Tired all the time? Gained weight without changing your diet? PMS? It might be your thyroid.
What is the Thyroid and why does it matter?
The Thyroid is a small, butterfly shaped gland in the front of your throat. As a gland, it secretes hormones and is part of our hormonal or endocrine system.
Your thyroid plays many significant roles in your body. In fact, we have thyroid hormone receptors on pretty much all of our organs. This is why if our thyroids are not working optimally we can experience a wide range of symptoms.
How does the Thyroid work?
The thyroid manufactures a hormone which stimulates each and every cell of the body. We need this stimulation for healthy digestion, detoxification, ovulation, energy and body fat maintenance.
What happens when thyroid function is not optimal?
The most common of the thyroid disorders is hypothyroidism, or an under active thyroid. Think a general slowing down of your body.
Hypothyroidism is when the thyroid either does make enough thyroid hormone, there is poor conversion of the non active hormone (T4) to the active hormone (T3) or when your body is not effectively using thyroid hormone.
Who Is most at risk of a thyroid disorder?
While hypothyroidism can happen at any age, in any gender, it is most common in middle-aged Women.
How common is Hypothyroidism?
Hypothyroidism is very common, in fact it is thought to affect at least 1 in 10 Women. It is also under-diagnosed. There are many Women suffering from hypothyroidism that have been told their thyroid is fine.
I was one of those Women and I can tell you my thyroid was not fine and my symptoms were not normal or in my head. You can read more about my own personal story here.
So how do I know if my thyroid is causing my symptoms?
Let’s start with what the symptoms are as thyroid testing can be very inadequate.
Symptoms of an under active thyroid include:
High cholesterol on blood tests
Feeling cold all the time
Lines on neck (this can be from swelling of the thyroid)
Of course many of these symptoms can be from other causes, but if you suffer from the majority of these symptoms it is worth investigating if it is your thyroid driving your symptoms. Especially if you have any thyroid issues in your family.
What if I have all the symptoms and my Doctor has told me my thyroid is OK?
If you have been to see your Doctor, and have been told it isn’t your thyroid causing your symptoms and you have no answers then read on.
While it is frustrating for you not to have answers or a solution within the medical realm, it is good for me as the earlier you intervene with the tools I have (nutrition and lifestyle for example) the less likely you are to need to replace your thyroid hormones for life to feel better.
Here are some reasons you may not have received a diagnosis:
First of all your thyroid function may be declining, but it is still within the reference range. You can be well on your way to thyroid disease and tests still show that your thyroid gland is normal. This is not such a bad thing if you take action, as by the time your thyroid gland is out of range, your thyroid would have already sustained a fair bit of damage. I am sure you really want to avoid that like I did.
You have probably had inadequate testing!
Standard thyroid testing is inadequate. If you look at your blood tests and have only had TSH and T4 tested then you can’t rule out a thyroid disorder.
I will always request that you get T3 (the active thyroid hormone) and thyroid antibodies tested at a minimum. You can (in fact you will likely need to) self request these at your local lab. I also offer a full thyroid panel via Nutripath testing. This covers everything including reverse T3 that you are unlikely to get at your local lab. With the Nutripath test the blood sample is taken at the local lab but sent overseas for analysis. A full panel is around $200 at the time of writing this.
Autoimmunity is actually the leading cause of hypothyroidism so needs to be excluded. My treatment recommendations are also different if you have thyroid antibodies.
I will interpret your tests from a functional or otherwise known as optimal perspective. Most people don’t feel great at the bottom of the range! The ranges are questionable given that they are taken from people who present with thyroid symptoms not from people who generally feel good.
Other Thyroid Considerations
Even if you get all the tests and they come back normal, sometimes your thyroid function might be suboptimal as it is responding to something else going on in the body. It may be stress, an infection, low iron or poor gut health for example. Your body and various organs may also not be responding properly to thyroid hormone. This is known as cellular hypothyroidism. In this case once you understand what is the root cause and work on addressing this, your thyroid will function much better. I spend at least an hour during our initial consultation looking at your case and questioning, looking holistically at all your symptoms, test results, health history etc.
I have been where you are so I get it! It was the journey to heal my thyroid that sparked my passion to help others. I not only became a Qualified Clinical Nutritionist, but since graduating I have undertaken many hours of post grad thyroid training. You can learn how I can help you more on the link below. I hope this blog post has been helpful and that you feel better soon x