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Worried About Your Thyroid? Here's How to Test and Treat It

woman eating nutritious breakfastTime for a pop quiz: which disease affects approximately 20 million Americans? If you said thyroid disease, you would be correct! Most of these cases involve low thyroid function (hypothyroidism); out of those cases in America, 90% are autoimmune. Thyroid issues disrupt your energy, health, and life. Unfortunately, it’s so sneaky that a high percentage of people who suffer from autoimmune thyroid disease are often totally unaware of their condition. Learn about thyroid disease and dysfunction, the signs to look out for, and how you can get yours properly tested and treated.

The Thyroid: Small But Mighty

Located at the base of your neck, the thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped gland that plays a vital part in your endocrine system. The thyroid produces specific hormones, which course through the bloodstream and control metabolic activities, temperature regulation, your breathing and heart rate, and much more. When these hormone levels become too low or too high, you may develop hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism, respectively.

What Is Autoimmune Thyroid Disease?

As you might recall from one of our earlier blogs, autoimmune conditions happen when your immune system begins to mistakenly attack your own body. Autoimmune thyroid disease, therefore, occurs when these attacks are aimed at your thyroid. The two most common autoimmune thyroid diseases include Hashimoto’s disease, a form of autoimmune hypothyroidism, and Graves’ disease, a form of autoimmune hyperthyroidism.

  • Hashimoto’s Disease: The first autoimmune disease to be discovered in 1912, Hashimoto’s disease is one of the most common causes of hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid). Symptoms often include fatigue, pain and stiffness in the muscles and joints, unexplained weight gain, constipation, hair loss, prolonged menstrual bleeding, memory issues, and more. Left untreated, Hashimoto’s disease can lead to heart problems, mental health issues, and other complications.
  • Graves’ Disease: One of the most common causes of hyperthyroidism (an overactive thyroid), Graves’ disease can emerge in a variety of symptoms, including fatigue, tremors, anxiety, bulging eyes, heart palpitations or arrhythmia, thinning hair, unexplained weight loss, and many others. Left untreated, Graves’ disease may lead to heart problems, brittle bones, thyrotoxic shock, and an increased risk for heart disease, congestive heart failure, and stroke.

Signs You May Be Experiencing Thyroid Dysfunction

Since the thyroid interacts and affects numerous bodily functions, it can be difficult to tell if you may be experiencing thyroid dysfunction. Unfortunately, when there’s a problem with your thyroid, you can feel it throughout your whole body. Here are some of the biggest signs that you may be experiencing troubles with your thyroid:

  • Blood sugar problems, which may lead to metabolic syndrome or insulin resistance.
  • Gut problems including poor digestion, constipation, gastric ulcers and leaky gut syndrome.
  • Hair loss, thinning hair, dry skin, and brittle nails.
  • Hot flashes, night sweats, or cold spells.
  • Low energy, daytime fatigue, and trouble with sleeping.
  • Low libido, which may occur in both men and women. Hypothyroidism has also been linked with erectile dysfunction.
  • Mood disorders such as depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder. Additionally, experiencing brain fog, a lack of motivation, or troubles with concentration can be a sign of thyroid dysfunction.
  • Weak bones and decreased bone mineral density, which may lead to fractures or breaks.
  • Weight troubles, including gaining or losing weight without trying or in spite of diet and exercise.

What Causes Thyroid Dysfunction?

Conventional doctors may discover that you’re suffering from a thyroid condition and put you on medication right away. This, unfortunately, won’t solve the problem. Finding and addressing the true root of the problem is the only way to treat and heal from dysfunction. Here are some of the biggest causes of thyroid dysfunction:

  • Artificial sweeteners like aspartame, saccharine, and sucralose. Diet and zero-calorie foods and beverages are often to blame for hypothyroidism.
  • Chronic pain.
  • Chronic stress.
  • Food intolerances, particularly grains, gluten, dairy, and soy.
  • Gut problems like leaky gut syndrome or imbalances in your gut’s microbiome.
  • Hormonal imbalances, especially high levels of estrogen, low testosterone, and insulin resistance.
  • Infections, including bacterial, fungal, yeast, and parasitic. Even dormant viruses can trigger dysfunction.
  • Low levels of vitamin A, selenium, iron, and/or copper.
  • Nutrient deficiencies, particularly selenium, iodine, iron, zinc, and vitamin D.
  • Toxin exposure, especially that to heavy metals.

How Is an Autoimmune Thyroid Disease Diagnosed?

Typically, your general practitioner will conduct a physical exam, look at your medical history, and may order some blood tests if you suspect something is wrong with your thyroid. The reason why conventional doctors tend to miss thyroid issues is that they look at your symptoms alone and may only check for your thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) level and inactive thyroid hormone (T4) level. Unfortunately, they’re missing the full picture, which can lead you down the road to decreased health and quality of life.

When you rely on a functional medicine doctor like the experts at The Wellness Connection, you can expect much more. Functional medicine doctors will order a complete panel to get a full understanding of your hormone levels and will also take into account your lifestyle, diet, and environment. They will work tirelessly to uncover the true reason why you’re experiencing these symptoms and will develop a tailored treatment plan to help you get back on the road to good health.

You can expect the following to be investigated under a functional medicine doctor if you suspect a thyroid problem:

  • TSH
  • Free T4
  • Free T3
  • Reverse T3
  • Any additional advanced testing

How You Can Treat or Prevent Thyroid Dysfunction

We have some good news for you: you can take steps right now to treat, diminish, or prevent thyroid dysfunction and disease! This means addressing your current diet and lifestyle. Here are our favorite tips to help you keep yours happy, healthy, and strong:

  • Get plenty of sleep.
  • Eat whole organic foods.
  • Manage your stress levels.
  • Exercise regularly and avoid a sedentary lifestyle.
  • Take probiotic supplements and eat probiotic-rich foods.
  • Say no to inflammatory foods like refined sugars, unhealthy fats, and processed foods.
  • Avoid toxic exposure by using natural cleaning products, not smoking, and being outside in nature.
  • Work with a functional medicine doctor to identify and address underlying infections in your body.

The Wellness Connection Is Here for You!

Have you not been feeling like your true self lately? Rely on our team of amazing doctors to help you optimize your life! We take a holistic approach to helping you live your best life possible. Call us today at (636) 978-0970 or schedule a virtual or in-person appointment with us!

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