The thyroid is an important endocrine gland located on the front of your neck with a butterfly shape. The thyroid secretes thyroid hormones, and the main job is the regulation of your body’s metabolism. When the thyroid isn’t working properly, it affects your entire body. The severity of symptoms ranges from mild to life-threatening.
Your changes in thyroid hormone affect the following functions:
- Heart rate
- Body temperature
- Brain development
- Mental activity
- Skin and bone maintenance
Common Signs and Symptoms of Hypothyroidism
- Low thyroid leaves you feeling drained.
- Weight gain. Hypothyroidism signals the body to eat more, store calories, and burn fewer calories. A combination that leads to weight gain.
- Feeling cold. Hypothyroid slows your body’s normal heat production, most feel cold when others around them are fine.
- Sleep disruption. Some studies show low thyroid affects deep sleep, which may play a role in daytime fatigue.
- Other signs and symptoms include hair loss, body aches, irregular menstruation, poor concentration, depression, dry skin, and constipation.
Often patients will have their “thyroid function” tested by their PCP in the form of looking at the lab value for TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone). TSH is not an accurate picture of thyroid health, this is a hormone released from the pituitary gland in the brain, which tells the thyroid to release more or less hormone. The actual hormones produced by the thyroid are T3 and T4. The diagnosis of hypothyroid is approximately 5 to 10 percent of the population.
The hormones produced by the thyroid include:
- Thyroxine (T4): this is the primary hormone made by the thyroid, however, it doesn’t have much bioavailability or affect your metabolism. Once T4 is released into the bloodstream, some will be converted into T3 through a process called deiodination.
- Triiodothyronine (T3): less T3 is produced than T4, but it has a greater effect on your metabolism.
- Reverse triiodothyronine (RT3): very small amounts of RT3 are made, and it is used to reverse the effects of T3.
- Calcitonin: this hormone helps to regulate the amount of calcium in your blood.
Several types of thyroid disease affect an estimated 20 million people in the United States, and women are about five to eight times more likely to be diagnosed with a thyroid condition than men. Thyroid disease is divided into two types: primary and secondary.
Primary thyroid disease issues originate in the thyroid gland, secondary thyroid disease originates in the pituitary gland. There are four main conditions affecting the thyroid, which include hypothyroid (underactive), hyperthyroid (overactive), goiter (enlarged thyroid), and thyroid cancer. At NBH, we focus on hypothyroidism and correcting the issue at the root cause.
Causes of hypothyroidism include:
- Hashimoto’s disease, autoimmune disease
- Thyroiditis (inflammation of the thyroid)
- Vitamin and mineral deficiencies
- Nonfunctioning thyroid gland
- Thyroid gland removal
Autoimmune thyroid disease can be present in the absence of changes to lab values, although autoimmune thyroid disease almost always progresses to hypothyroid. In addition, having Hashimoto’s disease increases the risk of developing other autoimmune diseases. Autoimmune thyroid disease is not an issue with the thyroid gland itself but an issue with the immune system.
Hypothyroidism is increasing in our society. Stress, chronic inflammation, poor diets, and toxic exposure all have a role in immune systems dysfunction and attack on healthy cells, including the thyroid. At NBH, our providers will look the whole picture to address total thyroid health.