The Epidemic of Hypothyroidism
Your thyroid gland. The commander-in-chief of your body. All this power wrapped up into something no heavier than the weight of your average toothbrush. This master gland regulates the energy expenditure for your entire body; your temperature, energy levels, how effectively your burn calories and how easily you are able to lose weight. It influences everything from your metabolism to your mood to your monthly cycle. Virtually every cell in the human body depends on the activity of thyroid hormones. That’s a pretty big deal! Hypothyroidism is on the rise and it is undoubtedly one of the more common conditions that I see in practice. Recent studies indicate that 1 in 10 Canadians suffer from a thyroid condition and of those, as many as 50% are undiagnosed.
A sluggish thyroid may include some of the following signs and symptoms:
Poor memory & concentration
Difficulty losing weight
Feeling tired and sluggish
Carb and sugar cravings
PMS, heavy periods, skipped periods
Feeling cold (may be less prominent in post-menopausal women)
Dry, coarse hair
Thinning eyebrows (outer third)
History of post-partum depression and/or difficulty producing breast milk
What’s causing my hypothyroidism?
That is the million-dollar question. A thyroid issue is not simply a problem with the thyroid itself. It is a symptom of a greater imbalance, which is manifesting itself in the thyroid. If you are able to determine and treat the underlying cause(s), you may be able to improve or restore thyroid function, depending on the severity and how long you’ve had the issue.
Potential causes of hypothyroidism include:
gut flora imbalance/dysbiosis
heavy metals and other hormone-disrupting chemicals
The MOST IMPORTANT thing to know about your thyroid is that your blood work can be “normal” even in the presence of a thyroid issue. There are three reasons for this:
1. Abnormalities in blood work do not show up in the early stages of thyroid disease. Therefore you may already have symptoms but normal lab findings.
2. TSH is often the only thing tested when screening for thyroid dysfunction. This is problematic as you can have normal TSH in some cases of hypothyroidism. A full thyroid panel must be done to effectively rule out a thyroid issue.
3. Reference range. As it stands, a person needs a TSH over 4.2 to be considered hypothyroid (HIGH TSH equals UNDER-functioning thyroid). HOWEVER, 95% of people with a healthy, well-functioning thyroid measure 2.5 or under. In 2005, the National Academy of Clinical Biochemistry (NACB) suggested that the upper limit of the TSH reference range be lowered to 2.5 to reflect these findings. TSH reference range remains to be a debated topic.
The take home message...
If you are exhibiting symptoms of a thyroid problem, get yourself checked. Ask for a full panel and a copy of the results. Consult with a healthcare practitioner who is comfortable delving further into the issue so that you can get back to feeling your best. If you are already medicated for a thyroid issue but still aren't feeling well, there is more that can be done to get you there. Contact us if you'd like to know more.
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