Thyroid disease is more common than diabetes or even heart disease, you may even have it and not realize it. The thyroid gland is a fundamental part of your hormonal system and it affects every single cell in your body. You only require tiny doses of thyroid hormone, though if you have too much or too little, you can show a wide range of symptoms (see below). It’s estimated that approximately 1 in 10 North Americans have a thyroid condition and of those, approximately 50% are undiagnosed. Imbalanced thyroid function increases your risk for heart disease, osteoporosis, diabetes and anemia.

Considering that there are so many people with a thyroid problem, but are unaware of it, it is vital to know the symptoms of thyroid disease and when to get yourself or your loved ones checked. In this article, I will describe the main types of thyroid concerns, the symptoms and four action tips you can take to try and prevent thyroid problems from the perspective of a naturopathic doctor.

Thyroid symptoms and types of thyroid illnesses

The two most common thyroid-related problems are underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) and overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism). In hypothyroidism, it feels as if your body is slowing down – mentally you are slower, physically weaker and your overall body functions are slow/weak. In hyperthyroidism, it feels as if your body is speeding up – your mind is faster, your body feels hotter and your heart and nerves are at a heightened level of action.

Other less common thyroid concerns include thyroid nodules and thyroid cancers. Unfortunately, these concerns are on the rise so it is important to learn how to check yourself by doing a thyroid ‘neck check.’If you find lumps or are not sure, check with your doctor.

Hypothyroidism Symptoms

• Sensitivity to cold
• Constant fatigue
• Muscle weakness
• Weak slow heart beat
• Constipation
• Goitre (increased size of thyroid gland)

Hyperthyroidism Symptoms

• Rapid forceful heart beat
• Restlessness, anxiety, sleeplessness
• Weight loss despite high appetite
• Intolerant of heat
• Eye changes
• Goitre

Four action tips to prevent thyroid illness

1. Reduce radiation exposure. If you have had multiple radiation exposures of your head and neck, or if you work in an area with radiation such as in health care, your risk for autoimmune thyroid illness increases (autoimmunity is the most common cause of thyroid disease). Be sure to request a protective ‘thyroid collar’ when getting any radiation exposure to that area of your body.

2. Take a multivitamin. A variety of studies have found that selenium, zinc, vitamin C and iodine may be useful in thyroid health and these nutrients are commonly found in multivitamins. In my naturopathic medical practice I have found that these four nutrients are commonly low or deficient in my patients. Note that iodine may not be recommended in some thyroid illnesses – speak with your primary health practitioner if it is appropriate for you.

3. Reduce or moderate fluoride intake. Despite being helpful against dental cavity formation, excessive fluoride from water fluoridation has been shown to negatively affect the thyroid. Researchers from the University of Kent in the UK found that there was twice as many hypothyroidism cases in regions that added fluoride to the tap water versus areas that did not add fluoride to the water system – the study was published in the July 2015 issue of The Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. Fluoride as an element structurally resembles iodine (iodine is required for normal thyroid hormone production) and so fluoride can disrupt normal thyroid function. Other toxins can affect the thyroid such as perchlorate, thiocyanate, bisphenol A and many others.

4. Test for thyroid antibodies. Since autoimmunity is the most common cause of hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism, you can predict your risk of thyroid illness by testing your level of thyroid antibodies in your blood. If they are present, work with a doctor knowledgeable in this area, to balance your immune system to reduce your risk of developing thyroid disease.

About the Author

Rahim Habib is a registered naturopathic doctor with over 15 years of experience in general family practice. He has a special interest in helping patients comprehensively detoxifying their bodies for preventative and therapeutic benefit. He also has a special interest in children’s health, assisting kids in their learning and behavioural health with conditions such as ADHD, Autism spectrum, asthma, allergies and childhood obesity. He also helps adults with chronic conditions, such as thyroid disorders, infertility, inflammation, obesity, autoimmunity, dementia and cancer care. He is the director of the Four Seasons Naturopathic Clinic for Detoxification and Healing and can be reached at 905-597-7201 or