Thyroid disorders are common among women. Many of them may not even know that they have a thyroid disorder. On the other hand, many women do feel like they have a thyroid disorder but may go years before being properly diagnosed. Thyroid disorders are often under diagnosed.
Do you know where your thyroid gland is and what it does?
Your thyroid gland is located in your neck and is responsible for regulating the secretion of thyroid hormones. The two main thyroid hormones are T4 and T3. Thyroid hormones help in the regulation of many functions of the body such as metabolism, growth, and energy.
There are two main forms of thyroid disorders: hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism. Hypothyroid is the most common of these. Symptoms of either thyroid disorder can show up gradually. This can lead to delays in diagnosis and also under diagnosis. It is important to be aware of the differences between these two thyroid conditions.
Signs Of Hyperthyroidism
Hyperthyroidism is when the body produces more thyroid hormones than it’s supposed to. Usually, this is due to a condition known as Graves’ disease, which is autoimmune.
There are several signs and symptoms that you can pick up on that may suggest you have hyperthyroidism.
The most common symptoms associated with hyperthyroidism are:
- You’re eating the same (or more) quantity, but losing weight.
- You’re tired, weak and irritable most of the time.
- The number of bowel movements increases.
- You’re nervous often and your hands get shaky.
- Your heart feels like it’s pounding out of your chest or beating too fast.
- You suffer from double vision at times, or irritable eyes.
- If you’re female, you’ve started having irregular periods that are lighter or few and far between.
- You suffer from insomnia.
- You can’t deal with the heat and you sweat profusely.
Having one or two of these symptoms doesn’t necessarily mean you have a thyroid disorder, but it could. It’s always better to get checked out so that you can be treated.
Signs Of Hypothyroidism
The opposite of hyperthyroidism is hypothyroidism. When the thyroid gland doesn’t secrete enough hormones needed to make your metabolism work right, it’s called hypothyroidism.
Some of the symptoms may be same as for hyperthyroidism, such as fatigue and muscle weakness. But other symptoms are just the opposite of that condition.
These can include:
- Instead of weight loss, you’ll gain weight.
- Instead of overheating, you’ll be cold.
- Instead of too many bowel movements, you won’t have enough.
- Instead of light periods, you’ll have heavy ones.
There are some unique symptoms, too.
- You might feel like you have clouded thinking. You’re not mentally sharp when your thyroid is out of whack. Your memory might take a hit, too.
- You might suffer from dried out skin and brittle or thinning hair.
- You might have pain in your joints.
- You might have high cholesterol.
- You might experience hoarse vocals periodically.
- You might be depressed.
Hashimoto’s disease is one of the most common causes of hypothyroidism, but it might not be the only cause. Other factors that can contribute to Hashimoto’s and hypothyroidism are viruses, food sensitivities, heavy metals from environmental toxins, poor diet, adrenal dysfunction, and nutrient deficiencies.
What should you do if you suspect you might have a thyroid disorder? The first thing you will have to do is see your health practitioner. It is also important you get tested correctly.
There is much debate in the medical community as to which tests are necessary and what lab values indicate the need for treatment. Regardless, it is important that both the labs and your symptoms are considered in the assessment and treatment plan.
If you do not feel you are being diagnosed properly or feel you are being undertreated, get a second opinion.
Getting Tested For A Thyroid Disorder
Your health practitioner will first hear about the symptoms you are having and then do a physical exam. Then you will have to get a blood test done to check your thyroid hormone levels.
The most common test that is done is the Thyroid-Stimulating Hormone (TSH) and maybe a Free T4. Unfortunately, this may not be enough to adequately diagnose an underlying thyroid condition.
There are standard lab ranges and there are optimal ranges. Some women can be very symptomatic when they fall into the standard lab range. Optimal range is much narrower than standard ranges, which brings in many women in this category to suffer and be undertreated.
Other labs that can be beneficial to properly diagnose a thyroid condition include the Free T3, Thyroid Peroxidase Antibodies (TPO Ab), Thyroglobulin Antibodies and Reverse T3.
In fact, Free T3 is the most active part of the thyroid hormone and this often is not checked. If you are not converting your Free T4 to Free T3 you can remain symptomatic. Free T3 is not just located in the thyroid gland but in peripheral tissues as well, such as the liver.
Things that can contribute to poor Free T4 to Free T3 conversion are the same things that can be contributing to thyroid dysfunction as previously stated above. If you are diagnosed with a thyroid disorder your treatment will depend on which thyroid disorder you have.
Ways To Treat Thyroid Disorder
Hyperthyroidism is often treated with medications or radioactive iodine. This prevents your thyroid from producing the hormones. Beta blockers will also be given to help alleviate some of the effects of your hyperthyroidism, particularly the rapid heartbeat and anxiety.
In some instances, the thyroid gland may be ablated or removed. Once this has been done thyroid hormone replacement will often be necessary.
When you have hypothyroidism, your body isn’t producing enough hormone, so your health practitioner will prescribe thyroid hormone. The most common are Levothyroxine (T4) and Liothyronine (T3). You might get one or both prescribed to you.
Some health practitioner may use other forms of thyroid replacement in the form of glandular thyroid hormone or compounded thyroid hormone as well. This often will be based on the practitioner’s treatment preferences.
There are times where you might not tolerate one form of thyroid replacement over another. So having a health practitioner who is willing to work with you is important.
There are other ways you want to be aware of that can support healthy thyroid function. These are important even if you don’t have a thyroid disorder.
Natural Ways To Improve Thyroid Function
Thyroid regulates your metabolism, naturally you look for safe ways to help improve your metabolism if you’re suffering from hypothyroidism, or feel sluggish or even gain weight rapidly. Therefore, a regular exercise program that includes both cardio and strength training can help curtail the weight gain.
Consume Good Food
Consuming diet rich in organic whole foods, particularly non-starchy vegetables, Brazil nuts, berries, and citrus fruit helps. According to Dr. Mark Hyman and other functional health practitioners, you have to avoid soy, gluten, and dairy. 1
These particular foods can adversely affect thyroid hormone production.
Stress produces cortisol, and cortisol prohibits T3 getting into your cells. Since all these tests are blood level tests, even if your T3 blood count test is okay, your cells could be lacking.
Ways to reduce stress can include yoga, meditation, slow deep breathing exercises, getting out in nature, and letting go of those things that no longer serve you.
If you happen to be working with a practitioner trained in natural or functional medicine, you can ask them to do a test called a complete nutritional evaluation. This will help identify what nutrient deficiencies you may have that can be contributing to less than optimal thyroid function.
You need several vitamins and minerals to support your thyroid. These include things like iodine, B vitamins, along with vitamin C, D and E, and minerals such as zinc, and selenium.
In conclusion, if you feel like you have a thyroid disorder get evaluated.