The thyroid hormone is secreted by the thyroid gland is responsible for maintaining the body’s metabolism. Every cell in the body is affected by the effects of the thyroid hormone. When there is decreased production of thyroid hormone, this is called hypothyroidism.
When there is overproduction in the thyroid hormone, this is called hyperthyroidism.
Up to one percent of the general population in the United States has clinical hypothyroidism. Ten percent of women have a condition called subclinical hypothyroidism. Hypothyroidism mainly affects women more than men.
There is also a condition where the body forms antibodies that begin to attack the body’s own organs. When this happens in the thyroid gland, this is called autoimmune thyroiditis. Up to 27 percent of women have autoimmune thyroiditis.
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There are many reasons why thyroid function becomes disrupted. Some of these may include:
- Stressors – whether mental, emotional or physical stress.
- Exposure to toxins- At least 150 industrial chemicals have been shown to affect thyroid function. These include pesticides, mercury, lead, etc.
- Food intolerances or sensitivities.
- Certain medications.
- Autoimmune diseases such as celiac disease
- Nutritional deficiencies such as iron, selenium, and certain B vitamins.
- Sleep disorders
Symptoms of hypothyroidism
Some of the common symptoms of low functioning thyroid include:
- Weight gain or inability to lose weight
- Dry skin.
- Thinning of the eyebrows (especially the outer eyebrows).
- Dry and brittle nails.
- Hoarse voice
- Puffiness of the face or the extremities.
- Depression (including postpartum depression).
- Difficulty concentrating.
- Morning stiffness.
- Enlarged thyroid (goiter).
How is hypothyroidism diagnosed?
Hypothyroidism is routinely diagnosed with a screening test called the thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH). However, there is a caveat when using the TSH level alone. The laboratory reference range for TSH is extensive, ranging from 0.50-4.00 mU/L. Because of this wide range, it’s challenging to assess the presence of hypothyroidism even though an individual’s TSH level may be in the normal range, despite them exhibiting symptoms of hypothyroidism.
I like to explain to my patients and clients that everyone has a set point. If their TSH was at one setpoint and then there is a significant change to that number on another blood test, even though it is still in the “normal range” that is a significant change for that person and deserves further investigation.
More specialists particularly functional health practitioners are leaning toward more detailed testing by measuring individual thyroid hormone levels.
How is hypothyroidism treated?
Using the functional medicine approach, treatment for hypothyroidism includes a two-prong approach.
Here we are looking for any potential factors that may have caused thyroid disorder. This is where a functional medicine practitioner is an excellent resource in helping to uncover possible triggers, nutrition evaluation, exposure to toxins, medications, etc. as laboratory testing. Your functional medicine practitioner will recommend a food plan that will help provide nutrients needed to support thyroid function. If needed you will also be placed on supplements that provide thyroid support It is also essential to focus on ways to reduce stress as well as increase exercise/movement.
Replacement of thyroid hormone
It may also be necessary to replace the thyroid hormone. This can be done with synthetic or natural sources of supplement. Your thyroid health is an essential aspect of your overall health and wellbeing.
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms I have outlined in this article, please be sure to have a conversation with your healthcare provider.
If you would like to know how functional medicine can help optimize your overall health, feel free to schedule a free 15-minute discovery session with me by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Until next time, here’s to your health and wellbeing,