If you didn’t know the reason why your appetite is haywire and you’re growing fat despite the hardcore exercises, it is time to know what thyroid is all about. The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped gland located in the front of your neck that makes and secretes thyroid hormones. It is regulated by the pituitary gland and is dependent on iodine intake from your diet.
“Thyroid hormones secreted from the thyroid gland affect function in virtually all parts of the body, and normal function needs to have a constant supply of thyroid hormone available. The body does this very elegantly, but it’s no wonder that the list of thyroid symptoms is lengthy,” says Dr Bloomgarden.
Here are seven more facts you should know about your thyroid.
Thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) blood tests are accurate.
The TSH test is a blood test that is used to screen for thyroid dysfunction.
- “Many people don’t realize a general thyroid function screen tests the thyroid-stimulating hormone as opposed to the actual number of thyroid hormones. In general, this is a great measure of how the overall thyroid hormone system is functioning,” says Dr Balabanova.
- Even small changes in your thyroid hormone levels (T4 and T3) will cause very big changes in TSH secretion. If your thyroid is unable to make enough thyroid hormone (hypothyroidism), your TSH will rise quickly and remain elevated.
- If your thyroid is making too much thyroid hormone (hyperthyroidism), your TSH will drop to zero. Therefore, the most appropriate test to screen for thyroid dysfunction in the vast majority of cases is a TSH blood test.
- “The TSH test is accurate. Other lab tests for thyroid function are supplemental and may not be clinically relevant or appropriate,” adds Dr Bloomgarden.
Women are more likely than men to have thyroid issues.
- One in eight women will develop thyroid problems during her lifetime, particularly after pregnancy and during menopause.
- The most common thyroid condition is hypothyroidism. Some symptoms include fatigue, feeling cold, muscle weakness and unexplained weight gain.
Most thyroid disorders can’t be prevented.
- There is no way to cure autoimmune thyroid disease or slow the progression of thyroid disease, but if you are one of the 20 million Americans affected, you can take actions to manage the condition. Dr Bloomgarden says that thyroid disease will take its natural course.
- Your best bet is to get a diagnosis, prevent it from becoming a significant problem, and take measures to minimize its impact on your body and your life.
Stress and other factors can worsen thyroid disorders.
Managing overall health can minimize the impact of symptoms.
- “Factors like illness, pregnancy and stress can impact thyroid function,” Dr Balabanova says. “We always work with patients on tailoring personalized, specific stress management strategies and decreasing overall inflammatory processes.”
- Incorporating exercise into your daily routine and maintaining healthy relationships can help your thyroid, too. Rest is also important, and you should be getting seven to nine hours of sleep each night. This can be tricky if you have a thyroid disorder because it can impact sleep.
- Strategies to improve your sleep include following a sleep-wake routine, limiting your exposure to light by avoiding scrolling through your phone before bed or watching TV, and avoiding caffeine and exercise before bedtime.
Thyroid disorders need to be addressed before and during pregnancy.
- Thyroid hormones are imperative to help provide an environment for your baby to thrive during development, particularly during the first three months.
- For that reason, if you have a pre-existing thyroid condition, it’s important to monitor hormone levels before and during your pregnancy.
- “There is a specific TSH level that we are looking to see before pregnancy,” says Dr Bloomgarden. “We monitor levels much more closely during pregnancy to ensure adequate thyroid hormone availability to the baby.”
Thyroid disorders should be managed.
- Abnormal thyroid hormone levels can cause serious health effects, so managing your thyroid disorder is very important. If you have a thyroid disorder it should be treated using evidence-based guidelines and prescription medication, says Dr Bloomgarden. “We have several thyroid hormone preparations that are FDA-regulated, safe, effective and well-tolerated,” she says.
- “At the Osher Center, we try to support the body’s innate ability to heal itself as much as possible. Sometimes we’ll recommend supplements, which have been shown in research to be promising for certain patients,” says Dr Balabanova.
- However, Dr Balabanova adds, “It’s important to consult with a physician before starting any supplement.” As with any supplement, these products can be dangerous when taken in high amounts or without regular monitoring by your physician.
- Improper use of supplements can cause conditions ranging from nausea and diarrhoea to serious kidney problems or nerve damage.
Certain myths can be dangerous to your health.
With an overwhelming abundance of information available online, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to figure out what’s true. “Certain products advertised as thyroid boosters can be quite harmful,” says Dr Bloomgarden.
“I want my patients to feel well and not let thyroid disease define them, so I spend a lot of time dispelling myths and encourage them to ask questions at follow-up visits.”
Thyroid effects in female
The thyroid gland, which plays an important role in regulating the body’s metabolism and growth, secretes several hormones:
- Thyroxine (T4)
- Triiodothyronine (T3)
Thyroid problems can affect female patients of any age.
The functions of the thyroid gland have much to do with a woman’s reproductive system, particularly if the thyroid is overactive or underactive. The effects of this imbalance in hormone levels cause certain changes in women’s bodies, such as:
Puberty and menstruation
Thyroid disorders can cause the abnormally early or late onset of puberty and menstruation. Besides, abnormally high or low levels of thyroid hormone can cause very light or very heavy menstrual periods, very irregular menstrual periods, or absent menstrual periods (amenorrhea).
An overactive or underactive thyroid may also affect ovulation. Thyroid disorders may prevent ovulation from occurring at all. Also, the ovaries are at an increased risk for cyst development if the woman has an underactive thyroid (hypothyroid). Severe hypothyroidism can cause milk production in the breast while preventing ovulation.
Pregnancy and postpartum
Thyroid disorders during pregnancy can harm the fetus and may lead to postpartum thyroid problems, such as postpartum thyroiditis.
Thyroid disorders may cause the early onset of menopause (before age 40 or in the early 40s). Besides, some symptoms of hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid), such as lack of menstruation, hot flashes, insomnia and mood swings may be mistaken for early menopause. Treating hyperthyroidism sometimes can alleviate symptoms of, or the actual onset of, early menopause.
In some cases, however, the thyroid gland does not heal, so the hypothyroidism becomes permanent and requires lifelong thyroid hormone replacement. … The thyroid usually heals itself over several months, but often not before a temporary period of low thyroid hormone production (hypothyroidism) occurs.