Weight gain, fatigue, and brain fog? It could be thyroid imbalance, although there are a number of causes for these symptoms! Below you’ll find out how the thyroid works, the key signs and symptoms of thyroid imbalance, and the need for further investigation to find the root cause of your symptoms.
The thyroid gland is an endocrine organ located within the neck, it lies just below your voice box and is shaped like a butterfly. It is responsible for many physiological functions including growth, development, metabolism, and energy production. It influences every tissue and organ system in the body and when there is a thyroid imbalance it can cause body-wide symptoms.
The entire endocrine system is an intricate communication system for the body. The hormones act as messengers to and from specific tissues, to relay updates on the state of the environment throughout the body. The endocrine system is composed of the pineal, hypothalamus, pituitary, thymus, thyroid, parathyroid, adrenal, pancreas, and gonads (ovary, testes).
The thyroid gland is just one piece of this whole system that is constantly in communication with every other part. Specifically, we think of the thyroid as being closely tied to the adrenal glands and gonads. These three make up a balanced triangle, and when any one of them is not optimally functioning it can tug on the others to pick up the slack. This makes it more difficult at times to tease out which organ is really at the root of the problem. The thyroid is commonly the culprit for a number of symptoms, but it is not always found to be guilty.
How the Thyroid works:
As stated above, the thyroid gland controls body wide metabolism. It produces three thyroid hormones:
- Diiodothyronine (T2)
- Triiodothyronine (T3)
- Thyroxine (T4)
The thyroid gland produces mostly T4, which is then converted to T3 in the liver and peripheral tissues. T3 is the active form of thyroid hormone, that signals your cells DNA to activate specific genes. T2 is not well understood in its action.
Symptoms that may indicate thyroid imbalance:
Because all hormones communicate with one another and the thyroid hormone acts on all body tissues, we can see body wide symptoms.
|Fatigue, lack of energy||Anxiety|
|Depression, low mood, lack of motivation||Palpitations|
|Weight Gain or difficulty losing weight||Restlessness|
|Brittle Nails||Weight loss|
|Low basal body temperature||Trembling|
|Intolerance to cold temperature||Intolerance to warm temperature|
|Brain Fog||Exopthalmos – protruding eyes|
Labs to look at when considering thyroid imbalance:
Your doctor will likely want to check your thyroid hormone levels if you are experiencing a number of the signs and symptoms related to thyroid imbalance. The most common tests include:
- TSH: Thyroid Stimulating Hormone, produced by the pituitary gland, tells the thyroid to make and secrete more hormone.
- High level: indicates under active thyroid
- Low level: indicates overactive thyroid
- High or low levels of TSH can also indicate an issue higher up in the pituitary or the hypothalamus.
- Free T3: Active form of thyroid hormone.
- Free T4: Inactive form of thyroid hormone.
- Free hormone levels indicates the amount of hormone available for action in the tissues. Whereas total T3 or T4 indicates the amount of hormone that is free (active) plus the amount that is bound up by proteins (not active).
- Comparison of FT3 and FT4 is important to get a sense of where there may be an issue – be it low levels of production, low conversion rate from T4 to T3, etc.
- Thyroid Antibodies: Presence of antibodies indicates that there is an autoimmune process happening.
Treatment of thyroid imbalance:
Treatment is highly dependent on the signs and symptoms, lab values, and further work up of other potential endocrine issues. Your Naturopathic Doctor will best be able to evaluate your whole picture to address the root cause of your thyroid imbalance. Every case is different and the individualized approach is imperative to healing.
We use many tools to rebalance the endocrine system including nutrition, herbs, homeopathy, natural supplements, vitamins and minerals.
If you experience thyroid imbalance or any other endocrine dysfunction, come see us at Richmond Natural Medicine and we will offer natural solutions that support you and your body to regain balance. You can book an appointment by calling (804) 977-2634.