Your thyroid may be small, but it plays a big role in your health. The thyroid’s activity has a powerful impact on the potential dysregulation of your hormones, the way your body uses energy, to the way it produces heat and regulates mood.
When your thyroid is no longer functioning properly, various symptoms may follow as your hormones and body feel the imbalance. To understand how the thyroid affects your hormones and what thyroid diseases mean for your health, read on where we break down all you need to know about this essential gland.
Understanding the Thyroid
Your thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped organ found on the front of your neck at its base under the larynx. The sides of the thyroid are called lobes that envelop the trachea, and these are connected by tissue called the isthmus.
Part of the endocrine system, the thyroid aids the transport of hormones into the blood and produces the hormones Triiodothyronine (T3) and Thyroxine (T4) using iodine from food. These hormones help control metabolism, improve energy and brain function, and ultimately weight.
The pituitary gland controls the amount of thyroid hormone in the blood, and when it detects insufficient or excess, it adjusts its own hormone, thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), accordingly.
The Thyroid and Hormonal Imbalance
The thyroid’s dominant role in hormonal regulation makes it a key player in your endocrine system. Unfortunately, when T3 and T4 hormone levels are not at optimal levels, it leads to hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism, meaning that an essential component of keeping your hormones in balance is not performing at its best.
Hypothyroidism, also called underactive thyroid, is common and occurs when your body does not produce enough thyroid hormone. As a result of the deficiency, your metabolism slows, leading to weight gain as well as the following symptoms.
- Inability to tolerate cold
- Numb or tingling hands
- Muscle weakness
- Elevated blood cholesterol
- Dry skin and hair
- Heavy menstrual cycles
Women are much more likely than men to develop hypothyroidism, and the disease is found more commonly in people over the age of 60. Part of the reason for this is that women are susceptible to estrogen dominance, which is excess estrogen that encourages the liver to produce more thyroid-binding globulin (TBG). TBG then binds thyroid hormone and limits the amount available for the body. Estrogen dominance negatively impacts thyroid health by hindering T4 from converting into T3, and the symptoms of estrogen dominance and hypothyroidism overlap.
Hyperthyroidism, or overactive thyroid, is when the body produces too much thyroid hormone. A key warning sign of hyperthyroidism is often an enlarged thyroid gland, visible in increasingly severe cases. Hyperthyroidism symptoms in women include the following.
- Weight gain
- Irregular or rapid heartbeat
- Sleep disruption
- Weak muscles
- Hand tremors
- Inability to tolerate heat
While both men and women can suffer from hyperthyroidism, women are anywhere from 2 to 10 times more likely to develop the condition than men.
How to Help Your Thyroid
You can help your thyroid regain balance by following an overall healthy diet with minimal sugar and few processed foods. Nutritionally, there is not a strict diet to follow to regulate your thyroid, ensure you are eating a nutrient dense diet. Keep your inflammation levels down, discover what is driving inflammation in your body. Make sure you keeping your energy levels high and the symptoms of irregular thyroid hormone levels at bay. Consider having a Thermographic imaging of your thyroid gland, thermography is radiation free, and provides very useful information to help restore thyroid health