Today, hypothyroidism (low thyroid) affects 15 million people; the vast majority of them are unsuspecting women. Thyroid health also can affect men, but the ratio is considered to be 3 to 1, female to male. Low thyroid or hypothyroidism can mean sluggishness, “brain fog”,” weight gain or difficulty losing weight, fatigue, problems with bowel function (primarily constipation), changes in skin (dry skin) with a predisposition to eczema/dermatitis, changes in the hair, and nails that are brittle or break easily. Even low moods and depression can be due to low thyroid. Probably the most common symptom of low thyroid function is cold hands and feet. You have heard this from a friend or someone you know whom always complains of being cold when others are totally comfortable.
So, What Causes This Thyroid Malfunction?
Basically, we know all forms of stress whether physical (like surgery or motor vehicle accidents), emotional (loss of a loved one, divorce or financial change) or psychological stress can directly impact the thyroid. Other common offenders are hormone imbalances such as adrenal insufficiency, estrogen/progesterone changes, new chemicals and pollutants in our environment, and yes, last but not least, genetics (good old family history).
What To Do About It?
If you feel that you might have subclinical hypothyroidism or low thyroid as highlighted by the cluster of symptoms above, you can do the following:
- Check your Basal Body Temperature – do this by placing a mercury thermometer under your arm for 5 minutes before getting out of bed each morning (for 3 mornings in a row). Note: Normal body temperature is 98.6° F. If your temperatures are less than 97.8° F consistently, then most likely your thyroid is underactive.
- See your health care provider and discuss your findings. They may want to repeat a Thyroid profile blood test with TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone). Remember, even if your TSH falls in the normal laboratory reference range, it does not mean your thyroid is in balance.
Hypothyroidism, Knowing When To Get Help. In a nutshell, the function of the thyroid gland is to take iodine, found in seafood and seaweed, and convert it into thyroid hormones: thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). They are released into the blood stream and transported throughout the body where they control metabolism (substances broken down to yield energy). The thyroid gland regulates the temperature within the body. Malfunctions of the gland are hyperthyroidism, when the thyroid gland produces too much of the thyroid hormone resulting in an overactive metabolic state, and hypothyroidism, when the thyroid gland does not produce enough of the thyroid hormone resulting in an underactive metabolic state.Today we will focus on hypothyroidism since it tends to be overlooked. Hypothyroidism can be misunderstood as depression and simple weight gain. It is estimated that 15% of all depression cases are actually cases of undiagnosed hypothyroidism. Often times the blood tests used to measure the levels of thyroid hormones show in the normal range, which is a possible reason that hypothyroidism gets missed. The American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists is now reevaluating the “normal range” for thyroid function, which is a Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) level of normally 5.Thyroid imbalances can be caused by such factors as environmental pollutants, exposure to radiation, dietary excesses or insufficiencies, medications, stress and yeast infections. Be sure to provide your thyroid with the needed nutrients in order to maintain its’ health.
Undiagnosed hypothyroidism can lead to high cholesterol, severe depression, obesity, heart disease, heart failure and stroke. Be sure not to ignore symptoms of hypothyroidism and if you do suspect it, be persistent with your doctor. Don’t just settle for a simple blood test. Knowing is half of the battle. Being proactive is the means for achieving and maintaining good health.