Lunch & Learn Webinar

Endocrine Health: Factors That Impact Thyroid Function with Dr. Christina Christoforou, ND

Guest Speaker:
Dr. Christina Christoforou, ND

Dr. Danielle O' Connor, ND

Webinar Date and Time:
07/06/2023 12:00 pm

A lot of different factors impact thyroid function. And our thyroid is responsible for many different functions within our body, like hormone control and imbalance. Hormonal health, of which the thyroid is a part, is something Dr Christina is very passionate about.

Q. What is the thyroid gland? And what is its function within the hormone and endocrine system?

A. The thyroid gland is this little bowtie structure that sits in our throats. A lot of times, we palpate the thyroid to see if it’s a little bit bigger. Suppose there are any nodules, called goitre; it indicates something is wrong with the thyroid.

The thyroid gland is responsible for releasing hormones, specifically T-3 and T-4. It helps regulate metabolism and thermal regulation—keeping our body temperature balanced.

The thyroid also affects organs like the heart, GI tract and sex hormones. The endocrine system is a complex network of organs and glands, the thyroid gland being one of them. The responsibility of these organs and glands is to release hormones to help best balance the body, whether it’s growth, development or reproduction. Other examples of glands and organs would be the pancreas or the ovaries. In our brain, we have the pineal gland, hypothalamus, and the adrenal gland. These glands work synergistically together. When one of the glands or organs is off, it often sets off a ripple effect.

Q. What are some common disorders or symptoms seen when thyroid function is off?

A. There is a normal-acting thyroid, and then there are two other extremes. We call them hypothyroidism, the underactive thyroid, and hyperthyroidism, the overactive thyroid. Typically, we see more of an underactive thyroid or hypothyroidism. Then there is also the autoimmune condition called Hashimotos. A hyperthyroid is usually called Graves disease.

Signs and symptoms that a lot of my female patients come in for are things like fatigue, which right away could be related to an underactive thyroid. Fatigue, depression, weight gain, cold all the time, hair loss, dry skin, lower heart rate, constipation – because everything is slowing down with an underactive thyroid.

For an overactive thyroid, think of it as your thyroid working much quicker. Signs and symptoms would be increased heart rates, diarrhoea, anxiety, insomnia, weight loss, feeling hungry all the time, mood swings, and fatigue.

Q. What are some tests to be done if one notices a malfunctioning thyroid, and are there any tests to be done in conjunction for other endocrine organs and glands?

A. A thyroid panel is what I like to use. So main ones are the TSH, or thyroid stimulating hormone, the T3, T4 and the antibody tests. The antibody tests are to check autoimmune thyroid conditions. So that would be the TPO and Tg antibodies. If those antibodies are elevated, then we’re dealing with an autoimmune thyroid condition. The other one I like to test is called Rt3 or reverse T3.

If you feel a nodule during a physical exam, we need to do a thyroid ultrasound and rule out something like thyroid cancer.

If a patient complains about being stressed, we look at the adrenal gland, which releases cortisol. The am and pm cortisol and DHEA are important as well.

If patients complain about their periods being off, we’ll check progesterone, estrogen, DHT and testosterone levels.

If there is a complaint about weight gain, we also need to look at the pancreas and insulin. Low T3 can also be related to insulin resistance.

Inflammation, too, is a big contributing factor. So I might throw in inflammatory markers, like ESR, CRP or hs-CRP.

We want to get to the root cause of an overactive or underactive thyroid. As naturopathic doctors, we’re all about looking at the full picture. We ensure that your hormones, sex hormones and adrenals work synergistically together. When one organ or glans is off, it will affect everything else.

Q. In terms of thyroid function, what can contribute to abnormal function?

A. It could cause vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Selenium and zinc are both essential for T4 to be converted to T3. Iodine is another big one. Tyrosine is an amino acid found in meats, nuts, seeds, and beans. If you’re not getting enough protein in your diet, you’re not getting that tyrosine. And tyrosine is required for your body to make T4.

Another big thing is stress. If you’re dealing with an illness or infection, your immune starts attacking the thyroid, causing the autoimmune Hashimotos.

Hormonal changes in women during pregnancy or after giving birth can cause issues. What women go through when it comes to pregnancy and after delivery cause quick shifts in hormones.

Another thing that we don’t even think about is plastic, which interferes with iodine uptake. So if you have a lot of plastic water bottles or Tupperware and you’re putting hot food in there, that will impact your iodine uptake and your thyroid.

Medication, like Metformin or SSRIs, will also impact your thyroid gland. If there is a lot of inflammation or if you have a fatty liver, that will also drive down T3.

Q. What are some natural therapies or lifestyle changes you recommend to patients?

A. First and foremost, diet. Brazil nuts have about 50 micrograms of selenium. Typically, we’d need to consume about 200 micrograms per day of selenium.

Oysters, mussels and clams, which aren’t things people eat every day, have the highest amount of zinc. A lot of times, I would supplement with zinc.

I give my patients supplements if they need more iodine from their diet. A thyroid complex supplement usually contains selenium, zinc, iodine, and tyrosine. I also like to incorporate Rhodiola or Ashwagandha. You have to be careful with ashwagandha as it’s an autoimmune condition. If we’re dealing with an overactive thyroid, we use a herb called bugleweed and lemon balm or valerian.

As naturopathic doctors, we can prescribe desiccated thyroid, a natural form. It is a combination of T3 and T4. To manage stress, we may do things for adrenal support, like acupuncture and IV therapy.

About Dr. Christina

Dr. Christina Christoforou graduated with a four-year Honours Bachelor of Science degree in biology from McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. Her keen interest in the health and well-being of others led her to study Naturopathic Medicine at the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine in Toronto, Ontario where she received her degree in Naturopathic Medicine. Upon graduation, Dr. Christina Christoforou furthered her knowledge in Portland, Oregon, where she trained and worked with established Naturopathic Doctors. She is currently a member of the CAND and OAND and is a licensed Naturopathic Doctor in the province of Ontario and regulated by the College of Naturopathic Doctors in Ontario (CONO). She enjoys educating the public on health and wellness and has done seminars at various health centres such as the Mississauga Health Show, Planet Organic, Goodness Me and Lunch and Learns at various companies. She currently practices and owns The Holistix Naturopathic Health Clinic in Oakville and is committed to providing compassionate and thorough Naturopathic Care. Her practice is a general family practice where she treats all ailments and diseases. Her general focus is on digestive health/food sensitivities, hormonal health, stress/mental health and pediatrics. With over 15+ years experience and as a mother of 4 kids, Dr. Christoforou understands the demands of being a new mom with young kids and balancing work life with family life. With raising four of her own kids she has extended her knowledge of Naturopathic Medicine in pre and post pregnancy and pediatric care. She also understands managing stress and anxiety. Holistix Naturopathic Health Clinic has been nominated number one in Mississauga since 2008 with the Reader’s Choice Award and continues to win yearly since.

Dr. Danielle O' Connor, ND in Etobicoke - HealthBuddha

About Our Host

Dr. Danielle O' Connor, ND

Dr. Danielle has been a licensed Naturopathic Doctor for almost 20 years, practicing and living in the Halton region. She is deeply dedicated to helping her patients figure out the root cause of their health concerns and supporting them with foundational support like healthy eating, targeted supplementation, counselling, and lifestyle recommendations…  About Danielle O’ Connor