Your thyroid is a small gland located on the front of your neck, just below your Adam’s apple. Despite being small, your thyroid has an enormous impact on almost every cell in your body. Your thyroid produces several hormones, the two most important are, T3 and T4. Your thyroid hormones control every aspect of your metabolism, including how quickly or slowly you burn calories, the rate of your digestion, your core temperature, heart rate, energy levels and your weight.
In most people, their thyroid gland produces the right amount of each hormone throughout the day. However, sometimes your thyroid can become underactive or overactive, in which your thyroid produces levels of thyroid hormones that are either too low (underactive) or too high (overactive). While an underactive thyroid is more common, many people also develop problems from an overactive thyroid that produces too much hormone. This is called hyperthyroidism and can cause symptoms related to an overactive metabolism. Some of the most common signs or symptoms of an overactive thyroid are a rapid heartbeat, unexplained weight loss, an intolerance to heat and sweating, especially at the base of your neck.
The symptoms of an overactive thyroid can include:
- Weight loss that is unintentional and seemingly unexplained
- Rapid or irregular heartbeat or a pounding heart (palpitations)
- An increased appetite, more frequent bowel movements or diarrhea
- Feeling nervous, anxious, irritable or easily startled
- Tremors, typically in your hands and fingers
- An intolerance to heat, sweating
- Difficulty sleeping or difficulty waking
- Muscle weakness or fatigue
- Thinning hair, fine or brittle hair or thinning skin
- Menstrual cycle changes, fertility issues
- Eye problems, such as burning, sensitivity, bulging, redness or swelling
- A goiter, which is an enlargement of the thyroid gland at the base of your neck
Sometimes the symptoms of hyperthyroidism can act like those of other health problems, which can lead to delays in getting a correct diagnosis. Determining whether or not your thyroid is overactive involves a blood test that measures something called TSH, or thyroid stimulating hormone. If your TSH is lower than normal, it means that your thyroid gland is overactive and suppressing the output of TSH.
Treatments for an overactive thyroid may involve medications that suppress the activity of your thyroid, radioactive iodine to ablate your thyroid or slow the production of thyroid hormones, and in some cases surgery to remove some or all of your thyroid gland.
It’s important to know that once your thyroid levels are within the normal range, it may take time for some of the symptoms to resolve. At BodaHealth, our practitioners are able to help you regain a healthy balance and function during this time through a variety of treatment options. We offer acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, nutritional therapy, vitamin and mineral supplementation and naturopathic medicine. In addition, if your thyroid imbalance has made it difficult for you to become pregnant, our experienced and caring staff are ready to help and support you on your fertility journey.
The bottom line is that while a thyroid imbalance can affect many aspects of your body, it is diagnosable by assessing symptoms and confirming with a blood test (our naturopathic doctor can do this), and it is treatable. If you think you may have an overactive thyroid or if you want more information about thyroid health, please don’t hesitate to call us.
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.