The Thyroid Connection: Part I

By Dr. Alanna Kuhn, ND

When I first got into practice I had no interest in treating thyroid issues. I was resistant and just didn’t want to go there with anyone because less than a year before that I was treated for thyroid cancer. I was one determined woman to kick that cancers butt and leave it in the dust behind. I used to think that just because I had experienced thyroid issues didn’t mean that I had to help others in the same situation. Until I began to realize that thyroid health needed a voice. I became tired of seeing my patients suffer with very little help from the medical community and I healed my own wounds so that I could be an advocate.

For those of you who don't know, the thyroid gland is a small, butterfly shaped organ in your neck that is connected in some way to almost every function in your body. 

Each year, the number of people affected by thyroid disease continues to rise. Approximately, 1 in 10 Canadians suffer and as many as 50% of those are undiagnosed (Thyroid Foundation of Canada, 2015). If we apply that statistic to the Kingston population that would equate to over five thousand people that remain undiagnosed.

It astounds me how many people’s lives are dramatically affected by even the smallest imbalance in their thyroid hormones. More than 300 signs and symptoms are attributed to thyroid gland dysfunction. Because it is one of the master hormone glands it plays an essential role in metabolism and weight management, energy stores, period regulation, sleep quantity and quality, digestive function, sex drive, fertility, and more.

Check out my thyroid health questionnaire! The symptoms listed are mainly associated with an underactive thyroid gland or hypothyroidism. Symptoms can include fatigue, insomnia, foggy headedness, constipation, anxiety, acne, thinning hair, high cholesterol, and lowered sex drive. Can you think of anyone who regularly experiences even one of these symptoms? I know I can think of many. And let’s be honest how can someone feel like their best self if they’re not pooping, rested, or having sex. And not necessarily in that order! 

What you learn to look for in Naturopathic and conventional medical school is someone who is colder than others, fatigued, and has difficulty losing weight. But not everyone who has an underactive thyroid gland fits this textbook picture. In fact, the only symptom I had before my thyroid cancer diagnosis was fatigue and I had attributed that to my years of stress and adrenal imbalance. My blood work was “perfect” and I was otherwise healthy. To counter this, I am not saying that everyone who experiences these symptoms has a thyroid issue, but what I do think is important is having the appropriate blood work and assessments done so that we can fully rule it out.

So why is it that so many people are going undiagnosed? Stay tuned for my next blog post…