The thyroid gland is a small, butterfly-shaped gland located in the neck just below Adam’s apple. The thyroid’s job is to make thyroid hormone, which is secreted into the blood and then carried to every tissue in the body. The thyroid hormone helps the body use energy, stay warm, and keep the brain, heart, muscles, and other organs working as they should.
According to conservative estimates, the number of people suffering from thyroid issues is well over 200 million. A vast majority of these are women. This staggering number points to the fact that thyroid problems are a very real and serious issue.
There are many different types of thyroid problems with a wide range of symptoms. it is difficult to diagnose and treat. Nevertheless, it is important to seek medical help.
The thyroid hormones (T4 and T3) affect the functioning of every cell, tissue and organ in the body. T4 is largely inactive and must be converted into T3 to be used effectively by the body. This conversion happens in other organs, primarily in the liver, kidneys and muscles. These hormones play a vital role in regulating metabolism and are essential for normal growth and development.
Thyroid hormone levels can impact a person’s energy levels, mood, and overall health. The imbalance of thyroid hormones can cause a variety of health problems. Hypothyroidism symptoms in females include weight gain or loss, hair loss, dry skin, menstrual disturbances, fatigue, anxiety, depression, and difficulty in concentrating.
Out of the many many types of thyroid disease Hypothyroidism is the most common. It occurs when the thyroid gland does not produce enough of the hormone thyroxine and leads to a variety of symptoms such as fatigue, weight gain, and muscle weakness.
On the other hand, Hyperthyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland produces too much thyroxine. The symptoms of Hyperthyroidism are anxiety, tremors, and irritability.
Both Hypothyroidism and Hyperthyroidism can be treated with medication, but it is important to see a doctor for a proper diagnosis.
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Hypothyroidism has several symptoms which, vary from person to person. However, the most common symptoms are:
- Weight gain due to a slower metabolism
- Stomach-related issues like Constipation
- Dry skin
- Feeling cold
- Poor Brain function, which causes memory loss and other Psychological ailments like depression
- Slower muscular response and low stamina
Other symptoms can include muscle aches and weakness, joint pain, lower sex drive, thinning hair, irregular periods, and an enlarged thyroid gland (goitre). Many of these symptoms are also common in other conditions, so it is important to see a doctor and get diagnosed.
Conventional Approach for Hypothyroidism Treatment:
Usually, hypothyroidism is dealt with as a straightforward problem. Most of the time, only TSH levels are examined. Occasionally, T4 levels are included as well. After this initial examination, a regular dosage of the T4 hormone is prescribed. The dosage is then reassessed once or twice yearly based on updated TSH and T4 levels. The real active hormone T3, is almost never taken into account.
However, thyroid function is a lot more complex than just TSH or T4. Hence, this approach is woefully inadequate! There are many factors that can contribute to thyroid dysfunction, including stress, nutritional deficiencies, Insulin resistance, toxicity, and autoimmunity. To reverse hypothyroidism, all of these factors need to be evaluated and addressed.
Important factors that impact thyroid function:
Many important factors impact thyroid function. Some of the most important are :
It is a trace element that is essential for the proper function of the thyroid gland. Without adequate iodine, the thyroid cannot produce the hormones needed for proper metabolism. Iodine deficiency is the most common cause of hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid). Iodine, selenium, and protein are needed for T4 production.
This is another trace element that is important for thyroid function. Selenium is needed for the production of the thyroid hormone, thyroxine. Selenium deficiency has been linked to an increased risk of autoimmune thyroid disease.
Thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH):
TSH is produced by the pituitary gland and is responsible for stimulating the thyroid to produce its hormones. TSH levels that are too high or too low can impact thyroid function.
Thyroid hormones are essential for proper metabolism. When levels of thyroid hormones are too low, it can lead to hypothyroidism.
Autoimmune disease is a condition in which the body’s immune system attacks and destroys healthy tissue. Autoimmune thyroid disease is the most common type of thyroiditis and can lead to both hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism. ( this should come as the first one )
Stress can impact the thyroid in several ways. It can cause the release of stress hormones ( Cortisol ) that can interfere with thyroid hormone production. It can also lead to changes in TSH levels. Chronic stress can also contribute to the development of autoimmune thyroid disease. The thyroid gland produces the hormone thyroxine, also called T4. However, T4 is inactive and needs to be converted into the active form (triiodothyronine or T3) to be useful. T3 is produced in different parts of the body by the liver and kidney and can be affected by a variety of factors such as zinc, iron, selenium, and vitamin A deficiencies. The brain, heart, and skeletal muscles also do intracellular conversion of T4 to T3 (which is not captured in standard lab tests).
T3 needs to enter the cells to be effective and this process is impacted by stress levels as well as other factors. Another form of T3, known as Reverse T3 (rT3), can actually block the action of T3 when it builds up in the body. Stress can increase the conversion of T4 to rT3, effectively reducing T3 availability and causing a “double whammy” effect of reduced T3 levels and decreased T3 effectiveness.
Inflammation can also reduce T3 intracellularly while serum T3 levels remain the same. In fact, TSH can even reduce, making it difficult to understand why we feel all the symptoms of hypothyroidism.
How to identify the root causes of Hypothyroidism?
There are many possible tests that could be done in order to decode the root causes of hypothyroidism.
One approach would be to test the levels of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) in the blood. If the TSH levels are low, this could indicate that the pituitary gland is not functioning properly.
Another approach would be to test for autoimmune antibodies. If these antibodies are present, it could indicate that the immune system is attacking the thyroid gland.
Imaging tests such as ultrasound could also be done in order to look for any abnormalities in the thyroid gland itself.
The best approach is decided depending on the individual case.
If you have any of the symptoms mentioned herein, you should consult your family doctor and get yourself diagnosed. If you are diagnosed with Hyperthyroidism or Hypothyroidism, please feel free to contact us. We will be happy to help and guide you in reversing/ managing your disease, as the case may be.
Source credit for this blog: Siddarth Goel, Hormone Rest