Did you know that more than 12% of the US population will develop a thyroid condition during their lifetime? An estimated 20 million Americans are living with some form of thyroid problem, and unfortunately, up to 60% of them are unaware of their condition. When patients are not diagnosed, they are at risk for certain serious conditions including cardiovascular diseases, osteoporosis, and infertility.
It’s high time that we raise awareness about the importance of the thyroid gland and what we can do to support it.
And guess what? Your gut and thyroid work closely together. When one isn’t working well, neither can the other one. Many gut symptoms in fact, like low stomach acid, food intolerance, and bacterial imbalance, can be caused by a thyroid imbalance.
Let’s dig into this together.
What is the thyroid & what’s it do?
The thyroid gland is a 2-inch long butterfly-shaped gland located in the middle of the lower neck. Despite its small size, it produces hormones that affect every cell, tissue, and organ of the body. These hormones control metabolism–the chemical processes in your body that break down what you eat to make energy.
I will give you a simple explanation of how thyroid hormones affect your metabolism. Your thyroid gland actually produces three hormones: Thyroxine (T4), Triiodothyronine (T3), and Calcitonin. We will not be focusing on Calcitonin, but this hormone is responsible for the formation of bones. T4 and T3, on the other hand, are what most people call the “thyroid hormones,” which are manufactured by the thyroid gland using the building blocks iodine (a trace mineral) and tyrosine (an amino acid).
T4 and T3 cannot be released to the bloodstream unless there is a stimulus from the brain, particularly from the pituitary gland–that pea-sized body connected to the base of the brain, the major endocrine gland responsible for your body’s growth and development as well as the functioning of other glands such as the thyroid. So this pituitary gland will release a so-called Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) which tells the thyroid gland to release thyroid hormones into your circulation. Once they’re out, they act on every cell in your body to increase cellular activity, converting food into energy–this is metabolism. These hormones can affect how fast your heart beats, how deep your breath goes, and whether you gain or lose weight.
Here’s the more challenging part. Your thyroid gland can be overactive (hyperthyroidism) or underactive (hypothyroidism).
Hyperthyroidism symptoms include nervousness, tremors, irritability, heat intolerance, racing heartbeat or palpitation, an increase in appetite, frequent bowel movement, etc. Hypothyroidism manifests as fatigue, weakness, cold intolerance, depression, muscle cramps, weight gain, loss of appetite, constipation, etc.
If you are experiencing these symptoms, you may have an underlying condition that needs to be checked out by your doctor. For example, growths, either malignant or benign, can form on the thyroid gland and can affect its normal function. Your immune system can start attacking your thyroid tissue (autoimmune condition: Hashimoto’s or Grave’s) resulting in loss of function. There are a variety of diet and lifestyle factors that influence proper thyroid function (like stress, diet, sleep habits, and more) so diet and lifestyle is almost always part of the solution to balancing out thyroid function as well. We’ll dig into that next week as well as what foods to eat and what to avoid to promote thyroid health. Stay tuned!
It is my passion is to work with people like you whose health symptoms–like low energy, gut/digestive issues, excess weight, mood imbalance, chronic infections, and skin & sleep problems–are getting in the way of you living life fully and with a sense of freedom in your body. I help you to regain your health so you can feel great and free to enjoy life fully.
Until next time, I’m wishing you unstoppable health!