Women are much more likely to experience thyroid disease than men. One in eight women will develop thyroid disease during her lifetime, and as many as 15 million women have a thyroid disorder and don’t know it. Women often tolerate the symptoms of thyroid disease, accepting them as normal. And if women do seek treatment for their symptoms, thyroid disease is often overlooked or misdiagnosed, and sometimes poorly investigated and inadequately treated. This happens because many symptoms can masquerade as signs of many other illnesses.
Thyroid issues can make you gain or lose weight, feel hot or cold all the time, and have dry skin for no reason. With early diagnosis and proper treatment, the symptoms of thyroid disease are easily managed. If you suspect you have a thyroid disorder, it’s time to schedule an appointment at Tri-Cities Functional Medicine.
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Importance of the Thyroid Gland
The butterfly-shaped thyroid gland is located in the front of your neck and controls your body’s metabolism. The thyroid affects almost every tissue in the body, so a malfunctioning thyroid gland will flow-on to affect lots of different functions. It can be really debilitating and can explain lots of severe but seemingly unrelated symptoms.
Your thyroid gland produces hormones that ultimately fuel every cell of your body. These hormones are called thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine or (T3). They travel throughout the body and play an important role in your digestion, reproduction, body temperature, liver, and numerous other body functions. However, if your thyroid gland produces too much or too little of the T4 or T3 hormones, severe symptoms can develop.
Types of Thyroid Disease
Hypothyroidism occurs when you have an underactive thyroid that produces too little hormones. Hyperthyroidism is the result of an overactive thyroid that produces too many hormones. Both of these conditions affect how your body feels and can be quite debilitating if left untreated.
Hypothyroidism is the most common disorder that Americans suffer from. It affects up to 17% of all women between the ages of 30 and 50 and nearly 8% of women following a normal pregnancy. Men can also develop underactive thyroids, but at a much lower rate than women.
- Hashimoto’s disease: The most common cause of hypothyroidism is an autoimmune disease called Hashimoto’s. Hashimoto’s is when your immune system makes antibodies that attack the thyroid gland, leaving your thyroid unable to produce enough hormones.
- Environmental toxins: Toxins can interfere with the production or conversion of thyroid hormones.
- Blood sugar imbalance: Since the thyroid acts on your body’s blood sugar metabolism, both high and low blood sugar can impact thyroid function.
- Diet: Foods that are rich in gluten or that contain a high amount of goitrogens can adversely affect the thyroid.
- Gut health: An unhealthy gut can reduce thyroid hormone levels and dull thyroid hormone receptor sites.
- Stress: Chronic stress can inhibit the conversion of thyroid hormones, cause thyroid hormone resistance, and impact other hormones that are important for proper thyroid function.
- Nutrient deficiencies: Your thyroid needs specific nutrients to function correctly; a deficiency in iodine, zinc, or selenium can lead to hypothyroidism.
- Weight gain
- Sensitivity to cold
- Brain fog
- Muscle stiffness
- Dry skin and weak nails
- Hair loss
- Slow heart rate
- Eliminate toxins in your environment: Filter your water and take care to avoid chemical-laden body products or harsh household cleaners.
- Optimize your diet: Eat a plant-based diet and avoid processed foods and potential food allergens.
- Heal your gut: Avoid inflammatory foods and take probiotics to boost beneficial bacteria.
- Lifestyle changes: Reduce stress, practice good sleeping habits, and develop a sustainable exercise routine.
Hyperthyroidism, also known as overactive thyroid, is when your thyroid produces too much T3, T4, or both, causing your metabolism to speed up. Up to 10 million people have been diagnosed with overactive thyroid.
- Graves’ disease: The most common cause of hyperthyroidism is an autoimmune disease called Graves’. Graves’ disease causes antibodies to mimic pituitary hormones, which normally regulate the thyroid, overriding the system and causing an overactive thyroid.
- Toxic nodular goiter: A toxic nodular goiter, or TNG, is a condition consisting of benign tumors in the thyroid that produce excessive thyroid hormone, leading to hyperthyroidism.
- Overstimulation of the thyroid: Excessive iodine or excessive thyroxine intake and tumors on the pituitary gland or ovaries can lead to overactive thyroid.
- Swelling of the thyroid: Infections, radiation, or recent childbirth can all cause hyperthyroidism.
- Weight loss
- Heat intolerance
- Frequent urination
- Excessive sweating
- Persistent thirst
- Low libido
- Supplements: Selenium L-Carnitine can help block excess thyroid hormones from being produced and lessen other symptoms.
- Herbs: Lemon balm and bugleweed have been shown to reduce hyperthyroid symptoms and block or reduce thyroid hormones.
- Probiotics: An unhealthy gut can also cause hyperthyroidism. Probiotics can help balance your gut and get your thyroid back in balance.
- Stress reduction: Since common symptoms of overactive thyroid include increased heart rate, palpitations, and anxiety, reducing your stress levels can help ease these symptoms and support your healing.
Why is Thyroid Disease More Common in Women?
Although millions of men experience thyroid dysfunction, women are much more likely to have a thyroid imbalance. And while it is a fact that women are more prone to experience thyroid issues than men, the reason why women are more vulnerable is not known. One possible reason is the significant interaction between the thyroid and a woman’s reproductive hormones. However, more research is required in this area.
Thyroid issues in women can lead to infertility, miscarriage, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), osteoporosis, endometriosis, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), irregular menstrual cycles, uterine fibroids, low libido, and difficulty during menopause. Many women will begin to experience thyroid problems during times of hormonal unrest. Women are most likely to develop thyroid issues right after pregnancy and during perimenopause and menopause. That means the symptoms of thyroid disorders often fly under the radar.
Functional Medicine Can Treat Thyroid Disease
Functional medicine looks at the whole body to understand what’s working well, and what’s not. That’s why functional medicine doctors are so good at diagnosing issues like thyroid disorders and figuring out why your hormones are out of balance. This approach uses comprehensive history intakes, examinations, and testing to determine if you have a thyroid disorder – regardless of whether you are male or female.
Functional medicine blends the best of modern testing techniques for thyroid disorders and more with a holistic treatment approach. In addition to testing, we evaluate your individual risk factors such as digestion, diet, exposure to environmental toxins, the presence of chronic infections, and stressors. Using this information, we can correctly diagnose whether you are experiencing hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism. Then, we can intervene with a variety of treatments and lifestyle recommendations tailored to your needs. Using this approach, we will work together with you to get you feeling good again!
If you suspect you may be suffering from thyroid disease, we will provide you with the proper diagnosis and a personalized treatment plan at Tri-Cities Functional Medicine. Schedule a free discovery call today.
Tri-Cities Functional Medicine is located in Johnson City, Tennessee, and serves patients throughout East Tennessee and into Virginia and North Carolina. These areas include but are not limited to: Washington County, TN, Sullivan County, TN, Carter County, TN, Greene County, TN, Knox County, TN, Bristol, TN, Holston Valley, TN, Tri-Cities, TN, Walnut Hill, TN, Elizabethton, TN, Greeneville, TN, Morristown, TN, Blountville, TN, Bluff City, TN, Kingsport, TN, Jonesborough, TN, Colonial Heights, TN, Limestone, TN, Knoxville, TN, Bristol, VA, and Abingdon, VA.