January - Thyroid Awareness Month
There are several health themes and events going on this month including Cervical Health Awareness, National Glaucoma Awareness, National Winter Sports Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) Awareness, and Thyroid Awareness month. But I'd like to focus on the latter, Thyroid Awareness.
First things first, where is the thyroid?
This butterfly shaped organ is located in the front of your neck, just below the voice box or Adam's apple in men, and surrounds your trachea or windpipe.
What does it do?
It makes hormones that play a role in several vital bodily functions including metabolism, cholesterol levels, growth and maturation, menstrual cycles, pregnancy, energy, and temperature regulation.
Too much of a good thing
Both T3 and T4 thyroid hormones function to stimulate an increase of basal metabolic rate causing cells to work harder and use more energy. This in turn causes body temperature to rise, increased pulse rate, stronger heart beats, quicker reflexes, and brain maturation and growth are promoted. If there is too much thyroid hormone being produced for too long, such as the case of overactive thyroid or hyperthyroidism, there are several symptoms that can occur including:
hot flashes or sweating; sensitivity to heat
nervousness or hyperactivity
insomnia and restlessness
bulging of eyes
Several things can cause someone to have an overactive thyroid, including having an autoimmune disease (i.e. Graves disease), problems with the pituitary-thyroid axis, or problems with the thyroid itself.
When there is too little thyroid hormone, the body will start to slow down, such as the case with under active thyroid or hypothyroidism. This can be caused by genetic conditions, medication usage, chronic inflammation of the thyroid (Hashimoto's thyroiditis), or lack of iodine in the diet to name a few. Iodine is a trace element that our body is unable to make, but instead gets from the foods we consume. It is a major component of making both T3 and T4 thyroid hormones. In the US, we don't tend to see many individuals lacking iodine due to numerous fortified foods (i.e. dairy products, salt, and bread) and consuming other foods rich in iodine like kelp or seaweed, strawberries and cranberries, navy beans, or yogurt for example. Symptoms of an under active thyroid include:
tiredness or loss of energy
issues losing weight
mental slowness or difficulties concentrating
sensitivity to cold
waxy or dry skin
brittle, dry hair
deep, hoarse voice
The thyroid gland can grow large enough to be easily visible, forming a large bulge in the voice box and Adam's apple region called a "goiter". This can apply pressure to the trachea making swallowing difficult and lead to a hoarse voice. This can be caused by several things including improper iodine intake, chronic inflammation of the thyroid, hyperthyroidism (overactive) or hypothyroidism (under active).
A small percentage of pregnant women, about 10%, may experience postpartum thyroiditis or inflammation of the thyroid after giving birth. This may be attributed to the "baby blues" as women experiencing this may feel very tired and moody. This condition tends to happen in 2 phases, although not everyone will go through both. The first phase occurs within the first fourth months after birth, and can last for up to two months. Women in this phase will experiences some of the signs and symptoms of hyperthyroidism listed above, and this is due to thyroid hormones leaking into the bloodstream from a damaged thyroid. The second phase, occurs between four and eight months after delivery and can last up to a whole year! Women in this phase will now demonstrate signs and symptoms of hypothyroidisim because the thyroid has lost most of its hormones and/or due to the immune system attacking it. Women who have a pre-exisiting autoimmune disease (i.e. Lupus, type 1 diabetes, etc.) are at a high risk of developing this condition.
When should you get checked?
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms above and/or have a family history of thyroid disease, make sure you talk to your medical doctor about getting your thyroid tested. As a chiropractor, our job is to help identify potential thyroid problems, make the proper referrals and testing, and help address your lifestyle and nutrition to promote optimal health. If you have any questions, please feel free to comment below, shoot us an email, or give us a call! Make sure to check out our other blog posts and read up on other health awareness events this month too!
1. How does the thyroid work? National Center for Biotechnology Information - PubMed Health website. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0072572/ Updated January 7,2015. Accessed January 17, 2018.
2. Thyroid disease. Office of Women's Health website. https://www.womenshealth.gov/a-z-topics/thyroid-disease Updated February 6, 2017. Accessed January 17, 2018.
3. Goiter. Mayo Clinic website. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/goiter/symptoms-causes/syc-20351829 Accessed January 17, 2018.