Experiencing any of the symptoms below? It may be time to have your thyroid checked.
Maybe you've noticed that your weight is creeping up but you haven't changed your diet or exercise routine; or perhaps you've been feeling down, teary, snappy, or more frustrated lately and you can't figure out why; and maybe you're feeling like you're always running on empty and your only saviour at the moment is that 3pm coffee and chocolate bar?
I'm seeing thyroid dysfunction in clinic, pretty much every day, and when I hear women complaining of these symptoms (often coupled with things like constipation, hair loss, depression, sensitivity to cold, hormonal issues, brain fog, low libido and dry skin), I usually recommend getting their thyroid checked as these are commonly symptoms of an under-active thyroid.
The good news is that once we know what's going on, women are so relieved to learn why they have been feeling this way, and that there's something they can do about it!
What You Need To Know.
- Thyroid problems are more common (approximately 10x) in women than in men.
- Your pituitary gland produces TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone) which tells your thyroid to produce thyroid hormone. Just checking TSH, which is the initial test your Doctor recommends, is not enough to give you a clear picture of what your thyroid is doing.
- The two main thyroid hormones are T4 and T3.
- T4 is inactive and needs to be converted into T3 which is our active, "go-getter" hormone. T3 boosts our metabolism, keeps our weight down, and improves our mood!
- Even if you were previously told that there's nothing wrong with your thyroid (based solely on your TSH level), if you're still experiencing symptoms, there could still be an underlying issue which can only be determined with more thorough testing.
- The range provided for TSH (0.3-4.0 mIU/L; depending on the lab), is inaccurate and we commonly see people starting to experience symptoms of a sluggish thyroid at levels above 2.5 mIU/L. Ideally, we'd like to see TSH below 2.0 mIU/L.
- I recommend comprehensive thyroid testing which includes: TSH, T4, T3, reverse T3 and thyroid antibodies (to check if you have an auto-immune thyroid disease). This provides a really clear picture of where the problems might be, and how we are going to tackle them.
- Reverse T3 (rT3): the over looked, metabolically inactive hormone that competes with T3 for binding sites, and actually prevents T3 from doing its thing! In my experience, people can produce excessive amounts of rT3 due to chronic inflammation, stress (high levels of cortisol and even adrenal fatigue) and certain nutritional deficiencies. The way I explain it to my patients is that rT3 is produced when your body is trying to put the breaks on, and it's the body's way of trying to slow you down when you're burning candle at both ends. I find it an extremely valuable thyroid marker to check.
- Even if you're taking a medication such as Thyroxine (which is essentially just T4), you can still be experiencing a range of different symptoms, and often what we need to do, is support the body in converting the Thyroxine into the more active thyroid hormone - T3. Sometimes, you may also benefit from taking T3 directly.
- High levels of stress, and in particular our stress hormone, cortisol, can disrupt thyroid function; it stops the conversion of T4 to T3, and essentially hijacks our thyroid hormones. This is why checking TSH alone is not enough!
- Apart from the symptoms listed above, menstrual irregularities such as: anovulation (you don't ovulate), amenorrhoea (period stops), irregular periods, light periods, PMS, infertility and problems falling pregnant, can also be due to thyroid dysfunction.
- Unfortunately, I tend to see a lot of thyroid issues in women after pregnancy (and in particular, multiple pregnancies in quick succession) and most often, this is simply due to the fact that women use up all their important thyroid nutrients for growing and feeding their baby, and without the right supplementation, they end up deficient themselves.
I'm Experiencing Some of These Symptoms - So What Now?
The endocrine system and thyroid gland/hormones can be a complex area to navigate. But as women, we need to listen to our body and if something feels off, make sure we get it checked out (and get a second opinion if you're not getting the answers). I have seen numerous cases where women have been feeling really down and depressed, and if they hadn't had their thyroid investigated, they would have ended up on anti-depressant medications. There's no point suffering with these symptoms, when with the right testing and right approach, the solution can be pretty simple in some cases.
In my next blog, I will speak more specifically about the nutrients our thyroid gland needs for optimal functioning.
If you have any questions about your symptoms, or would like to learn more about what I can offer to help with your thyroid problems, feel free to get in touch with me here.