Are constantly tired and low in energy? Or having trouble with your weight? Have you had thyroid blood tests come back ‘normal’? Your thyroid function may still be sub-optimal and need support.
Written by Sandy Watts & Sharon Erdrich. Nov 2019
The Role of the Thyroid Gland
The thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped gland sitting at the front of your neck, just below the “Adam’s apple”.
The thyroid gland produces hormones that help regulate the body’s use of energy, helping you stay warm, and keep the brain, heart, lungs, muscles, bones, skin, liver and other organs working as they should – keeping them ‘powered up’ and active, and remaining healthy by generating new cells to replace old ones.
Two hormones are produced by the thyroid, T3 (triiodothyronine) and T4 (thyroxine), they regulate the energy level, growth and reproduction of every cell in your body.
The thyroid hormones regulate your metabolism – the biochemical process of converting oxygen and the calories from food and drinks into energy. Body metabolism influences hormone and body temperature regulation, heart rate, and the ability to gain or lose weight. When the thyroid doesn’t produce enough of these hormones many of the body’s functions become sluggish. A well-functioning thyroid is vital for good health and overall well being.
Currently eight million dollars worth of thyroid tests are ordered by the medical community every year in New Zealand. Despite this, recognition and treatment of thyroid disease remains inadequate. As a result, patients with sub-clinical hypothyroidism remain untreated or under treated.
A healthy functioning thyroid is critical to the well-being of your entire body. A quick 4 minute test can reveal accurate thyroid function, revealing a possible over- or under-active thyroid.
Hypothyroidism, an underactive thyroid, affects approximately 4-5% of the population, while hyperthyroidism, or overactive thyroid, affects 0.4-2%.
Both men and women can develop thyroid problems, but both underactive and overactive are more common in women. In fact, women are 7 times more likely to develop low thyroid function than men!
Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is one type of underactive thyroid condition (sometimes simply caused Hashimoto’s), where the immune system attacks the thyroid. An autoimmune disorder known as Graves’ disease is the most common cause of hyperthyroidism.
Routine testing in New Zealand generally measures blood levels of TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone). TSH is produced in the pituitary gland in the brain in response to the circulating levels of T3 and T4. Low levels of thyroid hormones increase TSH, and high levels decrease it. However, measuring TSH alone doesn’t always provide the full picture, and sub-clinical hypothyroidism is often undetected. Therefore, it can remain untreated, or under treated. Blood tests can appear to be in the normal range, but signs and symptoms may suggest that the thyroid needs support.
Menopause and the Thyroid
Symptoms of menopause may be worse in women who have low thyroid function and research has shown that the menopausal symptoms can improve when thyroid function is improved. Both conditions have lots of symptoms in common – what you think might be due to menopause may be due to, or being made worse by, low thyroid function.
Gut Heath and the Thyroid
Like many other health conditions, recent understanding has linked gut bacterial imbalances with thyroid problems. Gastrointestinal symptoms such as gas, bloating, constipation and diarrhea can suggest imbalances of gut bacteria which may be an aggravator of thyroid dysfunction. Hypothyroidism is also strongly associated with SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth). Research suggest this is even more likely if you are on medication for low thyroid function.
Stress is a big factor – the adrenal glands (major stress management centre) and the thyroid have a synergistic relationship. So, if you’ve been under physical or mental stress for an extended period of time, this can negatively impact the function of your thyroid.
How can we help?
If you think your thyroid may be stressed and in need of extra support and TLC, come and see us for an initial consultation. We’ll listen and build a full assessment of your health concerns and goals, then help you to get your health back on track and your energy revitalised!
We’ll look at your nutrition and lifestyle, along with herbal and/or nutritional supplements to help you turn things around. We’ll also consider whether something else could be causing your fatigue or other symptoms that are impacting your well-being.
At House of Health you can access the Comprehensive Thyroid Profile, a blood test panel which provides us with a complete picture of your thyroid function and thyroid auto-immunity – including levels of TSH, free T4, free T3, reverse T3, anti-TG antibodies, TSH receptor antibodies and anti-TPO antibodies. You can choose to order the test before your appointment if you wish to, or discuss with us at your appointment.
By Sandy Watts, Registered Naturopath, Medical Herbalist and Clinical Nutritionist. (Ed: Sharon Erdrich)