The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland in the lower front of the neck. It produces thyroid hormones (T3 and T4) that impact body temperature, heart rate, and metabolism. It helps cells turn food into energy. Every cell in the body uses thyroid hormone! When the thyroid gland functions properly and produces the right amount of thyroid hormones, it is called euthyroid. However, more than 12 percent of the US population will have thyroid disease sometime in their lives (1). Women are 5-8 times more likely than men to have thyroid problems. Given its influence on health, it’s imperative to understand when it’s not functioning optimally and what to do about it.
Thyroid dysfunction can result in the following:
Hypothyroid: an underactive thyroid where the thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough thyroid hormones.
Hashimoto’s disease: an autoimmune disease where the body starts attacking the thyroid gland, ultimately resulting in low thyroid hormone production. It is the most common cause of hypothyroidism (2). Inflammation of the thyroid gland can initially lead to higher thyroid hormones spilling out in the bloodstream, but as time goes on, thyroid production will decrease.
Subclinical hypothyroidism: normal thyroid hormones (T4 & T3) in the bloodstream but elevated thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) levels are detected (3). High TSH levels indicate an underactive thyroid.
Hyperthyroid: an overactive thyroid where too much thyroid hormone is produced.
Grave’s disease: an autoimmune disease and the leading cause for hyperthyroidism (4). The immune system creates antibodies that bind to thyroid receptors, causing them to overproduce thyroid hormones.
How do you know if you are producing too much or too little thyroid hormones? An excellent place to start is by checking for these symptoms:
- Heavy periods
- Weight gain
- Irregular periods
- Dry skin
- Hair loss
- Feeling cold
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