Whether you realize it or not, your thyroid gland greatly influences your overall health. One of the body’s largest endocrine glands, the thyroid is responsible for everything from regulating metabolism, stabilizing body temperature, and controlling your weight to physical development. Almost every physiological process is, in one way or another, influenced by the thyroid gland. For this reason, when thyroid levels get out of balance, so will your body. Too much or too little hormonal secretion from the thyroid can significantly throw off your sense of well-being.
Healthy Function of the Thyroid:
The thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped endocrine gland, located along the lower, frontal portion of the neck, immediately under the larynx. This gland produces important hormones that ultimately play key roles in a stable, healthy body. Thyroid hormones (TSH) travel to all of the major organs through the circulatory system. These hormones, including Triiodothyronine (T3), Thyroxine (T4), and Diiodothyronine (T2) oversee the body’s metabolism rate, as well as ensure the brain, muscles, and various organs work at their peak. Thyroid hormones interact with the body’s other hormones, including insulin, cortisol, estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. When thyroid hormone levels that go off kilter a wide variety of symptoms and physical ailments will arise.
It is estimated that 10-40% of all people in the United States are experiencing an issue with their thyroid. The production of thyroid hormones is part of a delicate balance within the body. Disease, trauma to the thyroid, prescription medications, and the normal aging process can all disrupt the normal production of TSH. The resulting thyroid dysfunction can then show up as seemingly unrelated health problems, such as acne, eczema, irritable bowel syndrome, and fibromyalgia, just to name a few. Since a myriad of health issues can be caused by an overactive or underactive thyroid gland, the root of these symptoms can be difficult for doctors to pinpoint.
Common thyroid disorders include:
- Hypothyroidism (too little thyroid hormone production)
- Hyperthyroidism (too much thyroid hormone production)
- Injury or trauma to the thyroid gland
- Dietary deficiencies
- Abnormal thyroid growth
- Thyroid nodules or lumps
- Thyroid cancer
Hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism are two of the most commonly diagnosed disorders of the thyroid gland. Hypothyroidism is estimated to affect up to 10 million Americans. The condition, marked by insufficient thyroid hormone levels, can often go unnoticed for years before being successfully diagnosed. While hypothyroidism can be triggered by a variety of issues, Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis is often a root cause, spurred as the body’s immune system turns on the thyroid gland.
Symptoms of Hypothyroidism Include:
- Fatigue and weakness
- Weight gain or difficulty losing weight
- Dry hair and skin
- Hair loss
- Sensitivity to cold
- Muscle cramps and aches
- Memory loss
- Abnormal menstrual cycles
Conversely, hyperthyroidism is caused by too much thyroid hormone. Graves’ Disease is a common cause of hyperthyroidism, as are overactive nodules or lumps on the thyroid. The side-effects of an over-stimulated thyroid can be a goiter, or an enlarged and inflamed thyroid gland.
Symptoms of Hyperthyroidism Include:
- weight loss
- increased perspiration
- racing heart
- difficulty sleeping
- increased bowel movements
- fine brittle hair
- muscular weakness
Diagnosing Thyroid Issues:
Identifying issues of the thyroid gland can be difficult, mainly because the symptoms are often vague or merge with other common disorders. For this reason, it is important that anyone who is troubled with unusual or frustrating symptoms be checked out by a trusted physician, with experience treating thyroid function. Early detection of symptoms will ensure proper management of thyroid disorder.
Who should be evaluated for proper thyroid function?
- Those with a family history of thyroid disorder
- People taking prescription medications that can affect thy roid function, such as Lithium or Amiodarone
- Men or women who undergo radiation therapy to the head or neck
- Anyone with frustrating symptoms of hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism, that cannot be attributed to a clear root cause
- Those struggling with stubborn symptoms that are resistant to treatment
One or more tests may be necessary to diagnosis a thyroid issue. To best determine the function of the thyroid gland, routine blood work will be used to check the TSH, T2, T3, and T4 levels. More detailed testing, such as a CRT scan or ultrasound, can provide a physical picture of the thyroid gland, detecting nodules or any unusual growth. A fine needle aspiration biopsy may be required to obtain additional information on an enlarged thyroid, determining if unusual growth is cancerous or benign.
Restoring Thyroid Health:
Thyroid replacement therapy, through an oral medication, is a common step for restoring ideal hormone levels. For some people, medication can greatly improve their general health and resolve their thyroid-related symptoms. However, this is not always the case. Proper medical management is necessary to determine the best mode of thyroid care and maintain a healthy body.
Steps You Can Take to Improve Thyroid Function:
- Identify and treat the underlying cause: With the help of an integrative medical practitioner, determine what is triggering your thyroid issues and address them appropriately.
- Load up on iodine-rich foods: Proper iodine levels will keep the thyroid functioning at its best. This can be done with an iodine supplement or by adding iodine rich foods to your diet.
- Minimize stress levels: Keeping your stress level down is good for your thyroid and your general well-being. Take frequent breaks, meditate, enjoy a hot bath, and avoid people or places that are create stressful situations.
- Limit your exposure to known toxins: Filter your air and water to avoid contact with poisonous contaminants, including bromide.
- Get plenty of sleep: Inadequate sleep contributes to stress and prevents your body from recharging properly. Ensuring 7-8 hours of sleep each night can do wonders for your health.
- Exercise regularly: Consistent exercise directly stimulates your thyroid gland while increasing tissue sensitivity to the thyroid hormone. Include daily walking, jogging, or other core building routines to an exercise schedule.
Improve your thyroid health with Synergistiq Integrative Health:
Interested in learning more about ways to improve your thyroid health? Concerned that your thyroid could be responsible for key symptoms? Contact Dr. Deepa Verma, MD at Synergistiq Integrative Health to learn more. Synergistiq Integrative Health is a cutting-edge healthcare practice, located in Tampa, offering realistic solutions to achieve a healthy, more productive lifestyle. Call Synergistiq Integrative Health at 727.754.2936 with your questions, or speak with a patient coordinator about scheduling your confidential consultation with Dr. Verma.
FAQ’s About Thyroid Health
- Q: WHAT IS THE THYROID?
A: Your thyroid is a small endocrine gland, located under the larynx in the neck. The thyroid is responsible for producing hormones that ensure proper function of all organs, including the brain, heart, and muscles. Too little or too much thyroid hormone can cause mild to severe symptoms and illness.
- Q: WHAT IS HYPOTHYROIDISM?
A: Too little thyroid hormone is called hypothyroidism. Symptoms of hypothyroidism include a slow metabolism, weight gain, fatigue, hair loss, sensitivity to cold, memory loss, and abnormal menstrual cycle.
- Q: WHAT IS HYPERTHYROIDISM?
A: Hyperthyroidism results when the thyroid gland produces too much hormone. Symptoms associated with hyperthyroidism include weight loss, difficulty sleeping, increased bowel movements, brittle hair, and muscle weakness.
- Q: WHEN SHOULD I CONSIDER A THYROID EVALUATION?
A: If you are struggling with symptoms of hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism, a thyroid evaluation is of the highest importance. Other reasons to consider a thyroid evaluation include a family history of thyroid disorder, taking prescription medications that may affect the thyroid gland (such as Lithium or Amiodarone), or exposure to radiation therapy of the head or neck.
- Q: HOW WILL MY DOCTOR EVALUATE MY THYROID HEALTH?
A: There are a variety of tests used by doctors to check thyroid levels and determine the cause of irregular thyroid hormone levels. The first test ordered by a physician is often blood work, checking TSH, Free T4, and Free T3 levels. Basal Body Temperature and a TRH Stimulation Test may also be ordered. Additional evaluation can include a thyroid CRT scan, fine needle aspiration, and thyroid ultrasound.