According to NatMed Clinic Director and Naturopath, Deborah Taylor, the most common cause of hypothyroidism in Australia is poor iodine intake.
‘The Australian National Health Measures Survey (NHMS), 2009, showed that 62% of pregnant women and 18.3% of women between 16 and 44 had low urinary iodine concentrations (UIC). (1)
Delayed diagnosis is common
It can be frustrating for people whose diagnosis is delayed or who are misdiagnosed. Many of the signs and symptoms of thyroid disease are common to other diseases, therefore blood tests are needed to confirm a diagnosis. It is alarming that a woman presenting to her GP with fatigue and weight gain can only access basic tests such as thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH). Medicare will not cover the deeper screening needed to uncover subclinical hypothyroidism or auto immune thyroid dysfunction.
Sub clinical thyroid dysfunction
Sub clinical thyroid dysfunction occurs prior to an abnormal TSH showing up on a routine thyroid health test. It causes the same symptoms of a fully blown thyroid problem but can be undiagnosed for many years because the TSH will look ‘normal’, thus the GP will often leave it and suggest the symptoms are due to lifestyle choices. This often leads to people presenting to us feeling frustrated with their health care, having visited several clinicians trying to address lingering symptoms that affect their quality of life.
Testing adequately is a priority
At NatMed we do several blood tests to screen for thyroid health and hundreds of women we’ve seen have tested with a normal TSH but are low in T3. T3 is the active thyroid hormone. Some have raised thyroid antibodies indicating an auto immune issue or Hashimotos. We can do a urinary iodine test to work out what dosage of iodine we need to supplement with, as iodine overdose can contribute to further thyroid issues. It’s a matter of doing a thorough exam and individual history to discern which tests are necessary. For example, in some cases an individual may have normal levels of all thyroid hormones but an excessive production of reverse T3 which will ‘switch off’ the active thyroid hormone. This occurs when there is inflammation in the system.
Treating thyroid disorders
It’s not a one-size-fits-all approach for people with an underactive thyroid. Supplementing with iodine and tyrosine (the T in T3) will often initiate a big change in energy and other patients need bio thyroid or T3. Some individuals require supplementation to ‘switch on’ or catalyse the conversion of T4 to T3. Hashimotos is more complex to treat, as it is an auto immune condition requiring extensive gut detoxification and healing.
At NatMed we use a multidisciplinary team and approach to ensure patients receive correct diagnosis and treatment plan.
(1) https://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/[email protected]/Lookup/4364.0.55.006Chapter1202011-12
Symptoms of underactive thyroid may include:
- weight gain
- intolerance to cold
- joint pain
- painful periods
- dry and coarse skin and hair
- slow pulse
- swelling of the neck (called goitre).