thyroid health

Thyroid Health

If you feel cold and tired all the time, there’s a good chance your thyroid gland is to be blamed, because one out of five women, and one out of ten men have thyroid problems. Feeling unwell is frustrating, exhausting, and defeating—especially when you can’t pinpoint the cause. Thyroid symptoms are often nonspecific and can seem unrelated. But don't be appalled just yet, because it's possible to reverse thyroid conditions (if the gland is not damaged) with targeted nutrients and also by identifying the root cause of the disease and correcting it. Most people are told to be on thyroid hormone therapy for life, without a reasonable explanation, especially in the autoimmune aspect like hashimotos and graves disease. Functional medicine approaches work by identifying the trigger of the problem and then supporting them to reverse thyroid conditions.

Thyroid gland is found at the base of your throat and impacts nearly every process in the body like mood, metabolism and even aging. Keeping your thyroid hormones in balance is crucial for your body because there is no part of you that functions optimally when you have thyroid issues. Too much thyroid hormone results in hyperthyroidism and is characterized by insomnia, heart palpitations, and irritability, among other things. Hypothyroidism, or too little thyroid hormone, has symptoms like fatigue, weakness, and weight gain. Both conditions are/ or can be autoimmune in nature - a result of your immune system attacking your own thyroid gland.

The hypothalamus, which is responsible for managing hunger, thirst, sleep, hormones, and body temperature, monitors the level of thyroid hormones present in your bloodstream. If it determines energy levels are low, it sends out Thyroid Releasing Hormone (TRH), to your pituitary gland. Your pituitary gland, a pea-sized gland at the base of your brain, releases Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) directly to the thyroid. Your thyroid is then prompted to produce thyroid hormone using an amino acid called tyrosine and iodine. It converts the tyrosine into thyroglobulin, attaching itself to iodine, and making T1, T2, T3 and T4 hormones.

The primary hormone produced by the thyroid gland is T4. It is circulated throughout the bloodstream and stored in tissues. A much smaller percentage of the hormones produced is T3, the active form of thyroid hormone.

The most common form of thyroid disease is hypothyroidism, which is when your thyroid is underactive and does not produce enough thyroid hormone. This can happen because your pituitary gland is malfunctioning and not sending enough Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) to your thyroid, or your TSH levels are normal, but your thyroid isn’t producing enough T4 and T3 to adequately fuel your cells.

Signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism

  • Fatigue
  • Brain fog
  • Weight gain or inability to lose weight
  • Cold hands or feet
  • Hair loss
  • Constipation
  • Poor concentration
  • Infertility
  • Low libido
  • Depression
  • Decreased heart rate
  • Decreased body temperature

On the other end of the thyroid spectrum is hyperthyroidism, which is less common yet more dangerous, than hypothyroidism. When thyroid hormones are too high, energy metabolism will speed up, causing the body to burn through nutrients too quickly. This can result in malnutrition and lead to a wide range of problems. The autoimmune component of this disease is called Graves disease, the most common cause of hyperthyroidism.

Signs and symptoms of hyperthyroidism

  • Hot flashes, sweating
  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Frequent stools, loose stool or diarrhea
  • Difficulty sleeping and insomnia
  • Anxiety, irritability, or constant fatigue
  • Elevated heart rate
  • Changes in menstrual cycles
  • Reduced libido
  • Bulging eyes
  • Thick red skin on shins or feet
  • Increased appetite
  • Osteoporosis
  • Hand tremors
  • Muscle weakness

Most people dealing with thyroid dysfunction are being treated with medication, without much done for the autoimmune component of the disease. Have you been told that you have to manage the symptoms for a lifetime with medication?  The good news is that the right diet and lifestyle choices can work wonders when it comes to treating and healing the thyroid gland.

It is important to not only address thyroid hormone replacement therapy but also address the immune system component of this disease. In autoimmune thyroiditis, the immune system attacks the thyroid gland resulting in damaging it. Most often the only lab work drawn by doctors is TSH. However, this approach has significant limitations and may exclude a large subset of patients, resulting in the potential misdiagnosis. Basic lab work doesn’t test for autoimmune conditions, like Hashimoto’s or Grave’s disease. You need advanced lab panels to accurately detect this condition and determine its causal factors.

In the functional medicine approach, we work to get to the root cause of the disease by addressing various factors such as nutrient deficiencies which might result in improper functioning of the thyroid gland, inflammation of the gut which might be depleting your body of nutrients and resulting in malfunctioning, reducing toxins exposure which might be making your immune system hyperactive enough to attack your thyroid gland, enhancing detoxification, and improving lifestyle habits to support healing of your thyroid gland.

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