Problems with the thyroid are common, especially for women. In the U.S., around 20 million people have a thyroid disorder, and one in eight women will develop a thyroid issue in their lifetime. In addition, about 60% of people with thyroid concerns aren't even aware of the problem. For these reasons, it's essential to learn about your thyroid, types of disorders, and how they are related to a hormonal imbalance.
Like thyroid disorders, hormonal imbalances are common, especially during puberty, pregnancy, menopause, and aging. Women are more likely to experience imbalances with estrogen and progesterone, while men typically have imbalances with testosterone and DHEA.
The thyroid is a gland at the base of your throat that's about the size of a butterfly. Its primary function is to produce and secrete certain hormones. Your thyroid is part of your endocrine system, a network of glands throughout your body. Some of these glands include the pituitary gland and adrenal glands. Both, like the thyroid, produce vital hormones.
Your thyroid gland regulates and improves your metabolism or metabolic rate. Your rate determines how fast your body changes food into energy and burns calories.
If your thyroid gland isn't functioning correctly, every organ and system in your body is affected. A poor function is due to either producing too much thyroid hormone or too little. Hormones are mighty messengers that communicate important directions to your organs, brain, and skin that dictate how well your entire body functions.
Thyroid disorders are classified into two main types. Your thyroid produces the hormones thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). T4 is the primary hormone it makes and releases, but it has less effect on your metabolism. T3 is generated in smaller amounts but impacts your metabolism faster.
Your thyroid makes T3 and T4 by taking iodine, primarily in salt and water, and transforming it into thyroid hormones. Low or high levels of iodine can determine the level of thyroid hormone your body produces.
Hyperthyroidism is a thyroid disorder resulting from an overactive thyroid producing too many hormones. It speeds up your metabolism and causes other problems, such as:
Sometimes, particularly in older people, symptoms can go unnoticed or connected with other symptoms linked to different disorders.
Hypothyroidism is when the thyroid produces inadequate amounts of thyroid hormones to meet your body's needs. The result is painful symptoms that include the following:
Hypothyroidism can develop slowly. For this reason, you may not notice the symptoms for months or even years.
The first step for treating a thyroid hormonal imbalance is to have a blood test that tests for low or high T3 and T4. It also tests for levels of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) released by the pituitary gland. You can order these tests with your doctor or buy an over-the-counter self-administered test. Thyroid tests include taking a small amount of blood and sending it to a laboratory for testing. You'll know whether you have a thyroid disorder in several days. If you do, there are effective thyroid treatments.
BHRT or bioidentical hormone replacement therapy is replacing the missing hormones with the exact ones your thyroid makes. BHRT is a standard and effective treatment for thyroid conditions and other hormonal imbalances.
Thyroid hormone replacement therapy replicates the normal function of your thyroid to replace the missing hormones. People with hypothyroidism should consider this treatment. Thyroid hormone therapy comes in different forms, from table to cream. The exact dose comes from the current level of your hormones, age, weight, and other health factors.
For those with hypothyroidism, common medications include levothyroxine. It's identical to the missing thyroid hormone and can help boost levels. For those with hyperthyroidism, antithyroid medications can be helpful. The common medicines used are methimazole and propylthiouracil.
Beta-blockers can be a part of a treatment plan. While they don't affect hormone levels positively or negatively, they can help with thyroid disorder symptoms.
Another treatment option is radioiodine therapy. This causes the thyroid to shrink and slow down for those with an overactive thyroid.
The most invasive treatment is a thyroidectomy. It's the surgical removal of part or all of the thyroid gland. It's more common for treating hyperthyroidism or those who can't take antithyroid medication.
Since the thyroid uses iodine to generate and release thyroid hormones, consuming a diet higher in items with higher levels of iodine may help. You can also take an iodine supplement. For example, dairy products (cheese, cows milk, and eggs), iodized table salt, and seaweed are high in iodine.
Some research also shows that thyroid disorders may be linked to vitamin D deficiency. The reason is that your body doesn't naturally produce vitamin D and receives it from your body, taking sunlight and converting it to vitamin D3. Vitamin D3 is essential for calcium absorption and healthy bones and skin. Supplementing with a high-quality vitamin D cream will give you all the sunshine vitamin you need.
Hormonal imbalance can come from a variety of sources, but for those with a thyroid disorder, the common reasons are the following:
The connection between the thyroid and a hormonal imbalance can't be stressed enough. While hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism may not be curable, it can be controlled with hormone therapy or the right treatment plan. Speak to your healthcare professional for diagnosis and advice.