Your thyroid is the maestro of your hormone symphony; it is the master regulator of your body.
Could your symptoms be due to a thyroid imbalance? Why are thyroid symptoms so varied and all-encompassing? Why does it seem that an underactive thyroid can cause just about any symptom? We’ll discuss these topics and more in today’s introductory post on thyroid function.
Why Does the Thyroid Affect All of Your Body’s Functions?
First, your thyroid helps the energy powerhouse in your cells – the mitochondria – to function properly. Since the thyroid has this important role in energy production, dysregulation has major downstream ramifications and can affect everything else in your body.
In addition to mitochondrial function, just a few of the thyroid’s functions include:
- Tissue repair and healing
- Controlling blood flow
- Managing protein, fat, and carbohydrate metabolism
- Regulating nutrition and vitamin consumption
- Managing digestion
- Controlling other hormones
The thyroid helps to improve and modulate muscle nerve function, regulates growth, and helps regulate your nutrition and vitamin consumption via your food choices. So your thyroid can affect nutrition and vice versa.
As you can see, the thyroid plays a major role in blood flow, metabolism, digestion, and hormone balance. This role of hormone control is key. For example, high levels of thyroid can feedback and affect insulin and cortisol secretion. Interestingly, low levels can do the exact same thing.
And now it makes sense that the thyroid is the maestro to your hormone symphony. It must be treated delicately and kept in balance with the rest of the symphony.
But what happens when the thyroid does become imbalanced?
Symptoms of Low Thyroid Function
As you’ll see below, there are many symptoms of low thyroid (hypothyroidism), which is usually caused by an autoimmune disease. This disease, called Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, accounts for the vast majority of thyroid conditions in the country.
From this list, you can quickly see how low thyroid function can be confused with pretty much anything else.
- Panic attacks
- Irregular heartbeat
- Muscle spasms
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Elevated cholesterol
- Cognitive decline
- Poor circulation
- Cold hands and feet, or general cold intolerance
- Heart disease
- Decreased sexual interest
- Facial changes (e.g. loss of outer 1/3 of eyebrows)
- Drooping eyelids
- Drooping facial expression
- Excessive wax in the ear canal
- Bruising easily
- Dry skin
- Fat pads over the collar bone
- Fibrocystic breast disease
- Gall stones
- Hair loss throughout the body and sparse hair that is coarse and dry
- Elevated cortisol
- Elevated insulin
- Elevated homocysteine
- Low sugar episodes (reactive hypoglycemia)
- inability to concentrate
- Joint aches and pains
- Iron deficiency (anemia)
- Low body temperature
- Irregular periods
- Morning stiffness
- Muscle and/or joint pain
- Muscle cramps and muscle weakness
- Nutritional imbalances
- Frequent urination at night
- Poor night vision
- Paraesthesia (tingling or burning sensation typically in the extremities)
- Thinning bones (osteoporosis or osteopenia)
- Puffy face
- Sleep apnea
- Slurred speech
- Swollen hands, legs, or feet
- Ringing in ears
- Weight gain
- Yellow skin (from an inability to convert beta carotene into vitamin A)
Test Don’t Guess is the Mantra for Hormones
My purpose in listing out all of the above symptoms is to reinforce the importance of testing. As you can see, symptoms alone are not adequate to diagnose thyroid problems.
Because testing is so critical when addressing all hormones, but especially the thyroid, next week I’ll take a deep dive into what specific tests I run to evaluate thyroid function. Then in the final two posts on thyroid, we’ll talk about low thyroid and elevated thyroid function.
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Take care and be well.
Since 2010, Richmond Integrative and Functional Medicine has been helping people to restore their health and hope with an integrative approach to conventional and alternative medicine that’s entirely science-backed. We at RIFM believe everyone is made for health. We offer a comprehensive, in-person patient membership program to ensure you get access to the care you need to thrive.
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