Many people in the U.S. have thyroid problems. In fact, over 12 percent of the population will develop a thyroid condition at some point in their lifetime. As of now, about 20 million Americans have some form of thyroid disease. (1)
People with thyroid disease will either have hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism. Hyperthyroidism is when your thyroid makes too much thyroid hormone, allowing your body to use too much energy faster than it should. Hypothyroidism means your thyroid produces too little hormone, which can leave you sluggish and feeling tired frequently.
Now, the important thing to note is that both of these can be caused by other diseases that impact how your thyroid gland functions.
When you learn some of the common signs of thyroid issues, you’ll be able to treat them. If you’ve gotten nowhere when trying to decide if your thyroid is the issue, keep reading our guide to the most common signs to look for.
If you’ve ever wondered why the thyroid is such a crucial part of your body, it has to do with the job it performs. Your thyroid controls and releases thyroid hormones that control metabolism. (2)
Metabolism is the process of taking the food you eat and converting it into energy. That energy is used throughout your body to keep all the systems working properly. Your thyroid controls that metabolism with specific hormones. T4(thyroxine) and T3 (triiodothyronine). These crucial hormones tell your body’s cells how much energy to use at any given time. When the thyroid works correctly, the right amount of hormones are maintained to keep your metabolism working at the proper rate.
We mentioned earlier that when your body uses energy too quickly due to the thyroid making too much hormone, it’s referred to as hyperthyroidism. When it produces too little hormone, it’s called hypothyroidism.
You may not notice any symptoms in the first stages of these diseases. Eventually, some of these may produce gradual symptoms, then lead to more prominent ones.
Although some people suffer from hyperthyroidism, the more common thyroid problem that’s often misdiagnosed or simply missed, is low thyroid or hypothyroidism. Some people may even get diagnosed with depression when the root cause of the mood changes is that their thyroid isn’t functioning properly. (3)
Most medical doctors will use a blood test to diagnose thyroid issues. The problem with these modern tests is that they may be unreliable. Your TSH may look normal, but most doctors stop there. They don’t test T3 and T4. Why is this the case? It’s usually dependent on insurance and costs. Often, your doctor may be attempting to keep costs down, so to save money you don’t get a complete panel of labs drawn.
Your TSH is only a small piece of the thyroid puzzle and it may not give an accurate picture of how your thyroid is working. Also, the normal TSH range is between .5 and 4.5. That allows for a lot of variation. That means you could have all the symptoms of low thyroid function, but your blood test could show you are in the normal range. Your doctor may get the results and tell you everything is fine with your thyroid. (4)
When you want to restore your thyroid hormone balance, it’s crucial to look at natural methods whenever possible. There are many factors that can add to thyroid issues, including stress, chronic inflammation, and environmental toxins.
When you treat thyroid issues from a functional medicine perspective, you want to include gut health, liver function, and nutrition. Unlike many medical doctors, functional practitioners realize that illness often doesn’t occur in isolated events. Your doctor will look at the entire puzzle to see where your imbalances lie.
You want to get adequate nutrients when treating thyroid issues. Iodine and iron are critical for thyroid hormone function. Increase foods that contain these, like fatty fish, eggs, and grass-fed beef.
Removing gluten from your diet may help decrease thyroid problems. Foods like breads, pastries, and cookies all contain gluten. If you have a gluten sensitivity, like many of us, your body will have an inflammatory reaction to it. Consuming foods with gluten can contribute to fatigue, weight gain, and headaches.
Eliminating sugar will also help because it is highly inflammatory. If you have a sweet tooth, you can opt for an occasional treat using a healthy substitute, like allulose or stevia.
Include nutrient-dense foods in your diet. Eating anti-inflammatory foods like healthy fats, leafy greens, and low-sugar fruits can be beneficial for decreasing inflammation.
Supplements play a huge role in nutrition. While you need to eat a healthy diet, it’s almost impossible to get all the vitamins and minerals you need with diet alone. To get the proper nutrients, you should implement targeted supplements to promote thyroid hormone synthesis. These will often include ashwagandha, which has been shown to help address thyroid issues. (5)
Magnesium is needed to increase T3 levels. Many people are deficient in this powerful mineral and need to take a quality supplement to get adequate levels.
Omega-3 fatty acids are crucial for thyroid hormone production. They also decrease inflammation and help with fatigue.
Vitamin D deficiency has been associated with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. Since Vitamin D helps make T3 and reduces inflammation, it’s critical that you get enough of it. If you can’t get adequate sunlight to increase your vitamin D levels, you need to be sure you’re taking the most bioavailable supplement form of vitamin D to get the most benefit.
We now know that gut health plays a much bigger role in our overall wellness than we thought in previous years. A balanced microbiome doesn’t only benefit the immune system, but it also helps thyroid function. Studies have shown that autoimmune thyroid diseases often co-occur with Celiac Disease and Non-celiac wheat sensitivity. (6)
It appears that gut microbiota can influence the availability of micronutrients for your thyroid gland. These nutrients are necessary for thyroid hormone production. Supplementing with quality probiotics shows beneficial effects on thyroid hormones and thyroid function.
Your liver is important for transporting and metabolizing thyroid hormones. An imbalance in thyroid hormones could influence liver function. In severe hypothyroidism, liver enzyme abnormalities have sometimes been observed.
LIver tests are also frequently abnormal in hyperthyroidism. That is likely due to oxidative stress. (7) Supporting the liver can help when treating thyroid problems. One of the biggest things you can do to help your liver is to minimize toxin exposure. These toxins not only increase inflammation, but they can also harm your thyroid. These toxins are found in items you may use every day. Changing to natural household products can help decrease the amount of toxins in your body.
Like many health conditions today, lifestyle changes and nutrition can be a powerful combination. Your functional medicine doctor will include the proper treatments for your specific thyroid issue, so you can get better faster. When you get to the root cause of the health condition, you can use targeted treatment that pinpoints the genuine issues, rather than covering up the symptoms.
Your body was designed to thrive and last you a lifetime. If you are tired of being sick and tired all the time, functional medicine may be able to help. Your doctor can include blood tests to accurately diagnose a thyroid problem and get you on the path to wellness. If you’re ready to see how a holistic doctor can help you feel good again, call us for a consultation today.