Hyper or Hypothyroidism: Often Misdiagnosed

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Your thyroid is your body’s powerhouse. Your energy levels, metabolism, and heart rate are all controlled by this small, butterfly-shaped gland, that sits on your lower trachea. Without enough thyroid hormone, your mitochondria aren’t able to produce the energy that your cells need for optimum performance. At the other end of the spectrum, your body can go into “overdrive” if it produces too much thyroid hormone.

Thyroid Issues Are More Common Than You Think

With so much at stake with regards to your overall health, maintaining balanced thyroid hormone levels is important. Hormonal changes like pregnancy or menopause can also make women more vulnerable to thyroid problems. Of course, it’s also easy to attribute thyroid symptoms to age or menopause instead of getting to the root of the issue.

What are the statistics?  Unfortunately, thyroid conditions are common in the US. From thyroid.org we learn that more than 12% will develop a thyroid condition during their lifetime. An estimated 20 million Americans have some form of thyroid disease, and up to 60% are unaware their thyroid is not healthy. Women are 8x more likely than men to have thyroid problems; one in eight women produce either too much or not enough thyroid hormone.

How Your Thyroid Hormones Work

To understand how an unbalanced thyroid can wreak havoc on your health, you need to understand how it functions.

TSH is Thyroid Stimulating Hormone, and is produced in your pituitary gland.  It signals your thyroid to produce thyroid hormones. Around 97% of what your thyroid produces is T4, thyroxine, an inactive hormone, and only around 3% is triiodothyronine, the active thyroid hormone. These two hormones can be bound (unable to be used) or free (able to be used).

In body cells the Free T4 is converted to Free T3 if there is enough selenium around.  In the cells, the Free T3 signal your DNA to signal your mitochondria—the powerhouses of cells—to produce energy. This signals your pituitary it adjust its secretion of TSH, keeping the feedback system in good, healthy balance.   

The key point about thyroid hormones is that your body is very sensitive to the amounts it receives. Any imbalances can have far reaching repercussions.

Autoimmune Disorders Can Affect Your Thyroid

Further complicating thyroid health is the fact that your thyroid is vulnerable to autoimmune disorders. The autoimmune disorder Grave’s disease causes too much thyroid hormone to be produced. In contrast, Hashimoto’s disease causes your autoimmune system to attack your thyroid, slowing down thyroid hormone production.

Your thyroid can also become inflamed (this is called Thyroiditis), or develop nodules or which can disrupt your normal thyroid function. Last, thyroid cancer can occur.  

Hypothyroidism: When Your Body Slows Down

If your thyroid isn’t producing enough thyroid hormone, your body slows down, resulting in a condition called hypothyroidism. The symptoms of hypothyroidism show up in many troublesome ways and include:

  • Feeling cold all the time
  • Dry skin
  • Dry hair
  • Muscle weakness
  • Poor libido
  • Memory problems
  • Constipation
  • Depression – thyroid can impact serotonin levels
  • Weight gain—including edema
  • Hoarseness
  • Elevated cholesterol

Could You be Experiencing Hypothyroid Symptoms?

Despite this long list of issues, many patients with low thyroid symptoms are not promptly diagnosed. One reason for this is that it’s easy to blame thyroid symptoms on a poor diet or growing older. As well, hypothyroid symptoms tend to develop slowly, and we often blame ourselves for weight gain.

If you experience any of the symptoms above, it’s a good idea to dig deep and figure out the root cause – including checking your thyroid! These uncomfortable symptoms do not have to be part of your “normal” day.

Hyperthyroidism: The Consequences of Too Much Thyroid Hormone

In contrast, when your body produces too much thyroid hormone, the condition is called hyperthyroidism. With hyperthyroidism, your body’s functions accelerate. Although this might sound appealing, many of the symptoms are debilitating. Some signs of hyperthyroidism include:

  • Feeling hot all the time
  • Anxiety
  • A rapid heartbeat
  • Weight loss
  • Sweatiness
  • Tremors
  • Restlessness
  • Missed periods

As with hypothyroidism, the symptoms of hyperthyroidism are often attributed to other issues, such as stress.

With So Many Symptoms, Why Are Thyroid Disorders Hard to Diagnose?

One challenging problem with identifying thyroid issues is that many conventional medical doctors run one test for thyroid, only testing the amount of TSH in your blood. However, testing one hormone often doesn’t give the complete picture of thyroid health. A more holistic approach which tests various hormone levels throughout the system can often yield more information – and more effective treatment.

Another problem is that integrative physicians tend to view thyroid blood work in a stricter analysis than conventional physicians, so where a conventional doctor may look at a thyroid lab panel and feel it looks fine, an integrative physician—hearing the patient’s chief complaints—can more easily diagnose the thyroid is not functioning ideally.  

Prevention: How can you Avoid Thyroid Problems?

Unfortunately, prevention isn’t always possible, since triggers can sometimes be genetic.  Other risk factors include chronic stress and a history of autoimmune diseases. In addition, more research is pointing to the role of environmental factors in disrupting thyroid function.

Addressing the lifestyle factors which can cause inflammation of your immune system can do a lot to help stabilize thyroid hormones whatever the cause of your imbalance.

Strategies for protecting your thyroid health:

Reduce stress.

Since stress can interfere with thyroid function by slowing the production of TSH, addressing your stress levels is important. Exercise is a good way to both reduce stress and improve your metabolism, which can help balance the effects of hypothyroidism.

Cut your sugar intake.

Your thyroid is a crucial component of your endocrine (hormonal) system. Sugar is metabolized by another vital organ in the interconnected endocrine system, your pancreas. As a result, there is a complex relationship between diabetes and thyroid disease. Managing your glucose levels can help stabilize your thyroid.

Eat to protect your gut health.

Maintaining enough good bacteria in your digestive system can protect your immune system and reduce the risk of autoimmune problems.

Watch your iodine intake.

Iodine is essential for good thyroid function, but too much can also lead to problems. Fortified salt, seaweed, and some seafood all contain high levels of iodine. Staying around 150-300 mcg a day is a good amount, but not too much iodine.  It’s very unwise to dose super high amounts of iodine.

Look for high-fiber foods

Especially if you’re hypothyroid. Having hypothyroidism can slow your digestive system and lead to constipation, so you want to focus on keeping things moving.

In general, the key is to focus on a whole-foods diet that will reduce inflammation. Avoiding artificial ingredients and regulating your blood sugar will reduce dietary stress and help maintain thyroid health.

I’m Concerned About My Thyroid. What’s the Next Step?

When it comes to resolving thyroid issues, early detection is the key. It’s also important to complete thorough testing- evaluating thyroid hormone levels can be complex and often left undiagnosed by the conventional healthcare system. If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms of thyroid issues – either hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism – give us a call! Thyroid issues do not have to affect your daily life and can be totally balanced, allowing you to live a rich, full, energetic life!

 

Sources

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20030460

https://www.endocrineweb.com/conditions/thyroid/how-manage-stress-if-you-have-autoimmune-thyroid-disease

https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/healthy-eating-for-a-healty-thyroid

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30060266

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16580033

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