All About Thyroid Health
Thyroid dysfunction is one of the most common things I see in my clinical practice, much of that being hypothyroidism. 1% of the population have overt hypothyroidism and another 10% of the population have subclinical hypothyroidism. It is estimated that 1 in 8 US adults will develop a thyroid condition during their lifetime. It is a disease in which most people get diagnosed, start taking thyroid replacement medication and never think twice about it. They assume they are destined for a life with hypothyroidism and medication. That is not always the case as we will discuss over the next several weeks blog posts all geared toward gaining a better understanding about thyroid health. Let’s dive in!
What is the thyroid gland?
The thyroid gland is a small, butterfly-shaped gland located at the front of your neck. It is part of our hormone or endocrine system and controls MANY important functions in the body by producing and releasing various thyroid hormones. One of the primary jobs of the thyroid is to control the rate of metabolism, or how the body processes food into energy. When the thyroid is working sub-optimally, it can affect many systems in the body. This is why thyroid health is so important.
The thyroid plays a role in growth and development as well as heart, muscle, bone, brain and digestive function. It maintains these functions be releasing a steady stream of thyroid hormones into the body and adapts to various external factors. For example, during pregnancy, the thyroid gland produces more hormone to keep up with the growth and development of baby. The pituitary gland in the brain, tells the thyroid gland how much thyroid hormone to release based on different circumstances. An underactive thyroid gland is when too little thyroid hormone is produced and this is referred to as hypothyroidism. An overactive gland, producing too many hormones is referred to as hyperthyroidism. Hypothyroidism is much more common but both can have downstream health consequences. We’ll be talking more about thyroid health as it relates to hypothyroidism.
Symptoms of Hypothyroidism:
- Fatigue (mental and physical)
- Weight gain
- Cardiovascular dysfunction (high cholesterol and atherosclerosis)
- Glucose and insulin intolerance (blood sugar abnormalities)
- Dry skin
- Hair loss
- Cold intolerance
- Easy bruising
- Slow heart rate / palpitations
- Morning stiffness (joints/muscles)
What contributes to thyroid dysfunction:
- Diet (gluten, goitrogens, low calorie diet, nutritional insufficiencies)
- Medications (beta blockers, oral contraceptives, proton pump inhibitors, lithium, chemotherapy)
- Toxins (fluoride + over 150 other industrial chemicals have been linked to reduced thyroid hormone production)
In the coming weeks, we’ll be diving into much more detail on what we can do to support thyroid health, what the thyroid laboratory values mean, how pregnancy and the thyroid go together, and more. Stay tuned!
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