Healthy Living

Not Feeling Great? It Could Be a Thyroid Problem

You’re only as healthy as your thyroid. Thyroid disease is a commonly undiagnosed cause of fatigue, obesity, depression, constipation, and hair loss.

How do I know if I have thyroid disease?

Do you have unexplained symptoms like fatigue, depression, hair loss, or easy weight gain? Check a free online quiz like www.thethyroidquiz.com to see your total score of thyroid symptoms. If your score is high, make sure you doctor tests you thoroughly.

What labs should I get to see if I have thyroid disease?

Your first tests should include TSH, free T4, free T3, Thyroglobulin (TG), Thyroid Antibodies, including anti-thyroglobulin (anti-Tg), and anti-thyroidperoxidase (anti-TPO). Any abnormal findings mean you have thyroid disease.

Do I need a thyroid ultrasound?

If you have or suspect thyroid disease, get a yearly screening thyroid ultrasound. Thyroid cancer is one of the few cancers that has increased in incidence over recent years and occurs in all age groups. An ultrasound can check for thyroid size, masses or nodules, and follow up screening can monitor for number, size, and stability of nodules if you have them. Thyroid cancer is highly treatable when found early.

Which nutrients can help your thyroid?

Nutritional deficiencies play a significant role in thyroid dysfunction. Selenium, vitamin D, vitamin A, iron, zinc, copper and vitamin C are all important for thyroid health. Adequate iodine is especially important, but it is essential not to take too much iodine. Iodine is one of the nutrients you can get too little or too much of, and therefore, impacts proper thyroid function. Most iodine supplements have too high of a dosage and can throw off thyroid balance.

How can allergies and infections affect thyroid health?

Autoimmune disease is a situation in which the immune system unnecessarily attacks part of our bodies.  Allergies are also immune errors, but the trigger is external.  The more immune triggers that we are exposed to, the worse all possible immune reactions become. Imagine a person with thyroid disease along with cat and dairy allergies.  If they had a pet cat and drank milk with each meal, the immune stimulation from the allergens would raise their thyroid antibodies.  You might not be aware of all your allergies from sources such as food and the environment.

Many people have very real allergies that alter their immune function without having any obvious symptoms.  The main types of allergies to consider include airborne, contact and dietary.  Dietary allergies can have immediate or delayed reactions. Blood tests are now readily available for delayed (IgG) reactions. Those with high antibodies should be screened for all of these sources of allergies.

Acute and chronic infections can also stress the immune system and cause elevations in thyroid antibodies.   Chronic infections should be suspected for those who have chronic sore throats, frequent bladder infections, intestinal gas and bloating, unexplained low-grade fevers, or recurrent unexplained anemia.

How can toxins disrupt thyroid function?

The thyroid gland uses a powerful pump that concentrates iodine.  This pump is not perfectly selective.  For this reason, environmental toxins that share chemical properties with iodine can inadvertently get concentrated inside the gland. Specifically this can include toxins that are measurable such as Mercury, Lead, Cadmium, Arsenic and Aluminum.  Other toxins that can accumulate in the gland are less measurable. These include Perchorate, iodine, fluoride, BPA and teflon.  Many of these same toxins also build up in the liver and kidneys. Reducing the toxin impact should include both testing of measurable toxins and strategies to remove presumptive presence of non-measurable toxins.

How do the adrenals affect the thyroid?

The thyroid gland shares many functions with the adrenals.  When the thyroid is found to be diseased, it is common that the adrenal glands are also not functioning well.  Healthy adrenal glands are critical for maintaining high energy levels, resilience to stress, and hormone balance. These small organs sit on top of our kidneys and help make a large range of hormones such as DHEA, cortisol, and pregnenolone.  Cortisol is especially apt to influence thyroid function.

When it is too high, thyroid hormones become unable to help the cellular metabolic rate.  When it is lacking, thyroid hormones cannot cross cell membranes. Cortisol is known to be diurnal in nature.  Some can have normal levels at some times of day, with significant abnormalities at other times.  For this reason, salivary tests that measure individual levels at several points throughout the day are preferable.

Can my other hormones affect thyroid function?

Estrogen and progesterone both strongly influence thyroid function and can mimic thyroid symptoms.  All types of hormone replacement and oral contraceptives can lower the body’s use of thyroid hormones. Natural fluctuation of hormones that go on with the menstrual cycle, pregnancy, and perimenopause can also do this.

Women with unexplained hypothyroid symptoms should have tests of estradiol, progesterone and testosterone.

What else can I do to achieve hormone balance?

It’s difficult to obtain and maintain hormone balance without lifestyle modification. Every one of us needs to manage stress in our lives, eat a healthy diet, and exercise regularly. When your body is in balance nutritionally and hormonally, then it can balance itself physically.

Adrienne Stewart, NMD and  Dr. Alan Christianson, NMD

Photo Credit: Shutterstock Copyright: racorn

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