The thyroid is a small gland located in your throat and works like a thermostat in your body regulating temperature and energy expenditures. It controls metabolism and hormone production and is vital to your well-being. Hypothyroidism is the term for an underactive thyroid. It’s more common than hyperthyroidism (an overactive thyroid) and has a disproportionate effect on women who are of reproductive age through menopause.
The thyroid produces hormones out of nutrients called T3 (triiodothyronine) and T4 (thyroxine). These are released into the bloodstream and convert oxygen and calories into energy. Too much or too little can contribute to thyroid dysfunction. Other factors like leaky gut syndrome and heavy metal toxicity can also contribute to thyroid problems as it increases inflammation and interferes with the metabolic processes.
When your thyroid is not working properly, all sorts of problems can arise like:
- Brittle nails
- Calcium deficiency
- Dry skin
- Easily bruised
- Elevated levels of LDL cholesterol
- Feeling cold all the time
- Hair loss
- Increased PMS symptoms
- Irregular periods
- Joint and muscle pain
- Lowered sex drive
- Memory loss
- Numbness in wrists and hands
- Problems losing weight
- Sleeping more than you should be
- Slurring of speech
- Stubborn cold sores
- Swelling in the face, arms and legs
- Unusual weight gain
With hypothyroidism, your body needs more thyroid hormones. Increasing your iodine intake can help your thyroid produce more of its needed hormones. This is tricky because iodine is not available in most foods we eat and often comes in bad providers like table salt and processed foods. Selenium helps balance levels of T4 hormones and is found in brazil nuts, spinach, yellowfin tuna or halibut, canned sardines, grass-fed beef, turkey, and beef liver. Low levels of zinc can also cause T4, T3, and TSH to drop.
Outside influences like stress and toxins can also add to hypothyroidism. Medications, hormonal birth control, beauty or cleaning products can contribute to the inflammation that increases your risk. Supplementing with probiotics, adaptogen, ashwaganda, tulsi, ginseng, licorice root and rhodiola can be very helpful.
In most routine thyroid exams, a thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) blood test is used to check for thyroid gland problems. This can potentially miss the full diagnosis and keep hypothyroidism hidden. T4 and T3 can be measured by blood test and should be analyzed together with TSH for a thorough diagnosis to be made. It’s also important to go beyond the lab tests and look at the symptoms of the individual. Once a thyroid disorder is confirmed, you and your doctor can discuss treatment options and find the root cause of your condition.