The thyroid, a gland located below the Adam’s apple and above the neck, is a vital part of the body that most people are not aware of. The thyroid is part of the endocrine system and it releases hormones, which are responsible for regulating the body’s metabolism, heart rate and how fast the body burns calories. The thyroid gland also works to synthesize energy from proteins, carbs, and fats and helps the body regulate energy and heat.
Sometimes an imbalance can occur, due to imbalances with thyroid hormone, and can cause two situations: overactive (hyper) or underactive (hypo) thyroid.
An overactive thyroid, also known as hyperthyroidism, occurs when the thyroid produces more thyroid hormone than the body needs. Some of the symptoms are: nervousness, mood swings, fatigue or muscle weakness, heat intolerance, trouble sleeping, hand tremors, rapid and irregular heartbeat, frequent bowel movements, weight loss and enlarged thyroid gland. Hyperthyroidism is most common in women over 60. Those with other thyroid disorders are likely to develop hyperthyroidism.
The most common reason behind a hyperthyroid is Graves’ disease, Thyroid nodules, benign thyroid tumors or some medications may cause hyperthyroidism.
An underactive thyroid, also known as hypothyroidism, is when the thyroid does not produce enough thyroid hormone for the needs of the body. Hashimoto’s, an autoimmune disease, is the most common cause. Hashimoto’s is when the body’s immune system attacks its own thyroid until it can no longer produce hormones. Just like hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism is most common in women over 60 and those with other thyroid disorders are more likely to develop hypothyroidism.
The symptoms of hypothyroidism are: weight gain, fatigue, puffiness in face, depression, cold intolerance, joint and muscle pain, poor memory, mental fogginess, constipation, thinning hair, dry skin, slowed heart rate, heavy or irregular menstrual periods, fertility issues, and decreased sweating. Because these symptoms vary and the intensity of these symptoms can vary, the condition often goes unnoticed and undiagnosed.
Hypothyroidism is also caused by starvation or yo-yo dieting at a young age; diabetics can also develop hypothyroidism.
What to do if you experience symptoms
If you experience any of the symptoms of hypo or hyperthyroidism or think you have a thyroid problem, you can get the thyroid tested. Normally, doctors will use a test that measures thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) and thyroid hormone output (thyroxine or T4 and triiodothyronine or T3). However, there have been many scientific studies that show TSH is an unreliable indicator of thyroid function. Instead, free T3 and free T4 are more reliable of the status of the thyroid. In addition, thyroid antibodies can be checked for, as well as reverse T3 (a bad version of T3). When speaking with your thyroid doctor about thyroid tests, make sure you request a test that will check the free T3, free T4 and thyroid antibodies.
If you have been tested and found to have either hypo or hyperthyroidism, you can be treated for it by a thyroid specialist. The interesting part about a thyroid disorder is that there are no two that are exactly the same. Your treatment will be tailored to your situation, which might mean you need thyroid hormones or maybe you will need herbal extracts. All in all, the thyroid can be treated and in some cases the condition is reversed.