January is Thyroid Awareness Month, making it a good time to recognize the importance of the thyroid, how to take care of it, and when to consult your doctor about possible thyroid-related symptoms.
Importance of the Thyroid
The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland located in the neck that plays a crucial role in overall health and wellness. The thyroid affects metabolic activity, energy levels, the heart, and bones, and can influence every function and organ in the body to some degree.
The thyroid works in relation to the pituitary gland and the hypothalamus. The three work in a feedback loop to keep hormones in balance. These thyroid hormones can have an influence on most organ functions.
How to Support Your Thyroid
One in eight women will experience thyroid problems in their lifetime, according to the Office of Women’s Health. While the most common causes of thyroid problems are autoimmune conditions, there are steps you can take to support your thyroid and its various functions:
- Make sure your body is getting the nutrients it needs: Low levels of iron, zinc, selenium, vitamin E, B vitamins, and iodine can potentially lead to thyroid issues.
- Properly manage stress: High stress levels lead to the release of cortisol, the stress hormone, which can suppress the release of thyroid hormones.
- Avoid fluoride toxins: Fluoride disrupts thyroid hormones and can impact the overall function of the thyroid.
- Avoid heavy metal toxins: Heavy metal toxins have been linked to thyroid disease and thyroid cancer.
- Avoid Goitrogens: Goitrogens are substances that occur naturally in certain foods, can cause the thyroid gland to enlarge, which is called a goiter. Goitrogenic foods can also function like an anti-thyroid drug and slow down the thyroid and make it under-active. The main goitrogenic foods are cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, kale, and cabbage, among others, as well as soy foods.
- Avoid gluten and wheat: A subset of autoimmune thyroid patients have dietary-triggered autoimmunity, due to celiac disease, or a wheat/gluten intolerance. For these patients, going on a gluten-free diet may eliminate antibodies, and cause the remission of their autoimmune thyroid disease.
When to Talk to Your Doctor About Your Thyroid
In order to know if it is time to get your thyroid tested, it is important to recognize the symptoms of thyroid disorders. Below is a list of symptoms for hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism, two of the most common thyroid disorders.
Hyperthyroidism is the term for an overactive thyroid and too much hormone production occurs. Symptoms include:
- Heart palpitations, rapid heartbeat
- Weight loss
- Heat intolerance
- Muscle weakness
- Sleep problems
Hypothyroidism is far more common and occurs when the thyroid is sluggish and produces too little thyroid hormone. Symptoms include:
- Unexplained weight gain
- Dry skin and hair
- Hair loss
- Muscle aches and weakness
- Heavy or irregular menstrual periods
- Cold intolerance
Thyroid disorders are common but often misdiagnosed. Approximately 20 million Americans suffer from some form of a thyroid disorder, according to the American Thyroid Association. However, up to 60% are unaware they have a thyroid issue or have been misdiagnosed with another condition. To learn more about when to consult a doctor about your thyroid, read our article, When is the Best Time to Have Your Thyroid Levels Tested.
At Holtorf Medical Group, our doctors are trained to provide you with cutting-edge testing and innovative treatments to properly diagnose and treat your autoimmune thyroid disease, optimize your health, and improve your quality of life. If you think you are suffering from thyroid dysfunction, contact us to see how we can help you!