Could It Be Your Thyroid?
You’ve heard your friends say it when you’re feeling unnecessarily anxious, notice a hair texture change or loss, can’t seem to get warm or cool down, or have trouble maintaining a healthy weight despite your constant efforts.
“Get your thyroid checked,” they say, and they might be right.
What is Your Thyroid?
The thyroid is a small butterfly-shaped gland located at the front of your neck. It plays a crucial role in your endocrine system by releasing hormones that control your body’s metabolism. Your metabolism is the process by which your body creates and uses energy from the food you eat, and it is essential for how the systems in your body work properly (or don’t).
When your thyroid is thriving, you may not even notice how hard it is working to maintain your body temperature, aid in your nervous system responses, and regulate your heartbeat. It is when your thyroid is dysfunctional that all kinds of things in your body can go awry. Those symptoms can vary widely and often leave people searching for answers that may not be easy to find.
Signs of Thyroid Dysfunction
The symptoms you experience will depend on the type of dysfunction your thyroid is experiencing. Some common signs that your thyroid may not be functioning properly include:
- Dry skin
- Unexplained fatigue & exhaustion
- Fluctuating weight
- Mood Changes – Depression
- Puffy face
- Hair loss or brittle hair
- Changes in your vision
- Hoarse voice
- Memory problems
- Regularly feeling hot or cold for no reason
- Swelling in your neck, problems with swallowing
- Gastrointestinal issues – Constipation, Diarrhea, Acid Reflux
- Racing heart or heart palpitations
If you suspect your thyroid may be the cause of your symptoms, it is important to discuss those issues with a medical professional promptly. Untreated thyroid issues can lead to bigger problems like heart disease and nerve damage. If you seek treatment, a professional may diagnose you with one of the following thyroid disorders.
Hyperthyroidism is a condition in which the thyroid gland produces too much thyroid hormone. This excess causes some of your body’s functions to speed up unnecessarily. This causes a variety of the symptoms listed above as well as unexplained weight loss and hand tremors.
An autoimmune disorder called Graves’ disease is the most common cause of hyperthyroidism. Graves’ disease accounts for about 70% of hyperthyroidism cases, most commonly in women over age 20. In addition to the long list of symptoms for hyperthyroidism, Graves’ disease greatly affects vision and causes a characteristic bulging of the eyeballs.
The other side of the coin is hypothyroidism, a condition in which the thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormone. Many cases of hypothyroidism go undiagnosed for years, leaving sufferers with a chronically failing metabolism. This lack of treatment can lead to more serious conditions such as cardiovascular issues and high cholesterol.
Some Hypothyroidism facts:
- It is more common in women than in men, however there has been an uptick in male diagnoses.
- It is more common in people who have a family history of the condition.
- The potential for developing hypothyroidism increases with age.
- It is more common in people with certain medical conditions, such as diabetes, other autoimmunities and rheumatoid arthritis.
- It is more common in people who have had radiation treatment to the head or neck.
- In the United States, the occurrence of hypothyroidism is estimated to be about 4.5% of the population.
- Alarmingly, it’s estimated that up to 60% of people with hypothyroidism are undiagnosed.
Although hypothyroidism is sometimes found in younger adults, teens, and children, it is most commonly diagnosed in people over 50 years of age. Autoimmune disorders like type 1 diabetes or Hashimoto’s (more on that in a minute), Epstein Barr Virus, thyroid surgery, radiation therapy, inflammation or lithium-based medications are often the cause of hypothyroidism. Its list of possible symptoms includes the ones mentioned above as well as muscle cramps and decreased sweating.
Hashimoto’s, aka chronic lymphocytic thyroiditis, is a chronic autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks the thyroid. This causes inflammation, limiting the gland’s ability to produce hormones.
According to the American Thyroid Association, Hashimoto’s affects about 5% of the US population and is the most common cause of hypothyroidism. This disease is more prevalent in women, with a female to male ratio of about 8:1.
Symptoms of Hashimoto’s disease can include chronic fatigue, unexplained weight gain, sensitivity to cold, dry skin and hair, hair loss, joint and muscle pain, heavy or irregular menstrual periods, and depression. Some people may also experience an enlarged thyroid gland or have a visible swelling at the base of their neck. These symptoms develop gradually and are, at times, mistaken for other conditions, so a proper diagnosis is important.
“I have ALL of those symptoms. My doctor checked my thyroid and told me everything is normal…”
The diagnosis of Hashimoto’s or Hypothyroidism is often missed because Anti-TPO or Thyroglobulin-Antibodies blood tests are only run if there is a high or low TSH, T4, Free T3 level. The body is an amazing machine, so those thyroid biomarkers remain within lab-normal range early in the autoimmune state. Sadly, this leads to unnecessary or incomplete labs and the problem worsening over time.
There are 24 different patterns of dysfunction of the thyroid. A doctor must run all of the appropriate labs to identify these pathways. Dr. Brooke runs a full thyroid panel on every functional medicine patient to determine any problems. These patterns are then discussed with the patient, educating them on their pattern and how to manage it. Treatment can lower Hashimoto’s antibodies, thus decreasing the damage done to the thyroid and decreasing the symptoms. Check out the interventions listed below that can help you restore to optimal thyroid levels.
How Can Functional Medicine Help Treat Thyroid Disorders?
We see and find many thyroid disorders regularly in our patients at Brookview Wellness. Should you suspect that your thyroid may be the cause of your symptoms, we encourage you to schedule a Discovery Call with Dr. Brooke. Together you can discuss your options for using a functional medicine program to support your thyroid health. The functional medicine approach to treating thyroid diseases includes:
- Food choices: Eating an organic nutrient-dense diet and avoiding foods that may cause autoimmune reactions can be beneficial to your thyroid health. This may include a customized elimination diet which restricts triggering foods such as gluten, dairy, soy, nuts, eggs, fried and processed foods.
- Nutritional supplements: Certain nutrients are key for thyroid function, after reviewing your labs, Dr. Brooke may recommend supplements to support optimal levels of necessary nutrients to support your thyroid function.
- Optimizing Metabolism & Physiology – General health is imperative for optimal thyroid function. Especially when it comes to GI health, blood sugar regulation, optimal hormone levels. If you have been diagnosed with any autoimmune condition, it is highly recommended that you have your thyroid antibodies checked as there are often more than one autoimmunity present.
- Detoxification: Clearing inflections like Epstein Barr Virus or Lymes disease, mold toxicities, chemical toxins and heavy metals from your body can help reduce the load on the immune system and improve thyroid function.
- Lifestyle and Stress management: Chronic stress, past traumas, concussions, sedentary lifestyles can contribute to autoimmune disorders Managing stress consistently through techniques such as minimizing your connection with social platforms, sleep, meditation, yoga, walking, or therapy can be beneficial.
Like any essential part of your body, thyroid care is crucial for a healthy balance of your systems. Talk to your health care provider about any concerns you may have about this important part of your endocrine system. As always, we are here when you need us in your journey to RESTORE + OPTIMIZE your health.
Disclaimer: This blog post is for educational purposes only. It is not intended as medical advice or for use in diagnosis or treatment.