Avoid a Thyroid-Imbalance for Quality of Life

A thyroid-imbalance can disrupt every metabolic function in our bodies. Overproduction of thyroid hormone increases metabolism (hyperthyroidism) and underproduction of thyroid hormone slows metabolism (hypothyroidism). Either is a serious condition and should always be managed by your physician.

Maintaining the delicate thyroid hormone balance is the job of a pea-sized gland located at the base of the skull (the pituitary gland). The pituitary senses the amount of thyroid hormone in the blood. If there is not enough, it releases thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH), which triggers the thyroid gland to make more hormones. When the thyroid levels are restored to normal, the pituitary gland slows its production of TSH back to normal.

A thyroid-imbalance can often cause the person to suffer symptoms of depression. Depression is the most common mental effect of an out of balance thyroid gland. And depression is a common condition seen in general medical practice. The cause of the symptoms is not always recognized or addressed by your physician. This is because depression and anxiety problems can cause the same physical symptoms as thyroid disorder.

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Other things that can mask problems with the thyroid include stress, weight problems and chronic fatigue. Many times the patient doesn’t understand the range of symptoms and fails to communicate them fully to the doctor. Because a thyroid-imbalance is difficult to diagnose, it is very often misdiagnosed. Left untreated, thyroid disease can cause long term complications such as heart disease, muscle weakness, and osteoporosis. If you suspect that you have a thyroid-imbalance, a visit with your physician is needed. You may want to consider seeking the consultation of an endocrinologist.

The thyroid gland is butterfly shaped and is located at the base of the neck below the Adam’s apple. The wings of the butterfly lay on either side of the windpipe. The thyroid gland makes and releases thyroid hormones T3 and T4 into the blood. These hormones affect metabolism in the cells and are critical to the body’s ability to produce energy.

Hypothyroidism is when the thyroid gland is unable to produce enough hormones. This condition slows down all the bodily functions, especially metabolism and reduces the amount of blood available to the cells. Inadequate conversion of T4 to T3 hormones may be due to cortisol (adrenal stress), poor nutrition, and poor liver function, among others. Iodine deficiency is often cited as a common cause of hypothyroidism. Hypothyroidism is sometimes caused by an autoimmune condition called Hashimoto’s Disease. In the case of Hashimoto’s disease, the immune system attacks the thyroid gland, which can cause major and permanent organ damage.

Knowledge is power, when it comes to your health and preventing or dealing with chronic diseases including a thyroid-imbalance. Regarding thyroid disease there are two books that are must reads. The first is Dr Ridha Arem's "The Thyroid Solution." Dr. Pamela Smith’s book, “What you must know about Women’s Hormones,” is also a must read for both women and men (See references and suggested reading below).

Know thyroid-imbalance symptoms

On pages 44 and 45 of her book, Dr. Smith lists more than sixty symptoms of low thyroid production (Hypothyroidism) and on page 55 she lists seventeen symptoms of hyperthyroidism. In addition to depression and weight gain, the symptoms of hypothyroidism can include:

  • High and low blood pressure
  • Anxiety or panic attacks
  • Arrhythmias (irregular heart rhythm)
  • Decreased memory
  • Constipation
  • Brittle nails
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Hypoglycemia
  • High cholesterol
  • Hair loss
  • Insomnia and sleep apnea
  • Inability to concentrate

Our bodies can also produce too much thyroid hormone, which is called hyperthyroidism. The most common cause of hyperthyroidism is Grave’s disease. This is an autoimmune disease where the immune system is attacking the thyroid gland causing it to overproduce thyroid hormone. Taking too much thyroid medication can also cause overproduction of thyroid hormone. In addition to weight loss and Insomnia the symptoms of hyperthyroidism can include:

  • Chest pain
  • Hair loss
  • Heart racing
  • Heat Intolerance (feeling warm all the time)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Muscle weakness
  • Heightened anxiety, irritability, moodiness, or depression

Stress and lifestyle factors such as poor nutrition and lack of exercise play a significant role in whether or not you develop a thyroid-imbalance and to some extent how severe the disease will be. You may be genetically predisposed to developing a thyroid condition, but whether or not you actually develop a thyroid condition may depend on your lifestyle.

Managing stress is a good place to start in preventing or lessening the severity of thyroid disease. Regular exercise is essential for a variety of health reasons including maintenance of thyroid health. Maintaining thyroid health is like a three-legged stool. You have to maintain all three legs. Stress management and exercise are two of the three legs. The third leg is nourishment.

Some antioxidants are essential for maintaining a healthy thyroid gland and an adequate supply of thyroid hormone. These nutrients include the trace elements selenium and vitamins A, B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B6, C and E. Essential fatty acids such as the Omega-3s are important to the health and function of the thyroid and to the brain.

Be sure to consult with your physician before starting any nutritional supplementation program and choose quality supplements. Nutritional supplements do not cure or prevent illness and disease.  They only give the body the extra nutrition it needs to take care of itself!  A healthy lifestyle starts with good nutrition. Refer to the brain food page on this site and pages 327 thru 338 of Dr. Arem's book, "The Thyroid Solution."

In the end it's not the years in your life that count but the life in your years. Abraham  Lincoln

References and suggested reading:

  • "thyroid gland." Encyclopedia Britannica. Encyclopedia Britannica Ultimate Reference Suite. Chicago: Encyclopedia Britannica, 2011.
  • ”Hypothyroidism.” Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia>
  • Ridha Arem, MD, The Thyroid Solution, Rodale
  • Pamela Wartian Smith, M.D., MPH, What you must know about Women’s Hormones, Square One Publishers.
  • Retirement resources

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