Ask Dr. Marty: Sluggish Thyroid


I have what my doctor calls a sluggish thyroid. She says it is not sluggish enough to require medication. Is there anything I can use that is natural that can prevent any worsening of my situation?

• Are you often tired?
• Do you have low libido? (Do I have your attention yet?)
• Have you gained weight or had difficulty losing weight?
• Do you often feel down or anxious?
• Do you have difficulty maintaining focus or have a poor memory?
• Do you often have cold hands and feet?
• Do you have thin brittle nails or dry skin?
• Have you experienced hair loss?
• Are you often constipated?
• Are your muscles stiff, weak, cramped or painful?
• Do you have a low or elevated heart rate?
• Are your cholesterol counts high?
• Do you have poor eyebrow growth, especially in the outer third area?
• Are you often hoarse, or have any difficulty swallowing?
• Do you feel uncomfortable in the throat area when wearing a slightly snug collar?
• Do you have low blood pressure?
• Have you had difficulty conceiving or have menstrual irregularities?
• Do you have a gluten sensitivity?

Quite a list, isn’t it? The thyroid gland impacts every cell in the body. So, when it’s out of whack, your whole body pays the price. A sluggish thyroid is often misdiagnosed, because the symptoms are so spread out across the whole body. And to make things even more complex, medical tests are often normal when a substantial imbalance exists.

Many things can cause a thyroid imbalance. Because the endocrine glands work closely together, a problem with other glands, like the adrenals, can create a problem with the thyroid and vise versa. A tendency toward thyroid problems can be inherited. Physical injury, like a whiplash, can traumatize the thyroid into a hormone imbalance. An overabundance of medications can also throw the thyroid for a loop. A lack of iodine in the diet can be the culprit in the development of a goiter, which is a potentially dangerous enlargement of the thyroid.

Harvard Medical School has estimated that one in 12 women under the age of 50 and one in six women over the age of 60, have low thyroid. Some cutting-edge physicians who specialize in thyroid cases estimate the numbers are probably more like 40%. Although this topic is complex, I highly recommend an easy-to-read book by David Brownstein, M.D. called Overcoming Thyroid Disorders if you suspect a sluggish thyroid.

One easy tried-and-true self-test to detect a slow thyroid is to place a thermometer in the armpit for 15 minutes before you even roll over in bed. A temperature of 97.6 or lower can indicate low thyroid. An average of five days in a row can be even more accurate.

What helps in the natural? Keeping the whole body healthy with appropriate levels of exercise, water, healthy diet, a whole-food multi, iodine tablets and herbal supplements can help. Some foods actually slow down thyroids such as soybeans, cabbage, cauliflower and peanuts. For some of us, some really healthy foods can be wolves in sheep’s clothing.
Stay well.

Marty Kernion, Ph.D. is not a medical doctor. She has a doctorate in naturopathy. Naturopathy uses natural, gentle ways to bring our bodies back into balance so that they have the God-given ability to heal themselves. She is a retired professor of herbal medicine and nutrition and has written 39 college level courses in natural approaches to health. She has published two books on natural health. She can be reached at for scheduling a class or consultation, or for sending in your questions for this column.