Natural Medicine Q&A
Ask Dr. P
by Kasra Pournadeali, ND
Natural Medicine Specialist
Greetings KSER supporter! One of the biggest problems we face today is low energy or fatigue. A common reason for doctor visits; it’s perhaps the most common reason for visits to our center. Fatigue can have many causes, from an infection, cold/ flu, to malnutrition, heart disease, even cancer. Since it can have so many causes, it’s important to see an ND to get a proper diagnosis before using any natural approaches to improve your energy. Because fatigue is such a common concern, I’ve decided to dedicate the next few columns to answering questions on it. This month’s Ask Dr. P addresses questions on low thyroid. Enjoy!
Dr. P, my energy has been gradually decreasing over the past year. My doctor tells me it’s aging, but I’ve been searching the Internet and think it’s my thyroid. I have all the signs and would like to know if taking thyroid supplements would help. Beth
Beth, low energy is commonly caused by low thyroid function or hypothyroidism. And, thyroid hormone is one of several hormones responsible in regulating metabolic rate, or your body’s energy production. Symptoms of low thyroid include: low energy, weakness, cold intolerance, decreased memory, muscle or joint pain, weight gain or difficulty losing weight, depression, poor motivation, dry skin, hair loss and/or constipation or diarrhea. Most doctors will perform a standard blood test to check your thyroid. Unfortunately, that alone may be inadequate in determining if your thyroid needs support. One example why is that the cells, which make up all your tissues, may be responding to thyroid hormone poorly. This is called tissue resistance to thyroid hormone, and it results in symptoms of low thyroid despite a normal thyroid blood test. In essence, even though you might have “normal” amounts of thyroid hormone in your blood (according to the blood test,) you still may have less than your body actually needs.
If the blood tests are potentially inadequate, then what does one do? Something novel: You take a proactive approach in assessing your thyroid’s metabolic adequacy by taking your basal body temperature. To do so, you use a mercury thermometer, shake it down the night before, and place it on your nightstand. First think on waking, for 7 days in a row, before you get out of bed, take your axillary (underarm) temperature. Avoid moving about excessively while your measuring, as it will elevate your temperature, and produce a false reading. If your underarm temperature is (more often than not) less than 97.4, and you have symptoms of low thyroid, it is likely a contributing factor to your low energy.
What’s next is for us to determine if you need nutritional support for your thyroid (food or thyroid supplements;) plant medicines, which can balance thyroid function; or one of several types of thyroid hormones. Of course it doesn’t make sense to take thyroid hormone if you simply lack a nutrient your body needs to produce its own. Understand that a thyroid imbalance can cause other hormone imbalances, which can then lead to a downward spiral in your energy & mood if ignored.
Dr. P, my doctor suggests I use antidepressants for my dwindling energy, but I think it’s my thyroid. I not depressed, just tired. What should I do? Katherine
Katherine, if you feel strongly about not using an antidepressant drug to improve your energy, it is wise to get a second opinion. I suggest you speak with your Naturopathic Doctor. Many standard doctors are not familiar with tissue resistance to thyroid hormone, or how fatigue can be treated with therapeutic nutrition. Although antidepressant drugs are appropriate for some, they should not be used for fatigue when very specific criteria for depression have not been met. I’ve seen too many patients who were prescribed antidepressants for fatigue, and poor tolerance to stress, when it was essentially a thyroid or adrenal imbalance. Using the basal body temperature test (described above), and other appropriate testing, helps us determine if low thyroid is contributing to your low energy. Join me next month; I’ll address the adrenal gland and it’s role in energy, and helping you tolerate stress. Best wishes, to you and your loved ones this holiday season.
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