“I can’t help it. It’s my thyroid.”
We’ve all heard this phrase from self-deprecating comedians fishing for a few laughs at their own expense, or friends explaining away unwanted weight gain. Only it turns out that complaints about an underactive thyroid may not simply be the “excuse” it’s commonly considered. And the consequences of a dysfunctional thyroid are anything but funny.
Doctors estimate that as many as 59-million Americans have some form of thyroid disease. And a majority of those people don’t even know it, and probably never will. Instead, they’ll spend a lifetime believing that depression, mood disorders, sexual dysfunction and obesity are just part of their “normal,” thanks in large to a medical community that relies more on diagnostic tests than symptomology. In addition, the diagnostic tests commonly used by physicians will miss most cases of thyroid disease.
To better understand the severity of a dysfunctional thyroid, let’s take a look at the thyroid’s role in our bodies:
The Role of the Thyroid
The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland in the neck, located between the Adam’s apple and the collarbone. As one of the largest endocrine glands, it produces crucial hormones, including triiodothyronine (T3) and tetraiodothyronine (T4), which play an important role in regulating energy levels, heartbeat, body temperature, metabolic rate, and the growth and function of many systems in the body. The thyroid also regulates sex hormones and other hormones that trigger important bodily functions.
Because the body has entrusted the thyroid with so many responsibilities, it is critical that its function is maintained optimally. If it becomes sluggish or overactive, even by a small amount, serious health problems can develop.
Hypothyroidism Vs. Hyperthyroidism
If your thyroid is “slow” or underactive, meaning that it does not produce adequate amounts of thyroid hormone, you have what is called hypothyroidism. If your thyroid is “fast” or overactive, meaning that it produces too much thyroid hormone, you have hyperthyroidism. Both conditions result in mild to severe symptoms throughout many systems of the body, and can manifest differently based on your particular condition. Here are some of the symptoms that result from thyroid dysfunction:
- Fatigue: Fatigue is the most common sign of undiagnosed thyroid disease. If you find yourself waking after 8-10 hours of sleep and still feel tired, or if you can’t get through the day without a nap, your thyroid may be underactive. If however, your exhaustion stems from an inability to fall asleep or frequent wakes in the night, your thyroid may be overactive.
- Muscle and Joint Pains, Tendinitis: Many people with hypothyroidism suffer from chronic muscle and joint aches, carpal tunnel, tarsal tunnel and plantar fasciitis, all of which can be alleviated when proper thyroid function is restored.
- Weight Loss or Gain: Unexplained weight gain could be a sign of an underactive thyroid, while sudden weigh loss when you’re not dieting could point to an overactive thyroid.
- Hair Loss and Skin Problems: Hair and skin are notoriously vulnerable to both overactive and underactive thyroids. With hyperthyroidism, skin can become very thin and fragile, and severe hair loss is common. With hypothyroidism, hair can become thin, fall out and become brittle and dry, while skin becomes thick, dry and scaly.
- Gastrointestinal Issues: Gut problems are also frequently associated with thyroid disease. A slow thyroid often leads to severe or long-term constipation, while an overactive thyroid is associated with frequent diarrhea and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
- Depression and Anxiety: Mood disorders, depression and anxiety are all associated with thyroid problems, particularly when they don’t respond to medication. Depression is most commonly associated with hypothyroidism, as low amounts of thyroid hormones can impact serotonin levels in the brain. Anxiety is frequently associated with hyperthyroidism, as the increase in hormone production keeps the body’s systems in overdrive, making it difficult to relax.
- Changes in Body Temperature: Because the thyroid regulates body temperature, an underactive thyroid may lead to feeling cold or having “the chills,” while an overactive thyroid may lead to feeling overly warm or extreme sweating.
- Cognitive Dysfunction: A malfunctioning thyroid can also affect cognitive function. An overactive thyroid keeps you constantly wired, leading to difficulty concentrating, while a sluggish thyroid can cause brain fog and forgetfulness.
- Sexual Dysfunction & Infertility: Because the thyroid regulates sex hormones, hypothyroidism can lead to a low libido, and both hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism can lead to changes in periods, pregnancy complications and infertility.
In the meantime, people dealing with thyroid dysfunction are stuck learning to live with symptoms that could be easily alleviated or controlled with natural bioidentical hormone replacement therapy, lifestyle changes and dietary supplements.
Problems With Traditional Testing & Treatment
Doctors who do screen for and treat thyroid disease usually do so through means that are highly ineffective and can overlook other serious issues.
In most cases, instead of measuring the levels of T4 and T3 (the thyroid hormones), doctors will instead measure a single compound called thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH), which is a chemical produced by the pituitary gland. While TSH should be elevated in hypothyroidism and lowered in hyperthyroidism, the test is unreliable and can miss many cases of both overactive and underactive thyroid disease. Many doctors are also notorious for using TSH to monitor the effectiveness of a treatment instead of going to the source and directly measuring T3 and T4.
As far as treatments go, instead of prescribing the exact hormone needed, many doctors only give medications that contain T4 (the non-active pro-hormone needed to make the active hormone T3). The hope is that the patient will convert the T4 to T3 naturally, but most people lack this ability and the treatment is useless.
To top it off, even doctors who order the correct tests and give the correct medications still overlook the chance of autoimmune thyroid disease, which is rampant, and would require special antibody testing.
Restoring Optimal Thyroid Function
When patients with these symptoms come to the DaSilva Institute, we start with a comprehensive assessment of all of their symptoms, then order tests to determine exact levels for each thyroid hormone. From there we can accurately adjust the levels accordingly with safe, bioidentical hormones and natural therapies to get the thyroid functioning optimally once again.
We have treated many patients with thyroid issues and have seen amazing, life-changing results. If you think you may have undiagnosed thyroid disease, call our office at 888-832-7458 to schedule a consultation. Don’t let symptoms hold you back. Discover Health Without Limits!