This is the first in a series of monthly posts about hypothyroidism. Please feel free to email your thyroid-related questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or post them in the comments section at the bottom of this post and I’ll be happy to answer them.
Before we discuss hypothyroidism, it’s important to understand what the thyroid is and what it does. The thyroid is a large endocrine gland that looks like a butterfly and rests on the vocal chords, just below the Adam’s apple.
The thyroid produces two main hormones – thyroxine and triiodothyronine. Simply put, these hormones control how your body uses energy.
The thyroid has three key functions:
- Regulate cell metabolism by regulating the body to a certain temperature
- Regulate the burning of calories
- Control weight gain or loss
Hypothyroidism, also known as low thyroid function or underactive thyroid, is a condition in which the thyroid doesn’t function properly, which causes a deficiency in important hormones. This can often lead to obesity, which commonly leads to diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and high cholesterol.
80 percent of all thyroid disorders are diagnosed as hypothyroidism. 20 percent are diagnosed as hyperthyroidism, a condition in which the thyroid produces higher levels of hormones than it should.
Hypothyroidism is brought on in large part by our lifestyle and life events – some that we can control, and others that we can’t. It’s much more common in women and the elderly, and more than half of all cases are undiagnosed or misdiagnosed, which is why hypothyroidism is approaching epidemic levels in this country.
Common causes of thyroid problems include but are not limited to:
- Poor nutrition
- Hashimoto’s Disease, which happens when your immune system attacks the thyroid gland, causing inflammation
- Hormonal events, including dieting when a period begins, pregnancy-related issues and menopause
- Prescription drugs
- Major illness
- Eating disorders, including anorexia
- Gluten intolerance
Hypothyroidism is diagnosed, and the cause determined, through a consultation with your doctor, a physical exam and blood test. Mild hypothyroidism may not require immediate treatment, but severe hypothyroidism is likely to require urgent treatment in the hospital in order to avoid a disease called myxedema coma. This can be life-threatening and typically occurs in older adults who are dealing with other illnesses.
There are dozens of symptoms for hypothyroidism, the most common being:
- Difficulty losing weight
- Low energy
- Insomnia, or poor sleep
- Cold hands and feet
- Dry skin
- Muscle pain
- Menstrual problems
- Reduced sex drive
- Brain fog, or clouding of consciousness
- Digestive issues, including constipation
- Thinning or loss of the outside of eyebrows
- Recurring headaches and migraines
- Hair loss
- Weak, brittle finger and toenails
- Overuse of caffeine or other stimulants
The American Thyroid Association recommends that adults over the age of 35, especially women, should be tested for thyroid problems every five years. Those experiencing symptoms for an extended period of time are at greater risk and should definitely be tested if:
- They are older adults, especially women over 60.
- They have a family history of thyroid issues.
- They have rheumatoid arthritis or diabetes.
- They are pregnant.
Like any disease, illness or chronic condition, we take a comprehensive approach to the treatment of hypothyroidism. While many doctors simply recommend Synthroid for thyroid hormone replacement, we take a more holistic approach, including massage therapy, acupuncture, chiropractic care and clinical nutrition counseling. We also make sure you’re doing exercises that are not taxing to the thyroid gland when it’s underactive.
In future posts in our hypothyroidism series, we’ll discuss the various treatment options and leading causes of the disease. Again, if you have a thyroid-related questions, please post it below in the comments section, or email me privately at email@example.com.
Dr. James Proodian is an accomplished chiropractic physician and health educator who founded Proodian Healthcare Family of Companies to help people feel better, function better, and live longer. His expertise for the past two decades has been in physical rehabilitation, and he has successfully established himself as a spinal specialist. In his practice, he advocates the science of functional medicine, which takes an integrative approach to treating patients by addressing their physical, nutritional, and psychological needs. Alarmed by the escalation of complex, chronic illness in our country, Dr. Proodian has been speaking to companies and organizations through his “Wellness at Work” program since 1994, motivating thousands of people to make positive lifestyle choices and lead healthier, more productive lives. He can be heard weekly on his radio program, “Proodian Healthcare By Design,” on Tandem Radio.