What You Should Know About Thyroid Health
Recognizing thyroid disease is challenging but important. The sooner you recognize signs of a problem, the faster you can get an accurate diagnosis and the customized treatment needed to prevent thyroid disease from causing serious health problems
Thyroid disease can sneak up on you. It may begin with barely noticeable symptoms, or cause common problems like fatigue and weight gain. The longer the disease goes untreated, the higher your risk of developing serious complications, like heart disease or infertility.
If you have questions about your symptoms or thyroid health, connect with Dr. Jelena Petkovic. Meanwhile, here’s a rundown of everything you need to know about thyroid disease, including the most common symptoms and steps you can take to keep your thyroid gland healthy.
About your thyroid gland
Your thyroid gland uses iodine and tyrosine (an amino acid) to produce thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3), collectively called thyroid hormones.
Virtually every cell in your body depends on thyroid hormones. They regulate critical functions, including:
Blood vessel health
Growth and development
If your blood levels of thyroid hormones go above or below the normal range, you’re at risk of thyroid disease.
Symptoms of thyroid problems
You develop different symptoms depending on whether you have hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism:
Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland fails to produce enough hormones. An underactive gland is most often caused by an autoimmune condition called Hashimoto’s disease.
You may also develop hypothyroidism due to thyroid surgery, radiation therapy for head and neck cancers, and as a result of hyperthyroidism treatment.
If you have hypothyroidism, your metabolism slows down and you have symptoms such as:
Sensitivity to cold
Heavy or irregular menstrual periods
An underactive thyroid also puts you at risk of complications, including infertility, an enlarged thyroid (goiter), heart disease, and nerve damage.
Hyperthyroidism refers to an overactive gland that’s producing too many hormones. This condition also frequently occurs due to an autoimmune disease, Grave’s disease. However, an inflamed thyroid gland and hormone-producing nodules may also cause hyperthyroidism.
Hyperthyroidism causes symptoms such as:
Sensitivity to heat
Unintentional weight loss
More frequent bowel movements
Anxiety or depression
Light or infrequent menstrual periods
Without treatment, an overactive thyroid can lead to a goiter, heart failure, osteoporosis, and an eye condition, Graves’ ophthalmopathy. In addition to dry, red eyes, this condition causes double or blurry vision, light sensitivity, and bulging eyeballs.
Diagnosing thyroid disease
Diagnosing thyroid disease begins with a review of your medical history and symptoms along with a physical exam. Blood tests are critical, but identifying your thyroid problem requires more than the standard lab tests typically performed.
We run functional lab tests that detect total T3 and total T4, free T3 and free T4, reverse T3, thyroid antibodies, and thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH), the hormone released by the pituitary gland telling your thyroid when to boost hormone production.
Obtaining this information is the only way to accurately identify your hormone levels and the cause of your symptoms.
Preventing thyroid disease
You can take several steps to lower your risk of developing thyroid disease. For starters, thyroid conditions often have a genetic component. But even if you have a genetic tendency, you can still change the outcome.
Your lifestyle has a direct impact on your genes. The foods you eat, whether you regularly exercise, your emotional and mental health, and exposure to environmental toxins have the ability to turn genes on and off. They don’t change your DNA (your genetic tendency), but they can prevent thyroid disease by activating or deactivating the genes.
To promote thyroid health, you should:
Follow an anti-inflammatory diet
Protect your gut health (with fiber and probiotics)
Not eat raw cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts)
Stop smoking (chemicals in cigarettes disrupt with thyroid gland function)
Avoid sweetened foods and high-fructose corn syrup
Take dietary supplements
Limit processed foods
Avoid endocrine disruptors
Endocrine disruptors are environmental chemicals that affect your thyroid function. The three most common are phthalates (in fragrances and soft plastics), bisphenol-A (BPA), which is primarily in hard plastics, and perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs). PFCs are found in new carpeting, waterproof clothing, leather products, and some nonstick cookware.
Though you may need to monitor your iodine consumption, you should do that under our guidance. Most people don’t have an iodine deficiency. Taking extra iodine when you don’t need it can trigger hyperthyroidism.
Your thyroid hormones control incredibly complex systems that are vital for your health. If you experience any symptoms, don’t wait to get your thyroid function tested. Schedule an appointment with Dr. Jelena by sending a message online or writing to her personally at firstname.lastname@example.org.