Heavy bleeding
  • Irregular cycles
  • Amenorrhea (no menses)
  • PMS/mood swings
  • Hot flashes
  • Acne

The symptoms that a conventional medical approach would suppress in an attempt at hormonal “regulation” are the same symptoms that a naturopath would use to help understand how best to support the body in achieving balance on its own. Rather than seeking simply “regularity”, the goal is to seek health.

Synthetic Hormones Are Not Your Hormones

Instead of truly balancing a woman’s hormones, oral contraceptive pills turn off the body’s own hormone production, masking whatever the underlying issue might be by forcing “balanced hormones”. Naturally produced progesterone comes from ovulation, and in addition to reproductive health, progesterone does some amazing things for women:

  • Stimulates the thyroid
  • Helps regulate adrenal function
  • Reduces inflammation
  • Builds muscle mass
  • Promotes sleep
  • Protects against heart disease
  • Calms the nervous system

Synthetic progestins (in all OCPs as well as all other hormonal birth control) do suppress ovulation (prevent conception) and help regulate cyclic bleeding, but because they are chemically different from progesterone, they don’t follow the same biochemical conversions that progesterone does, and so they don’t offer the same global actions as your body’s own progesterone. Just take a look at the effects of progesterone, above, one more time – everyone can agree, those are desirable qualities.

Additionally, synthetic hormones come with side effects that can include nausea, weight gain, headaches, depressed mood, anxiety, heart attack, stroke, blood clots, and liver tumors. Many women will have trouble conceiving after extended use of an OCP because synthetic hormones turn the body’s own reproductive hormone production off, and it may take several months for that production to kick back in.

True Hormonal Health

The number one thing a person can do to support their entire endocrine system is to maintain optimal blood sugar control. All the different aspects of the endocrine system affect all the other endocrine functions. Reproductive hormones remain integral to the rest of the endocrine system, as well as to overall health.

Visualize the endocrine system as a three-legged stool (with the floor being blood sugar control – if not well-controlled and level, the stool will fall over – the whole thing becomes dysfunctional). The three stool legs are:

  • the thyroid
  • reproductive hormones
  • the adrenals (stress hormones)

Regarding blood sugar, consider that:

  • Diabetic patients or those with blood sugar dysregulation can have difficulty conceiving.
  • Blood sugar dysregulation is a big stress to the body, leading to adrenal/cortisol dysregulation.
  • Blood sugar dysregulation can induce changes in the thyroid gland.

When one leg of the “endocrine stool” isn’t working optimally, the other ones will be affected.

  • Note that hypothyroid patients have trouble conceiving.
  • Progesterone effects the thyroid and helps regulate the HPA axis (adrenal function).
  • The adrenal glands are responsible for managing stress, and when the adrenals are overworked and putting out a lot of adrenaline and cortisol, your body down-regulates functions unnecessary to fight/flight survival – the thyroid function to some extent and…reproduction.

Reproductive Hormonal Health is a Marker for Whole Body Health

As revealed, a smooth monthly cycle with minimal symptoms cannot happen if other systems are stressed. In this way, the monthly cycle heralds the need to pay attention to and take care of other aspects of your health. Therefore, if the monthly cycle is not regular with minimal symptoms, it warrants an investigation of blood sugar, thyroid, and adrenal function. Because it takes three months for an egg to reach full maturity before ovulation, the progesterone-making ability during any given month depends on the overall endocrine health of the previous three months. In other words: With appropriate treatment, it may take several months to achieve hormonal health.

You Need Birth Control

Of course, an unwanted pregnancy poses some life and health challenges of its own and should not be minimized. How can a woman achieve optimal hormonal health and also avoid pregnancy? I encourage you to explore all the contraceptive options available with your doctor and your partner, if you have one, and consider doing what you can to maintain ovulation – the source of your progesterone.

Perimenopause – The Great Change

Perimenopause can start anywhere from 2-12 years before menopause and is when you will experience the most symptoms. Symptoms are due to the now-inconsistent levels of estrogen as well as a decline in the production of progesterone and all of its benefits outlined above. Symptoms include:

  • Heavy or longer flow
  • Shorter cycles
  • Sore breasts
  • Mid-sleep waking
  • Increased menstrual cramps
  • Hot flashes
  • Headaches
  • Increased premenstrual mood swings
  • Anxiety
  • Weight gain
  • Heart palpitations

If you have worked towards hormonal health before perimenopause begins, you will likely have an easier time. At menopause, symptoms will quiet down as the body settles into its new normal. This does not mean, however, that you have to wait for menopause for relief.

A Naturopathic Approach to Perimenopause

Hormonal health throughout your reproductive years can reduce perimenopausal symptoms. Remember how progesterone effects the rest of the endocrine system? These other aspects of your endocrine system are what your body will “lean-in” on during the swings of perimenopause. The health of the entire endocrine system will make the transition to menopause easier. Hormonal health during reproductive years provide you with resilient endocrine health during perimenopause. Additionally, the naturopathic approach to perimenopause is similar to the approach for reproductive health – essentially supporting the entire endocrine system with the foundation being blood sugar stabilization.

Work with Meghan Van Vleet, ND in Boulder, CO on Optimizing Hormonal Health

If you are interested in exploring how your monthly cycle and symptoms can help direct optimal healthy habits and lifestyle choices, if you experience an irregular and highly symptomatic cycle, if you are having difficulty conceiving, or if you find yourself in the midst of perimenopause and all of its symptoms and are needing support, give me a call. I can help

 

 

 

During Well-Woman Visits, The Woman (That’s You) Has the Voice

Along with general health support and treatment for illnesses, I offer flexible, patient-centered, well-woman care including postpartum checks, pelvic exams, and pap smears.  I practice with a commitment to individualized care and I take time with each patient. As a postpartum mom, this is not your typical “clear to resume sex” visit. During any pelvic exam, the women who I see are in control and have choices. I use a trauma-informed approach for the entire well-woman visit. I do everything I can to make this visit as comfortable as possible for my patients. And I am always open to feedback.

Sound like you need to learn more or make an appointment? Call me: 720-340-0193