We've got a question for you—have you given much thought to your thyroid? Truth be told, you may have. Since thyroid disorders are more common than one may think, affecting 12 percent of the U.S. population. Moreover, thyroid-related issues are much more prevalent for women than men. It is estimated that a woman is about five to eight times more likely to be diagnosed with a thyroid condition than a man.1 Unfair, right? Not to mention that when your thyroid isn't functioning properly, it can wreak havoc on your day-to-day causing everything from fatigue and irritability to acne and thinning hair.2
A woman is about 5-8x more likely to be diagnosed with a thyroid condition than a man.
So, it only feels right that we get much more knowledgeable and in sync with our thyroid. Which is why we sought out to understand what it is, what it does in the body, the symptoms to look out for when it's imbalanced, and how we can best be supporting our thyroid health at home. To help answer our questions, we turned to functional medicine provider, Bonni Tromello, MS, RN, NP-C, to break it down.
Keep reading for our guide to understanding your thyroid.
Simply put, what is the thyroid?
To understand your thyroid, you first need to understand the bigger picture: your endocrine system. The endocrine system is made up of the endocrine glands that secrete hormones. There are eight major endocrine glands in the body, but they are considered one system because of their interdependence.3 Meaning, it's important that each gland is functioning properly to support your overall hormonal health.
The thyroid in particular produces hormones that help the body use energy, stay warm and keep the brain, heart, muscles, and other organs working as they should.
"Thyroid hormone is used in every cell in the body to assist cells in making energy," explains Tromello.
But what about when the thyroid isn't working properly?
Tromello explains, "most commonly, the thyroid becomes under-active (hypothyroidism). It can also become overactive (hyperthyroidism)."
When your body makes too much thyroid hormone.
- increased sweating
- heart racing
- hand tremors
- difficulty sleeping
- thinning of your skin
- fine brittle hair
- weakness in your muscles
- frequent bowel movements
- weight loss
- light or infrequent menstrual flow
When your body makes too little thyroid hormone.
- feeling cold
- dry skin
- weight gain
- difficulty in losing weight
- hair loss
- change in hair or skin texture
- loss of hair on the outer third of the eyebrows
- menstrual irregularities
Note, if you notice any of these symptoms, contact your primary care provider so that a blood test can be ordered to check thyroid hormone levels.
What causes an unbalanced thyroid?
"The most common cause for thyroid illness worldwide is iodine deficiency. Although for those with access to iodized salt or produce grown in coastal, iodine-rich soils, it is less of an issue," explains Tromello.
"More typical causes of thyroid illness are stress, either psychologic or physiologic, or situations that trigger the body to make antibodies that attack the thyroid. Antibody production can be triggered by toxic exposures, infection or gluten."
"The most common cause for thyroid illness worldwide is iodine deficiency."
The good news? We formulated our each Perelel daily vitamin pack with iodine to combat thyroid-related nutrient deficiencies.
Finally, what are some ways people can help balance their thyroid?
"Treatment of overactive thyroid can be complex depending on severity," says Tromello. "Treatment of under-active thyroid involves taking thyroid hormone orally to replace what the thyroid is no longer making."
"For Functional Medicine providers like myself, it involves looking for the underlying cause of the problem and seeking to eradicate it. Helpful measures involve stress reduction, encouraging adequate rest, sleep, hydration, movement, sun exposure, and diet counseling. Diet changes involve encouraging a nutrient-dense diet, with lots of plants, high-quality protein, and avoiding processed foods. It can also include recommendations for a gluten-free diet."
Lifestyle Practices to Balance Your Thyroid
- Reduce stress.
- Get adequate sleep and rest.
- Keep your body hydrated.
- Get regular exercise and movement.
- Nourish your body with nutrient-rich foods.
- In some cases, a gluten-free diet may also be beneficial.
- Limit environmental toxins.
Tromello continues: "In cases of autoimmune antibody production, it is very helpful to examine any possible exposures such as mold and chemicals including pesticides, and building materials that might be triggers for this type of reaction. Thyroid illness does not have to be permanent if the underlying causes can be reduced or eliminated."
This article is for informational purposes only. It is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and we recommend that you always consult with your healthcare provider. To the extent that this article features the advice of physicians or medical practitioners, the views expressed are the views of the cited expert and do not necessarily represent the views of Perelel.