With so many of us struggling to fulfil our day to day duties we often worry it could be something more sinister with our health. Before jumping into any conclusions, ask yourself could it be your thyroid?

May is Thyroid awareness month and this is a great time to get better acquainted with your thyroid gland.

So what does the thyroid actually do?

The thyroid gland is a great example of the phrase ‘size doesn’t matter’. It is a tiny gland situated in the throat that collects iodine from the food we consume to manufacture thyroid hormones (thyroxine and triiodothyronine). These hormones enter the body to help with the metabolism by converting oxygen and calories into useable energy for the body.

What can upset the thyroid?

The body is a very resilient system of complex processes that never stops working, but there are times that continued stress, poor dietary choices and lifestyle habits can disrupt the healthy functioning of the thyroid. At first the thyroid will do its best to overcome this disruption, but if this is continued the thyroid will lack the resources it needs to function optimally.

As with any hormone in the body there are regulating factors that keep the thyroid in check. If other hormones are ‘out of balance’ then the thyroid will struggle to manufacture the hormones the body needs.

The HPA (hypothalamus, pituitary, adrenals) axis is a system that is significantly affected by stress. Continuous release of cortisol and adrenaline from the adrenals can lead to burn out and this axis is then misaligned. In turn, normal hormonal functioning of the body gets impeded.

What are symptoms the body presents if the thyroid is not working optimally?

Depending on the circumstances the person is experiencing and other factors, the thyroid function can become over-active (Hyperthyroidism) or under-active (Hypothyroidism). In Chinese medicine we divide this as being a yin deficiency and a yang deficiency, respectively. It’s important to understand that each modality of health with address this concerns differently and as a Chinese medicine practitioner I can only share what we as a profession understand is the best approach when treating a thyroid that needs nurturing.

Hyperthyroidism

  • Sudden weight loss
  • Rapid Heart Rate
  • Increase appetite but no weight gain
  • Restlessness, irritated, nervous
  • Sweating
  • Fatigue
  • Feeling Hot
  • Heat in the palms, soles of feet and chest
  • Stool changes
  • Enlargement of thyroid (this would occur later in the development of the disease

Hypothyroidism

  • Weight gain
  • Infertility
  • Feeling cold
  • Fatigue
  • Hair loss, thinning of hair
  • Dryness of the skin
  • Depression, flat, unmotivated
  • Constipation
  • Joint pains, muscle aches
  • Puffiness in the face

As with everything I don’t encourage you to be doctor Google as these symptoms can also mean something else. It is important to have a blood test to check TSH, T3, T4 levels as this will identify the level of functioning of the thyroid gland.

It is important to understand the impact your diet and lifestyle has on your health and in actual fact you have more power over your health than you may think. Of course genetics play a part but it’s not as big as your choices you make day to day. It is very easy to get caught up with life and its expectations we place on them but remember that life is here to be enjoyed and in essence our belief and perception of what we want our life to be will trickle into the state of health we have.

Let me know if you have any comments on this topic or if you would like to know other topics to be covered in our blog posts.

Yours in Great Health,

Irene