Your thyroid plays a critical role in brain health and in turn, can significantly impact your mood and mental health.
The Thyroid & Brain Connection
Thyroid hormones regulate metabolism in every organ of the body, including the brain. Thyroid hormones are important for brain growth and tissue retention. When thyroid hormone is low, it can affect your memory span and ability to concentrate.
One of the most common symptoms of hypothyroidism is brain fog or difficulty thinking clearly. Inflammation and weakening of the blood-brain barrier because of limited thyroid hormone availability is typically the cause.
The Link to Depression
Clinical depression is a mood disorder in which feelings of sadness, loss, anger, or frustration interfere with everyday life for a longer period of time.
Experts believe that many depressed people have undiagnosed thyroid dysfunction as the underlying cause or major contributor to their depression that is not detected by standard thyroid tests.
The dysfunction present with these conditions includes reduced T4 to T3 conversion and reduced uptake of T4 into the cell, which blocks the thyroid effect and is an indicator of reduced transport of T4 into the cell and across the blood-brain barrier.
In fact, a 2012 study published in the Journal of Thyroid Research states that those with a thyroid condition are more likely to develop depression or suffer depressive states than those with normal thyroid levels.
With over 4000 patients, The Star*D Report is the largest trial comparing antidepressant effectiveness for depression. It found that 66% of patients fail to respond to antidepressants or have side-effects severe enough to discontinue use. Of those who do respond, over half will relapse within one year.
The trial found that T3 was effective even when other medications — such as citalopram (Celexa), bupropion (Wellbutrin), sertraline (Zolft), venlafaxine (Effexor), or cognitive therapy – were not. It was shown to be 50% more effective, even with the less than optimal dose of 50 mcg, under direct comparison with significantly fewer side effects than commonly used therapeutic approaches with standard antidepressants.
The Link to Anxiety
Hyperthyroidism – an overactive thyroid – can cause symptoms of anxiety-like high heart rate, high blood pressure, palpitations, anxiety, insomnia, tremors, diarrhea, lack of menstrual periods, loss of appetite, and weight loss. The most common cause of hyperthyroidism is the autoimmune condition known as Graves’ disease, where the immune system causes the thyroid to produce antibodies that stimulate the thyroid to produce too much hormone.
In some cases, multinodular goiter — an enlarged thyroid with nodules — can also cause the thyroid to release excessive amounts of thyroid hormone.
Surprisingly, the opposite problem — the underactive thyroid condition known as hypothyroidism — can also cause anxiety and seemingly hyperthyroid symptoms in a subset of thyroid patients. Some patients with Hashimoto’s disease – the autoimmune disease that causes the slow destruction of the thyroid gland by antibodies — also go through temporary periods of hyperthyroidism as their gland slowly becomes less functional. Hyperthyroidism can also be a transient phase for women who develop thyroid problems after childbirth (postpartum thyroiditis).
The Link to Bipolar Disorder
Research also shows that there is a possible connection between bipolar disorder and thyroid dysfunction.
Bipolar disorder is characterized by alternating periods of elation and depression.
Kelly T et al. investigated the effectiveness of T3 for the treatment of bipolar disorder in patients who had failed to adequately respond to an average of 14 medications used to treat their bipolar disorder. The medication was found to be well-tolerated and 84% experienced significant improvement and 33% had full remission.
The Link to Energy Levels
Thyroid hormones are critical to metabolic function and regulation. Poor thyroid function means a reduction in metabolic activity, which can contribute to severe fatigue. This is because thyroid dysfunction can inhibit the body’s ability to use fatty acids, meaning that fat cannot be effectively broken down and dispersed as fuel for other cells.
The interconnectivity is incredibly complex, especially when it comes to the thyroid. Specific thyroid conditions such as Hashimto’s Thyroiditis, which can significantly impact mental health.
Moreover, the variety of symptoms associated with thyroid dysfunction such as chronic pain, headaches, and more can also take a toll on one’s mental health.
If you feel like you are suffering from mental health issues, please contact a member of Holtorf Medical Group today. Our reliable team of doctors will not just treat your symptoms, but address the underlying root cause.