It might be a good idea to get your thyroid checked! Thyroid disease incidence has increased significantly over the last few decades. The thyroid is a very sensitive gland; problems there can be a sign that there are problems elsewhere in the body.
Your thyroid is a butterfly shaped gland that sits in the front of your neck. It produces thyroid hormones, which regulate the rate at which most of your body cells function. If you don’t have enough thyroid hormones you may constantly feel tired. If you have too much then you may feel hyped up and anxious.
Thyroid disease can be due to deficiencies in particular nutrients, meaning the body doesn’t have enough materials to make the thyroid hormones and/or convert them into the active form. Kidney and liver disease can also reduce that conversion. Or it can happen if the immune system gets out of whack and attacks the thyroid tissues (autoimmune disease).
Environmental and lifestyle factors can cause an underactive or overactive thyroid in susceptible individuals, for example from exposure to:
Women are more commonly affected by thyroid problems than men, most commonly from an underactive thyroid caused by Hashimoto’s disease, an autoimmune disease . The thyroid produces less and less hormones and you experience increased symptoms of tiredness, weight gain, cold sensitivity, constipation, and depression.
Your doctor will likely check your TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) levels, and if they are within the reference range they check no further. However, if you have a family history of thyroid disease and you have symptoms, further investigations are absolutely warranted. Whilst you might not need medication yet, you want to know if your immune system has already tagged your thyroid as a target. Having your thyroid antibodies checked is a sensible precaution.
What if your thyroid antibody levels are high? If your thyroid and immune system are treated in the early stages of the disease, you may be able to reduce your risk of developing thyroid disease and having to take thyroid medication for the rest of your life. Naturopaths try to identify the triggers of your immune attack on the thyroid, and remove/ treat those triggers. This requires thorough investigation and further testing. Key nutrient levels can be assessed and supplements prescribed to correct any deficiencies. It is important not to self treat your thyroid symptoms as some typical treatments, such as iodine, can actually make things worse in some circumstances.
You are at increased risk of developing thyroid problems if your parents/siblings have thyroid issues or if you already have an autoimmune condition (such as rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, multiple sclerosis, lupus, inflammatory bowel disease, type 1 diabetes).
Early treatment of the immune system and thyroid may help prevent, or at least delay, further health problems. Finding the cause of thyroid problems is a much better long-term health strategy than just waiting for thyroid disease to progress until medication is needed.