A Holistic Approach to Hypothyroidism:

a post by Katherine Heineman, DO at Holistic Care Approach

What does thyroid hormone do?

Thyroid hormone is the body’s metabolic regulator. Every cell in the body from muscles to organs to arteries depends on adequate thyroid hormone levels to achieve and maintain optimal function. When the thyroid gland is releasing inadequate amounts of thyroid hormone to meet the body’s demands, the metabolic rate is reduced.

Some common symptoms of hypothyroidism include the following:

  • Brittle nails
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Cold intolerance
  • Constipation
  • Depression
  • Poor memory
  • Fatigue
  • Dry skin
  • Elevated cholesterol
  • Essential hypertension
  • Hair loss
  • Nervousness
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Infertility
  • Irritability
  • Menstrual irregularities
  • Muscle cramps
  • Weight gain

What are some concerns for long-standing, untreated hypothyroidism?

Long-standing, untreated hypothyroidism can predispose patients to developing high cholesterol levels, which can lead to coronary artery disease. Coronary artery disease is the number one killer in the US. However, when the hormonal system is re-balanced appropriately,  oftentimes, the cholesterol level will lower significantly, thus lowering events related to heart disease.

How is the thyroid gland stimulated?

The pituitary gland releases thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) in order to stimulate the thyroid gland. Once stimulated, the thyroid gland then secretes two major hormones, Thyroxine (T4) and Triiodothyronine (T3). T3 is about 300 times more active than T4. T3 is responsible for increasing the metabolism inside the cells.

What does a conventional approach to diagnosing hypothyroidism look like?

The conventional approach to thyroid illness primarily revolves around the measurement of the TSH level. The TSH test has been the gold standard for conventional medicine to diagnose hypothyroidism for greater than 30 years. The reference range for ‘normal’ reported by most laboratories is 0.5-4.5 mIU/L.

What does a holistic approach to diagnosing hypothyroidism look like?

A holistic approach to diagnosing hypothyroidism will look at more than just the TSH levels. It is very valuable to also check T3 and T4 levels. Many times, patients will have normal T4 and TSH levels, but will have low T3 levels, bringing about the signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism. In addition, many people cannot adequately convert T4 into T3 because of nutrient deficiencies, medications, illness, stress, aging, and more.

Despite the ‘normal’ reference levels from most laboratories for TSH ranging up to 4.5 mIU/L, my experience has been clinically that the majority of patients have optimal thyroid function with a TSH between 0.3-2.0 mIU/L.

Which thyroid medication is the best?

There is no one “best” medication, as each patient is a unique biochemical individual. There are many options available to treat the underlying cause(s) of thyroid disorders. The conventional thyroid hormone replacement is Levothyoxine (Synthroid) which is an exclusively T4 thyroid preparation. Inactive ingredients of Synthroid include cornstarch, dyes, and lactose. In those individuals who cannot convert some, most, or all of T4 into T3, the T4 preparation may not be the best choice for thyroid hormone replacement.

What are other options for thyroid hormone replacement?

Amour Thyroid is a T4 and T3 thyroid hormone replacement derived from porcine (pig) thyroid gland. As it is glandular derived, it contains other active ingredients including calcitonin, selenium and thyroid hormones T2 and T1. Other porcine derived thyroid hormone replacements include Westhroid and Nature-Throid.

Cytomel is an exclusively T3 preparation. Cytomel contains sucrose and talc as inactive ingredients.

Compounding pharmacies can make various doses of T4 and T3 thyroid hormones without the additional additives and fillers. Sometimes it can be very beneficial to provide an individualized ratio of T4/T3 specific for each patient, or for those with allergy concerns.

Many times it can take a trial and error period to find the optimal dose for the patient. If you do not feel you are achieving the best results with your thyroid medication, I might suggest trying a different medication or altering the dose.

What are some common vitamin and mineral deficiencies that affect thyroid functioning?

In order for the thyroid gland to make thyroid hormone, adequate amounts of iodine must be present. Other vitamins and minerals are essential for aiding in the conversion of T4 to T3. These include selenium, zinc, vitamin C, and vitamin B12. When these vitamin and mineral levels are inadequate, symptoms of hypothyroidism may develop.

What else might be considered regarding hypothyroidism?

A holistic treatment plan for hypothyroidism may also include natural hormones, vitamin and mineral supplementation, dietary changes, and detoxification.

As you can see, treating thyroid disorders involves more than simply adjusting medications based on lab tests. Often times, thyroid disorder can be improved upon or corrected by simply improving the function of the thyroid gland with appropriate vitamins and minerals and by detoxifying the system.

There is lots of hope for patients with thyroid disorders. Educate yourself and don’t accept disease. You must be your own advocate in working toward achieving your optimal health.

grand rapids holistic doctorDr. Heineman is a fully licensed, board-eligible physician in Neuromusculoskeletal Medicine and Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine. She specializes in the apprenticed art of osteopathy that has been passed down, literally “hand to hand,” over the last 150 years. At Holistic Care Approach, Dr. Heineman will work with all of the holistic health care offerings and provide her specific expertise to approach health care problems including low back pain, neck pain, other somatic pain, headaches, traumatic injuries, pain of pregnancy, and treatment of infants with chronic infections, colic, plagiocephaly, torticollis, or birth trauma.

An osteopathic approach to medicine is ideal for patients looking for alternative solutions to chronic health issues. Dr. Heineman will commonly screen for nutritional deficiencies and offer expanded testing for thyroid, adrenal and other hormonal dysfunction. She will explore alternative approaches that are used in place of, or in addition to, prescription medications. Dr. Heineman fully discusses treatment plans regarding any abnormalities found in testing.

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UpToDate: http://www.uptodate.com/contents/diagnosis-of-and-screening-for-hypothyroidism?source=search_result&search=hypothyroidism&selectedTitle=1%7E150. October 25, 2012

Brownstein, David. Overcoming Thyroid Disorders, 2nd Ed. Medical Alternatives Press: 2008.

Barnes, Broda. Hypothyroidism, The Unsuspected Illness. Harper and Row: 1976.

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This blog is for educational purposes only. The information provided by Donielle, or any contributor, is not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any condition. If you are seeking medical advice, please search out a qualified health practitioner.

Elderberry Syrup: Nature’s Cough Medicine

Temperatures are dropping fast around Grand Rapids this time of year. In the past, I would normally get anxious. Not because the holidays are approaching, but tis the season for colds and flu. I have a son who has asthma and even a small cold can begin to constrict his lungs. That leads to coughing and if left unchecked can send him to the emergency room with a full-blown asthma attack.

While a healthy diet goes a long way in building a strong immune system, it isn’t a bulletproof vest. I debated with myself for years if over-the-counter cough medicine and prescription drugs were the only solution to help our son through the colder months. I knew there were alternative answers out there but I didn’t know what they were.

Then I stumbled across Wellness Mama and she challenged me to think outside the box. Perhaps the medications we need are not at the pharmacy but in our backyards. Using plants and herbs as natural remedies was the answer I was looking for – enough with the steroid treatments and daily medications. I began a new journey making elderberry syrup for problems with asthma, colds, and flu.

Just this past month, my son’s entire preschool class came down with a terrible cold. When he woke up with a raspy cough I began giving him two teaspoons of elderberry syrup every two to four hours. In two days he bounced back! For the first time ever we avoided steroid treatment and a trip to the doctors.

elderberry syrup

Elderberries medicinal benefits are simply outstanding. The bioflavonoid in the berry juice destroys a viruses’ ability to infect a cell. People with the flu report less severe symptoms and speed up recovery when consuming elderberries while sick. The anthocyanins enhance the immune function by boosting the production of cytokines. What does that mean? These unique proteins send messages to the immune system to regulate an immune response by increasing antibodies to defend the body against the offending agent.

Local Honey

Local raw honey has anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and anti-fungal properties. Honey strengths the immune system, is a powerful antioxidant, and alleviates allergy and asthma symptoms. When the throat is irritated from raspy, dry coughing and the bronchial tubes are inflamed – honey soothes.

Elderberry Cough Syrup Recipe


  • ½ cup dried elderberries
  • 2 cup water
  • 1 cup raw honey


1. In a saucepan, combine elderberries and water. Bring to a boil then simmer over medium heat for 30 minutes. Remove from heat and cool.

2. Strain off the berries from the liquid then stir in the honey to create a thin syrup.

3. Bottle the elderberry syrup in glass mason jars with a lid. Refrigerate for up to three months.

Where to Find the Ingredients

If you live in the Grand Rapids Metro, check out one of Harvest Health’s locations or Elder and Sage for quality ingredients. Otherwise, Mountain Rose Herbs is a premium herbal company that supplies all these ingredients on-line.

Everyone is more susceptible to coming down with an illness this time of year. Why not make a batch of elderberry syrup ahead of time to be prepared? Who knows, it might just be the solution you’ve been waiting for.

Back to School…Back to Broth

It’s September.  The weather is starting to get cooler, fall produce is at the market and school has started.  This means lots of fun and excitement.  But it also means the start of colds, the flu and lots of germs.

There are many precautions you can take to stay healthy of course, and one of the best ways is to nourish your body with bone broth.

bone broth and immune support

Bone broth is full of vitamins and minerals, it helps with digestion and promotes healing in the gut, and it is one of the most nourishing foods you can eat.

It is best to get broth in your diet daily, but that can sometimes be a challenge – especially when it comes to kids.  But it can be done, even without eating soup seven days a week, although you could.  It makes a great quick prep breakfast, lunch or dinner!

Eight easy and delicious ways to incorporate broth into your meals every day.

  • Smoothies – Add some unflavored broth into your favorite smoothie.
  • Gravy – Simmer vegetables and/or meat in broth until it reduces and thickens.
  • Sweet and sour sauce – Make meatballs or stir fry by simmering your meat/vegetables in a combination of broth and honey until it reduces.
  • Rice/Noodles/Grains – Cook rice or whole wheat noodles or other grains (quinoa, couscous, etc.) in broth instead of water.  The grains will absorb the broth.
  • Beverage – Simply put warm, seasoned broth in a cup and drink it.  Kids will enjoy this if they get to use a straw.  It makes a great replacement for a cup of tea or coffee once in a while.  Or drink it at the start of your meal to aid in digestion.
  • Scrambled eggs – Use broth instead of milk when making scrambled eggs.
  • Vegetable puree – Puree vegetables like squash, pumpkin or peas with broth for a nutritious side dish, sauce or baby food.
  • Soups/stews – Use lots of bone broth for homemade soups and stews.  Simply add whatever meat and/or vegetables you like and simmer.  You can puree the soup to make a thick stew.

Making broth is quite simple.  Just simmer bones (with or without meat) on the stove or slow cooker for about 24 hours.  You can add vegetables and seasoning as well.  Then strain the liquid out.

You are left with beautiful broth full of gelatin, vitamins and minerals.  For extra nutrients be sure to use a variety of parts of the animal, including things like feet, necks, etc.

Store broth in the refrigerator for up to a week or keep it in the freezer.

While it may be convenient to buy pre-made stock, it’s not equivalent to homemade stock.  It does not have the same nourishing properties.  And most of the store-bought stocks contain MSG and other chemicals and fillers.

You can also use good quality gelatin to get some of the same benefits as stock or broth.

Don’t let the start of school and fall activities be the end of your family’s health.  Start consuming broth at least a few times a week to make sure you’re getting the nutrients and protection you need.

Do you regularly make broth? If so, what are your favorite ways of using it?

Mary Voogt is a follower of Christ, a wife, and a mother of two. After 6 years as an electrical engineer she now stays home full time. She is passionate about real food and enjoys spending lots of time in the kitchen cooking and baking from scratch. She blogs at Homemade Dutch Apple Pie on a variety of topics including digestive issues, OCD, anxiety, infertility, natural parenting and healthy food.

Natural Health through Chiropractic


“Chiropractic is a health care discipline which emphasizes the inherent recuperative power of the body to heal itself without the use of drugs and surgery. The practice of chiropractic focuses on the relationship between structure (primarily the spine) and function (as coordinated by the nervous system) and how that relationship affects the preservation and restoration of health.” Association of Chiropractic Colleges

Essentially chiropractors believe that the body is able to heal itself when it is functioning at it’s optimum ability, starting from the inside out.

In general when people think about going to see a chiropractor it is usually related to pain somewhere in their spine or some other physical ailment like headaches or leg pain. Chiropractic is a very effective treatment option for these problems, however, is also capable of helping with so much more.

Going back to basic anatomy, the central nervous system is composed of your brain and spinal cord, and is the master control center for your body. This system is then connected to to every other cell, tissue, organ and muscle in your body, through nerves that exit between each spinal segment called the peripheral nervous system. Information is exchanged between these two systems to keep your body functioning.

As chiropractors we look for what is called a ‘subluxation’ which is an area of the spine where bones or joints are misaligned and/or stuck in the wrong position. This in turn causes muscle spasm, inflammation and pressure to be put on the nerves in the affected area. As I said before these nerves go to every cell, tissue, organ and muscle in your body, so outside of causing pain in the area, it is also causing dysfunction to wherever those nerves are going. The effect is kind of like stepping on a hose, information is still coming out, but not as fully as it should. Long term this interference can cause severe dysfunction and ultimately disease of the affected areas. That being said, it is important to restore nerve function so that the body can heal itself.

Outside of “back and neck” pain, parents can also look to chiropractic to help with a variety of other conditions their children may be afflicted with:

  • Ear infections
  • Asthma
  • Allergies
  • Headaches
  • Immune deficiency
  • Colic
  • Reflux
  • Breech Presentation

In future posts I’ll explain how chiropractic may help with these common childhood problems and also present other natural treatment options as well. In the mean time you can check out the ICPA website for more information and research on these topics.

photo credit: kaex0r