Your thyroid is a small butterfly-shaped gland located at the base of the front of your neck. Despite being small, your thyroid has a big job. It produces thyroid hormones, T3 and T4, which help to regulate your metabolism. Your thyroid affects the function of many of your body’s systems, such as digestion, energy levels, your internal temperature, reproductive hormones, heartbeat and how quickly or slowly you burn calories, to name a few.
Unfortunately, your thyroid can become out of balance. While it can produce too many hormones, most thyroid disorders involve not producing enough of the hormones T3 and T4. Called hypothyroidism, low thyroid levels occur most commonly in women over the age of 50, however they can affect anyone at any age and are a frequent cause of infertility. Often, the symptoms of hypothyroidism aren’t noticeable in the early stages, but if undetected and untreated over time, can cause a myriad of health issues. Some of the most commonly reported symptoms include joint pain, feeling cold, poor energy levels, obesity and infertility.
Often, the early signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism, such as sluggishness, fatigue and an intolerance to cold, will be barely noticed and may be written off as part of the aging process. However, as time goes by and your metabolism continues to slow down, your symptoms may become more obvious and pronounced. Common signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism include:
- Weight gain
- Intolerance to cold
- Infertility, recurring miscarriages, menstrual cycle irregularities
- Fibrocystic breasts
- Low libido
- Joint pain and swelling, muscle cramps, carpal tunnel syndrome, plantar fasciitis
- Fatigue or weakness
- IBS, constipation
- Dry skin, hair and nails or hair loss
- High cholesterol
- High blood pressure
- Elevated liver enzymes
- Depression, anxiety, insomnia
- Poor memory and concentration
- Slow reflexes
There is good news in that it’s very simple to determine if your thyroid is underacting. It involves a simple blood test of something called thyroid-stimulating hormone, or TSH. Ironically, if your TSH is high, it means that T3 and/or T4 are low. That’s because TSH becomes elevated in an effort to get your thyroid to work harder and produce more hormones. Our naturopathic physician at BodaHealth can perform this lab test or your primary care provider can check your thyroid levels. If these blood tests come back normal but you’re experiencing symptoms that relate to a thyroid imbalance, talk to one of our doctors.
Treatment for hypothyroidism often involves a prescription to supplement your thyroid hormones. However, for many people simply getting your thyroid levels right doesn’t mean that the signs and symptoms immediately disappear. At BodaHealth, our practitioners work with patients to support the health of their thyroid and that of their overall well-being. Traditional Chinese Medicine, acupuncture, dietary therapy, cold laser therapy, herbal medicine, naturopathic treatments, vitamin and mineral supplementation and lifestyle changes all play a role in promoting healthy thyroid function.
While low thyroid function may be subtle at first, over time it has to potential to derail your health. The sooner it’s discovered and treated, the better. If you’d like more information on thyroid health, please don’t hesitate to contact us at BodaHealth.
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Dr. Jeda Boughton is a Doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Registered Acupuncturist in Vancouver. She is also a Registered Herbologist and the founder of BodaHealth.