Most of us are no stranger to a little fatigue now and then, we may have a few pounds we wouldn’t mind shedding, the occasional irregular period, or blue mood… But if you are struggling with any one of these on a regular basis, or with some severity, your thyroid may be the culprit.
What is the Thyroid Gland?
Your thyroid gland is the thermostat regulating energy for your entire body. It controls everything from your mood to your menstrual cycles to your metabolism – and about a thousand other body functions – including how efficiently you burn calories and how easily you lose weight!
Through a series of chemical reactions, your thyroid gland takes iodine and repurposes it into fuel for numerous important functions throughout your entire body. This fuel starts out mostly in the form of the inactive hormone Free T4 which is then supposed to be converted as needed into the active form of the hormone called Free T3 – which does the heavy lifting!
Thyroid problems come in several general varieties. The most common forms of thyroid problems are:
Hypothyroidism, which is under-functioning of the thyroid gland (energy and metabolism are low)
Hyperthyroidism, which is over-functioning of the thyroid gland (metabolism is running on overdrive!)
And autoimmune forms of under- and over- active thyroid (Hashimoto’s and Graves disease, respectively) or due to other causes ranging from nutritional deficiencies to infection and inflammation (thyroiditis).
Hypothyroidism is the most prevalent form of thyroid disease. Hashimoto’s disease accounts for 90% of all hypothyroidism.
What’s amazing is that of the estimated 27 million North American’s with thyroid disease, as many as 50% do not realize they have it and remain undiagnosed.
Here are 7 things you need to know about your thyroid:
1. Having the right amount of thyroid hormone for your individual needs is essential to your well-being. Without enough you might experience fatigue, constipation, dry skin, brain fog or trouble concentrating, depression, anxiety, hair loss, depression, joint and muscle aches, generalized swelling, cold intolerance (or you always feel a little cold) dry skin, even an excessively low heart rate. If you have an overactive thyroid, you might experience a rapid heartbeat, anxiety, insomnia, insatiable appetite, diarrhea, and weight loss.
2. Women are way more likely than men to develop thyroid problems, and the months after birth are an especially high risk time for thyroid problems to surface. If you feel unusually blue in the year after the birth of your baby, or at any time, and especially if you have any of the above symptoms, get tested for thyroid problems!
3. Your high cholesterol could be caused by an underactive thyroid. Say wha? Yes, it’s true. Hypothyroidism can lead to high cholesterol because slower metabolism isn’t burning up your fat. So before you go on special diet or a statin drug to control your cholesterol – get your thyroid levels checked. The answer might be in finding the root cause – a thyroid problem!
4 Most doctors UNDERDIAGNOSE thyroid problems! Thyroid problems may affect as many as 10% of women – but for many of these women, the labs tests that doctors currently use, and the way those tests are interpreted, leads many women to be told that they don’t have a thyroid problem, and in fact, they are just fine. And this often results in an antidepressant prescription.
I check the following labs in my practice when I suspect thyroid problems:
Thyroid Peroxidase Antibodies (TPOAb)
Thyroglobulin Antibodies (TgAb)
5. Hypothyroidism can be causing your fertility problems and also increases miscarriage risk. Thyroid function controls fertility and menstrual regularity. If you’ve been having trouble getting pregnant, if you have irregular periods, think you are not ovulating, or have had a miscarriage, have your thyroid function checked BEFORE you get pregnant to make sure your levels are optimal.
6. Having a hard time losing weight? Tuning up your thyroid gland will rev up your metabolism and burn calories without you having to do anything extra. If you’ve tried diet after diet, exercise program after exercise program without success, it might be time to tap into the root causes – and hypothyroidism might just be one of them.
7. In gluten sensitive individuals, eating gluten-containing foods (wheat, barley, rye) and possibly even some of the gluten cross-reactive foods can cause Hashimoto’s disease. A 3-month trial of going strictly gluten-free might be needed to see if your thyroid antibodies return to normal and your thyroid begins to recover function.
You Can Get Well! There is hope! Get to the root cause – the underlying issue!