Are you feeling cold, tired, moody and constipated? Are you gaining weight, getting joint pains, having period problems? It could be your thyroid!
Your thyroid is a butterfly shaped gland in the front of your neck, and although small it has a MASSIVE impact on whole body health. Your thyroid hormones (known as T3 and T4) are critical regulators of nearly every cell in your body. That is why properly assessing thyroid function is key to health.
When it comes to thyroid concerns there are two main categories, hypothyroidism and the more rare hyperthyroidism (for more on that click here). In hypothyroidism women experience low levels of the hormones T3 and T4 but their TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) is often high. This is because TSH is essentially the brain screaming louder and louder at your thyroid to work harder to make more hormones. When this can’t happen (for any number of reasons discussed below) you will be given a diagnosis of hypothyroidism. It is estimated that 1 in 8 women will experience hypothyroidism in their lifetimes, and those are just the women getting a diagnosis!
Your thyroid is the canary in the coal mine and it is incredibly sensitive to your whole body health. That means that if you struggle with any of the following you may also have a thyroid issue:
- Chronic stress
- Fatigue and poor sleep
- High insulin levels, diabetes, unexplained weight gain
- Chronic digestive issues: IBS, bloating, constipation, past history of infections, SIBO
- Poor liver health: fatty liver, elevated liver enzymes
- Autoimmune disease
- Hormonal imbalance: PCOS, endometriosis, infertility, fibroids, irregular periods, heavy periods, PMS
- Toxic exposure: examples include living in a moldy house, on a conventional farm, around pesticide exposure
Although any of the above can contribute to hypothyroidism the main cause is actually an autoimmune condition known as Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. In this condition the immune system starts to see you thyroid tissue as an invader that needs to be destroyed. It will begin to attack the gland, damaging it and therefore reducing its ability to make thyroid hormone. In these cases we need to support your whole body health, but also begin to reduce the immune attack (we measure this attack by measuring ‘anti-bodies’ in the blood stream). Fortunately, there are many natural ways to lower these and get you feeling better!
“What if my Doctor says my labs are okay?”
This can mean any number of things. Remember TSH that I mentioned above? Well that is the most common test run by Doctors. And just because your brain isn’t screaming at your thyroid (AKA your TSH is high) that doesn’t mean you are thyroid healthy. Investigating thyroid antibodies and thyroid hormones is imperative to fully understanding how well your thyroid is working.
“But I have seen a functional doctor or ND and they still say my labs are normal.”
I hear this all of the time! If that is the case and your labs are truly within the ideal range and you are still experiencing the symptoms mentioned above then we need to look further! You may have cellular hypothyroidism (where your cells aren’t responding to the thyroid hormones) or some other adrenal concern, toxic exposure, mitochondrial issues etc. This does NOT mean that you cannot be well.
“Do I have to take a medication for the rest of my life?”
After a complete assessment of the thyroid if an issue is found then we will begin treatment. In some instances this will include thyroid hormones, but not always. As I mentioned above, we need to work on your insulin levels, your inflammation, mitochondria, your stress levels, nutrient levels, gut bugs and the like. If you do not have Hashimoto’s thyroiditis or other damage to your thyroid gland then you may not need to be on medication at all, or long term, after we correct these things. That being said, even if you have Hashimoto’s and need medication we highly recommend that you still investigate your whole body health to prevent further damage and feel at your best.