Your Thyroid is More Important Than You Think!
The thyroid is, undoubtedly, one of the most important glands in your body. Though it is small, this butterfly-shaped gland that is located in the lower front of your neck is responsible for making thyroid hormones that help the body use and maintain energy, keep warm and keep the brain, heart and muscles (just to name a few) on a strict-working schedule. But an under-active or over-active thyroid can essentially throw your entire body off track. Here is what you need to know.
According to Antonio Bianco, MD, PhD, a professor of internal medicine at Chicago’s Rush University Medical Center and president-elect of the American Thyroid Association explains, “Especially in terms of hypothyroidism, or an under-active thyroid, it’s hard to make a diagnosis based on symptoms alone. The best way for making a diagnosis is with a blood test.”
Some symptoms of Hypothyroidism include:
- Commonly feeling cold
- Chronic fatigue or muscle pain
- Dry skin
- Hair Loss
- For women, abnormally heavy periods
- Excessive weight gain
If you have several of these symptoms, Bianco suggests visiting your primary doctor for a consultation and a blood test – “The test measures serum thyroid stimulating hormone, or TSH. If your blood test shows a TSH level between 0.4 and 4.5 milli-units per liter (mU/L), that’s normal”, Bianco says. “If you’re at 10 mU/L or above, you have hypothyroidism. But between 4.5 and 10 mU/L, you fall into a grey zone”—what Bianco calls sub-clinical hypothyroidism. “There are no clear risk factors or health conditions associated with a TSH in this range, so we treat this on a case-by-case basis,” he says.
An over-active thyroid has very different symptoms than those facing Hypothyroidism. Some symptoms include:
- Bulging eyes
- Commonly feeling too hot
- Heart racing
- Anxiety or nervousness
- Problems with vision
- Excessive weight loss
- Increased sweating and/or clammy hands
- Increased bowel movement
- For women, abnormally light periods
“If your TSH is at zero, that’s clinical hyperthyroidism and you’re probably experiencing all or most of those symptoms,” Bianco says. If your TSH is low but above zero, your doctor may still chose to treat you—even if you aren’t experiencing any symptoms at all. Here’s why: “An excess of these hormones have been linked to atrial fibrillation, so it affects the heart and could cause blood clots or stroke,” Bianco says.
Recommendations to Reduce Symptoms
According to The American Thyroid Association, “It’s common for patients with thyroid disease or cancer to be recommended to practice a special diet that avoids foods that contain iodine. It’s also common for patients to be told to take Vitamin D or calcium supplementation.”
The University of Maryland Medical Center makes some suggestions that may help to reduce symptoms:
- Eat foods high in B-Vitamins, antioxidants (blueberries, cherries, etc..) and iron (whole-grains, vegetables)
- Take a daily multivitamin that contains vitamins A, C, E, B-Complex and trace minerals (magnesium, calcium, zinc and selenium)
- Consume plenty of omega-3 fatty acids like fish oil, that helps to reduce inflammation and boost immunity.
- L-Carnitine may help for decreasing thyroid activity because of its blood thinning effects.*
*Speak to your doctor or a healthcare professional before starting a supplement routine.