Our thyroid often nicknamed the “Happy Gland”, is also well known as the master gland in our body. The actions of this small organ affect hormone processes throughout the rest of our bodies. The thyroid regulates body temperature, hunger, and energy, which means if it’s not working well, the impacts can be wide-ranging.
Approximately 20 million Americans suffer from some type of thyroid disorder, though an estimated 60% of these do not know that their thyroid is the reason for their health problems, such as weight gain and fatigue. Women are more likely to suffer from a thyroid disorder, most often under-active thyroid. In fact, one in eight women will suffer from a thyroid disorder at some point in their life. How can you know if you might be one of them?
Hypothyroid vs Hyperthyroid
The vast majority of thyroid disorders fall into one of two categories: Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid), or Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid). To understand how a problem may develop, let us take a brief look at how the thyroid works.
The two main hormones produced by the thyroid are T3 (triiodothyronine) and T4 (thyroxine), which work together to convert calories and oxygen to energy. When this energy conversion is disabled, many bodily functions can be negatively impacted, such as cognition, digestion, mood, and sex drive.
In the case of hypothyroidism, the thyroid is not producing enough T3 and T4. The most common type of hypothyroidism is Hashimoto’s Disease, an autoimmune condition where the immune system mistakenly attacks the thyroid.
Hyperthyroidism is less common than hypo, and in many cases will be diagnosed as Grave’s Disease, another autoimmune condition. Thyroid nodules or too much supplemental T4 can also contribute to hyperthyroidism.
Several nutrients and vitamins are involved in thyroid function, such as:
- B Vitamins
Having too much or too little of these nutrients can contribute to thyroid dysfunction. In addition, having leaky gut syndrome, which impacts the ability to absorb said nutrients, can directly impact your thyroid. Unfortunately, in many medical practices, the underlying causes of this dysfunction are never addressed.
Common Symptoms of Hypothyroidism (Underactive Thyroid):
Hypothyroidism causes your body processes in effect, to slow down.
- Moodiness or anxiety
- Dry hair or skin
- Cold intolerance
- Brain Fog
- Inability to concentrate/forgetfulness
- Constipation or bloating
- Unexplained weight gain
- Muscle weakness
- Joint pains
- Hoarse voice
Common Symptoms of Hyperthyroidism (Overactive Thyroid):
Hyperthyroidism, on the other hand, speeds up body processes:
- Nervousness or anxiety
- Weight loss
- Excessive perspiration
- Tremors in hands and fingers
- Heart palpitations or racing heart
- Muscle weakness
- Thinning or brittle hair
- Diarrhea or excessive number of bowel movements
- Eyes that appear to bulge
- Enlarged thyroid (goiter)
Now that we have a basic understanding of underactive and overactive thyroid, what can you do if you suspect you may have a problem with your thyroid? The first step is proper lab testing. Many physicians will only check a TSH level. TSH is a hormone produced by the pituitary gland, which in turn causes the thyroid to function. However, it is very common for the TSH level to be normal, yet the thyroid hormones can still be too low or too high. The best way to test the thyroid correctly is with a complete thyroid panel.
When requesting your physician to order a complete thyroid panel, you should request the following tests at a minimum:
- Reverse T3
- Thyroid Antibodies
- Some physicians may also request Free T3
At Body in Harmony, we often order thyroid panels for our patients. Our Nutrition Staff is highly trained to help you interpret your results. We can also help you develop a plan to address any issues detected by your lab testing.
In our next article, we will be discussing methods of treating underactive and overactive thyroid. Join us next time!