Thyroid Hormone Imbalance Symptoms – Why You Should Be Aware
Let us continue breaking down into more detail, the major hormones that may cause us women grief throughout our life. The thyroid gland, like all glands that make up part of the endocrine system, is very important and the hormones that it secretes, regulates many important bodily functions. Recognizing thyroid hormone imbalance symptoms is particularly relevant to women, because it is the MOST COMMON endocrine disorder associated with pregnancy. (1)
Remember that hormones are chemical “messengers” in our body and without them, our cells and organs would not operate normally.
There are several types of thyroid diseases and not only can they develop at any point in our life, but WOMEN are at a much higher risk and can lead to other serious health issues.
I take a personal interest in this topic because as part of my blog site, I want us women to at least understand the basics of hormone-related issues that can affect us, so that we can at least be aware when we should see a doctor. And I want to share with you ladies that this topic is very relevant to my personal life, because I possess many of the predispositions which I will explain below.
I have prepared a review of the most relevant and common types of thyroid issues, their causes and the types of conventional medicine available. Changes in lifestyle, most of which involve dietary changes, are also important but I will dedicate another blog post to discuss these options. As you get to know my, speaking of diet is one of my favorite topics!
Basic Anatomy: The Thyroid Gland & Its Counterparts
The thyroid is one of the glands that make up part of the endocrine system and it works together with the brain to control many vital functions. The thyroid works with the hypothalamus and pituitary which are both located in the brain.
I am sure you have heard the expression Adam’s Apple? Well when you see an Adam’s Apple, you are technically looking at someone’s thyroid gland from the outside.
The two main hormones produced by the thyroid, that are released into the blood stream to reach other cells in the body, are:
- Triiodothyronine (T3)
- Thyroxine (T4)
According to Dr Robert Sargis, every cell in the body depends upon thyroid hormones for regulation of their metabolism. The normal thyroid gland produces about 80% T4 and about 20% T3, however, T3 possesses about four times the hormone “strength” as T4.
And important mineral that is utilized by the thyroid to be able to produce these hormones is IODINE. And the thyroid gland is the only gland in the body that can absorb iodine.
The pituitary gland, located behind the bride of the nose, has been nicknamed: Master Gland
Yes, you guessed right, with a name like master gland, the pituitary gland has a very important role. That’s because it controls the following hormone glands:
The hypothalamus, is located at the base of the brain, just above the pituitary. The main role of the hypothalamus is the keep the body at homeostasis.
Although the hypothalamus and pituitary work together, the hypothalamus is in control and signals to the pituitary.
How does the hypothalamus try to achieve homeostasis? It is the mediator between the endocrine system and the central nervous system. When their is an imbalance in the body, it responds by producing and/or releasing the appropriate hormone to regulate the system.
Given such a big role, the hypothalamus releases many hormones and each of them have a very specific role.
For instance, the thyroid releasing hormone (TRH) is produced by the hypothalamus, to signal to the pituitary to produce the thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) which will tell the thyroid to produce T3 and T4 hormones.
The quantity of TSH produced by the pituitary is an indicator of how much hormone the thyroid needs to produce.
Some (their are many) of the bodily functions that the hypothalamus regulates are:
– thirst and appetite
– sex drive
– sleep cycles
– blood pressure
– heart rate
Causes and Symptoms of Thyroid Conditions
1. Hoshimoto Disease
This is an autoimmune disease and is the most common.
It will affect mostly women aged 40 to 60 years old but can affect men and children.
For women, this may cause issues conceiving and/or complications during pregnancy if left untreated.
This type will usually go undetected for a long time and the first sign is usually an enlarged thyroid called goiter. There are many other symptoms, and these are just some:
- pale face
- weight gain
- joint pain
- sensitivity to cold
- weight gain
- enlargement of the tongue
Untreated Hoshimoto Disease
Overtime, this autoimmune disease can lead to permanent hypothyroidism because it will damage the thyroid enough, that the thyroid can no longer produce hormones T3 and T4.
The complications seen with Hoshimoto are very similar to those of hypothyroidism. These complications are listed below, under the hypothyroidism section.
Treatment – Controversial
There is no accepted or fully understood treatment in conventional medicine for hoshimoto.
Two options may be used but their is debate regarding their effectiveness:
- Same medication as hypothyroidism, especially if you have developed it as a result of hoshimoto.
- Low dose Naltrexone (LDN) or LDN Therapy: This is used at a VERY low does because higher doses are used to treat addictions.
2. DIETARY Changes:
– Selenium supplementation or also found in natural food sources such as brazil nuts.
– Gluten free diet.
– Phoebe Lapin’s food based approach.
Diet or lifestyle changes that you can make to help with Hoshimoto and/or hypothyroidism is discussed in my subsequent blog post. There is a lot of information and therefore I wanted to make this a seperate source of detailed information. I really recommend you read it if you have a predisposition for hypothyroidism and/or you have been diagnosed.
This illness is when you have an under active thyroid, because it is not secreting enough hormone levels to keep up with its function.
This disease usually develops later on in life, particularly in women over age 60, but there are other related causes which are:
- having birthed a baby in the last 6 months
- family history
- over 60 years old
- have an autoimmune disorder such diabetes and/or celiac
- have had radiation to your neck
- have had thyroid surgery
- taking medications for hyperthyroidism
In my personal situation, my mother and brother have hypothyroidism, I am female, and I have celiac disease. My mother developed hypothyroidism after she gave birth to me (post-partum thyroiditis which is discussed below).
In many cases, the symptoms develop very gradually and go unnoticed, until the fatigue and weight gain become more apparent.
If you have any of the predispositions and/or have been feeling over tired and gaining weight, consult your doctor. Diagnosis can be easily done by measuring the level of hormones with a blood test.
There are many possible consequences to hypothyroidism. Here are some, but not all of these possible consequences:
- pituitary disorder
- congenital disease for newborn baby
- iodine deficiency
- serious complications during pregancy
- heart problems
Will usually involve taking synthetic medication to stabilize hormones which will also result in regulating the weight, fatigue and other symptoms.
Hoshimoto Disease vs Hypothyroidism – Is their a difference?
There is a BIG difference between the two:
Hoshimoto is an autoimmune disease which means that the thyroid gland is not the issue but your immune system is the cause.
The immune system attacks the thyroid which ultimately leads to the thyroid also being damaged and not producing enough T3 and T4 as is seen in hypothyroidism.
In hypothyroidism, the cause is the thyroid gland from the beginning to the end.
Someone can have hoshimoto without having hypothyroidism but often hoshimoto eventually leads to hypothyroidism.
- In most instances, hoshimoto is misdiagnosed as hypothyroidism. Why is this?
The TSH blood test does not tell the whole story. Remember, the TSH is the thyroid stimulating hormone released by the pituitary and this will not identify the root cause.
For hoshimoto, measuring the level of antibodies called thyroid peroxidase in the blood and/or taking a biopsy of the thyroid gland would be the best way to diagnose it.
Ladies, DIAGNOSIS IS KEY. The treatments are completely different so if you experience symptoms, ensure your doctor does a thorough assessment.
3. Post Partum Thyroiditis
Like Hoshimoto, this is an autoimmune disease which is categorized as inflammation of the thyroid gland as a result of pregnancy.
There can be TWO PHASES:
Phase 1: Takes place between month 1 and 4 after delivery and has symptoms similar to hyperthyroidism.
Phase 2: Takes place between month 4 and 8 after delivery and has symptoms similar to hypothyroidism. This phase can last from 6 to 12 months.
Because this is an autoimmune disease of the immune system, having other autoimmune disorders puts women at a higher predisposition.
There is strong evidence that women who develop postpartum thyroiditis had the presence of anti-thyroid peroxidase antibodies (TPO-Ab) prior to or during pregnancy. (1)
Thyroid peroxidase is a key enzyme for the synthesis of thyroid hormone.
Screening and Prevention
There has been recommendations made for universal screening of TPO-Ab for pregnant women given this is a high indicator of predisposition and development. Since however, there is no strong evidence that treatment or supplements can prevent the development, this universal pre-screening has not been accepted. (1)
Given many women fall pregnant when they are in the postpartum phase, the thyroid hormones are still in a state of fluctuation. If this happens, women who have been diagnosed as TPO-Ab positive or have an autoimmune disorder, they should be screened for TBO-Ab. (1)
So if I am blessed to have any children, chances are high for me and I would ask my doctor to be monitored. Due to genetic predisposition, I may be TBO-Ab positive.
This often goes undiagnosed because the symptoms are similar to postpartum blues or depression.
The type of medication will depend on what phase you are in.
In some cases, postpartum thyroiditis goes away naturally; approximately 12 to 18 months after symptoms develop.
Just like hoshimoto, postpartum thyroiditis can lead to permanent hypothyroidism.
This illness is when you have an overactive thyroid, because it is secreting too much hormone.
This illness is harder to diagnose because the symptoms can also mimic other illnesses and older patients may have little or no symptoms.
Some related causes are:
- Grave’s disease
- Plummer’s disease
- Post Partum Thyroiditis
The most common symptoms to be aware of are:
- rapid or irregular heart beat
- unexplained weight loss
- increased appetite
- pounding heart
- difficulty sleeping
- weak and fatigued muscles
- brittle hair
- sweating and sensitivity to heat
- changes in menstrual cycle
- fine trembling of fingers and hands
If you have any concerns because you experience some of these symptoms, consult your doctor. Diagnosis can be easily done by measuring the level of hormones with a blood test and conducting a physical exam.
Can have serious complications if not diagnosed. Some of these complications are:
- Heart problems that can lead to stroke and/or heart attack.
- Brittle bones
- Eye problems that can lead to vision loss. This occurs in conjunction with Grave’s disease.
- Thyrotoxic crisis which requires immediate medical attention. You will recognize this because it is an INTENSIFICATION of your symptoms that cause fever and possible delirium.
There are different types of treatments. Three of these involve taking medications and this will depend on multiple factors such as:
- underlying cause
- personal preference
The LAST treatment option which will be conducted in very specific situations is surgery. Surgery involves the removal of most of the thyroid gland and this can have risks including damage to vocal cords. Medications will be required for the remainder of your life after surgery.
5. Thyroid Nodules
Thyroid nodule is the swelling of a part of the thyroid gland. You can have one or several nodules. They can often be felt or seen by the patient but in some cases requires doctor and/or diagnostic imaging.
The nodules can be empty or filled with liquid or blood. In most cases, they are non-cancerous.
Statistic suggest that 4x as many women develop thyroid nodules than men. (2)
- Can lead to hyperthyroidism.
- Difficulty breathing because of size of nodule.
Can be medication or surgery.
6. Thyroid Cancer
Like other cancers, develops with cancerous cells of tissue. In rare cases, is thyroid cancer the result of a thyroid nodule.
Statistics suggest that: (3)
- 3x as many women develop thyroid nodules than men; and
- By 2020, the number of women with thyroid cancer is expected to double, from 34,000 women to more than 70,000 women.
According to research conducted by the National Cancer Institute, thyroid cancer is more common in women who:
- Are between the ages of 25 and 65
- Had radiation therapy to the head or neck, especially in childhood, to treat cancer
- Have a history of goiter (inflammation of thyroid)
- Have a family history of thyroid cancer
The most common treatment is surgery.
Knowledge and Awareness Are Key
I am very happy if you took the time to read this whole article. In all honesty, it took me hours to write because the information is everywhere and their are so many sites available.
I put together the information that I felt gives a full general perspective of the main thyroid issues, so that you could find it all on one page, in a concise and logical order.
Of course, their is MUCH more information regarding these diseases and if you do not understand anything I wrote, or do not find what you were looking for, I would be more than happy to try to resolve those concerns, by looking for more information or statistics.
As always, send me a message below with comments or feedback so I can learn how to adapt my content better to my followers because without you, I am serving no purpose and I am definitely not helping my community of women!
Till next time ladies.