An Australian Approach To Thyroid Health & Hormone Balance
Do you struggle to lose weight? Are you constipated? Do you often feel flat, fatigued, and depressed? Are you suffering from brain fog and becoming forgetful? Are you overly sensitive to cold? If so, it may be time to get your thyroid checked.
The thyroid is a gland in the throat that secretes the hormones responsible for regulating your growth and metabolism. The thyroid also regulates many other systems in the body such as the immune system, digestive system, and brain function. Thyroid dysfunction is also a common cause of various weight issues, with hypothyroidism (underfunctioning thyroid) leading to obesity and difficulty losing weight and hyperthyroidism (overfunctioning thyroid) commonly causing weight loss, hair loss, and anxiety.
Why you may need to get your thyroid tested...again.
For those of you who think you've already had your thyroid checked, I have bad news: The sad truth is that the standard thyroid test run in most doctors' offices is incomplete and lacks accuracy. Luckily, a good, thorough, and accurate test does exist. The catch is that you have to pay for it by yourself through private pathology. Private pathology means that you’ve been referred with a different type of referral slip that states that you’ll be paying for the lab fees yourself. This allows you to have any test you request immediately rather than having to comply with what your insurance company determines is significant (or not). Private pathology is also available in United States, but like here in Australia, it can be expensive and you'll rarely hear of it. Typically, your first encounter with private pathology is when you see a nutritionist, naturopath, or integrative or functional medicine doctor.
A basic thyroid test can cost as little as $50 or $60 (Australian); this includes a TSH, T3, and T4. A comprehensive test—which includes TSH, T3, T4, antibodies, and reverse T3—is between $165 to $200. The costs vary from lab to lab. However, the biggest thing to watch out for is the turnaround times for results. With some labs you will have your results in as little as two days and for others you will have to wait up to eight weeks. This is definitely something to watch out for and to ask about up front.
Getting an accurate test gives you clarity and direction.
There are so many symptoms of thyroid dysfunction including anxiety, poor memory, poor digestion, excessive hair loss, weight gain or loss, infertility, PMS, and joint or muscle pain—that it can be hard to know where to start. That's why investing in an accurate test is always the best option. With this key information you can begin making specific dietary, supplemental, and lifestyle changes, which can have you feeling significantly happier and significantly healthier in a matter of weeks. Specific foods may be more therapeutic than others for you and some healthy foods may even need to be avoided—getting an accurate thyroid assessment provides highly valuable information that changes my patients' lives, creating clarity and direction.
How I manage thyroid issues in my clinic.
At my clinic, my typical management plan for someone with thyroid issues includes five steps. I would recommend finding a health care provider who also takes a holistic approach and will address each of the following:
Step 1: First, it's important to get a full and comprehensive assessment of your current health. This way you can develop an understanding of what needs to be changed in order to regain health. In addition to the blood panels, I have my patients undertake a stress and mood assessment, toxicity exposure review, and female hormone review—just to be thorough.
Step 2: Educate yourself on exactly what is happening and what needs to change to regain your health. It's important that we understand why the change is necessary and what to expect as a result of the changes. This makes for a sustainable program. So ask questions, do your own research, and be an active player in your health.
Step 3: Every good thyroid plan has a sharp focus on dietary change. Reform your diet so that it's as healthy as possible while still delicious and practical. I show my patients what to cook at home, how to keep it simple, and also what to choose when eating out.
Step 4: Explore natural medicines. Incorporating necessary nutrients and nutritional herbs will support your healing journey. In my clinic I use prescription-only natural medicines.
Step 5: The most important step is continuous review and reassessment. Make sure your program is working, change it when necessary, and find someone who will encourage you to stay motivated. For my patients, the review process includes a full-body scan to monitor changes in body composition, hydration, fluid retention, and cellular health.
Note: Serious conditions such as Graves' or Hashimoto's disease, which are autoimmune conditions diagnosed when the body develops antibodies to attack and destroy the thyroid, must be managed medically. Medication is a very important precaution and you must be under the care of an endocrinologist. However, even with these major conditions, dietary modification, lifestyle improvement, and the right nutritional medicines can have really profound effects on your body's ability to regain health and manage the condition.