Have you been told your thyroid is messed up? You’re not alone — about 20 million Americans currently have thyroid disease, and the vast majority are women. The American Thyroid Association has found that women are 5 to 8 times more likely than men to have thyroid issues. One in eight women will develop a thyroid disorder at some point. Even if you haven’t been diagnosed with a thyroid condition, that doesn’t mean your thyroid is healthy. Up to 60 percent of those with thyroid disease are unaware of their condition. But let’s back up. What does the thyroid even do?
What Does the Thyroid Do?
The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland that covers the windpipe on the front and sides. It’s an influential component of the endocrine system, as it produces hormones that control the entire body’s metabolism. But the thyroid doesn’t work alone.
Thyroid activity begins in a structure called the hypothalamus in the brain. The hypothalamus secretes a hormone called thyrotrophin-releasing hormone or TRH. This hormone signals the pituitary gland to release a hormone you’ve probably heard of: Thyroid-Stimulating Hormone or TSH. This hormone stimulates the release of actual thyroid hormones thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). To do this, the thyroid needs a couple of nutrients. The first is the amino acid tyrosine. The second is the trace mineral iodine.
There’s much more T4 hormone than T3 in the body — about 50 times more. But T3 is the active form that directly impacts metabolism, body temperature, healing, mental state, etc.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) acknowledges its significance:
“The thyroid is small but powerful. It affects your weight and nearly every organ in your body—your brain, your heart, lungs, and even your skin. When your thyroid produces too much or too little hormone, it can cause big health problems.”
Clearly, then, the thyroid is a significant gear in the Swiss watch that is the human body. Unfortunately, thyroid conditions are becoming more and more common these days. According to the American Thyroid Association, “More than 12 percent of the U.S. population will develop a thyroid condition during their lifetime.” Which conditions make up thyroid disease? Here are some more common thyroid problems:
Some Common Thyroid Conditions
- Goiter — Irregular growth of the thyroid gland. A goiter can be an enlarged thyroid or may be created by irregular cell growth, forming lumps (nodules) in the thyroid. A goiter may not impact thyroid function at all. Or it could increase or decrease thyroid hormone production.
- Thyroid nodules — Solid or fluid-filled lumps that form within your thyroid.
- Thyroiditis — Swelling or inflammation of the thyroid gland that can lead to over- or under-production of thyroid hormone.
- Hypothyroidism — Refers to an underactive thyroid. This means the thyroid gland doesn’t make enough thyroid hormones to meet the body’s needs. Hypothyroidism can slow your metabolism, causing weight gain and low blood pressure.
- Hashimoto’s thyroiditis — An autoimmune disease that causes your thyroid to make too little thyroid hormone. It’s caused by the body making antithyroid antibodies, slowing function.
- Hyperthyroidism — Refers to an overactive thyroid. In other words, the thyroid gland produces too much thyroid hormone. Hyperthyroidism can speed up your body’s metabolism. This can lead to unintentional weight loss and a rapid or irregular heartbeat.
- Graves’ disease — Another autoimmune disease that leads to excess thyroid hormone.
- Thyroid cancer — A disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the thyroid tissues.
If thyroid conditions are left untreated for too long, they can even lead to medical emergencies. Severely low thyroid can lead to a myxedema coma. There are some indications things are taking a turn for the worse. A severely low body temperature and swollen tongue are bad signs. Extreme lethargy can even turn into a coma. A severely high thyroid, when untreated, can lead to a thyroid storm. This condition has the opposite effects of myxedema coma: a high fever, a racing heart, and agitation. A high thyroid may also lead to a coma if the body starts shutting down.
High vs. Low Thyroid Symptoms
Having thyroid hormone levels that are too low or too high can cause problems throughout the body. How do you know if you’re low or high? Look at the following two lists of symptoms and see which one resonates. Then get tested! You need to know whether you truly have a deficiency or excess or whether you have conversion or clearing problems. It’s also possible to fluctuate between the two when the body is under stress. That’s why testing and re-testing is so important.
Symptoms of Hypothyroidism (“Low Thyroid”)
When thyroid hormones start to plummet, the result may be a variety of symptoms. Many body systems are impacted, including the circulatory system, reproductive system, metabolism, skin, central nervous system, and emotions.
- Low blood pressure
- Weight gain or loss
- Cold intolerance
- Muscle weakness
- Joint pain
- Hair loss
- Dry skin/itchy skin
- Difficulty concentrating
- Poor memory
- Heavy/irregular periods
- Lack of focus
- Impaired memory
- Fluctuations in heart rate
- High cholesterol
Essentially, most things are low and slow.
Symptoms of Hyperthyroidism (“High Thyroid”)
When thyroid hormones rise to excessive levels, opposite symptoms tend to occur. Again, many systems of the body are affected.
- Generally elevated stress
- Racing heart
- High blood pressure
- Decreased blinking
- Thinned hair
- Moist skin
- Increased metabolic rate
- Heat intolerance
- Weight loss
- Low cholesterol
- Addison’s disease
In this case, most things are high and fast.
High vs. Low Thyroid Causes
There are many risk factors for developing thyroid disease. At The Wellness Way, we always go back to physical, chemical, and emotional stressors, which we categorize as trauma, toxins, and thoughts. Our daily accumulation of stressors “pulls the trigger,” creating dysfunction and disease.
Causes of Hypothyroidism
Some potential contributors to hypothyroid conditions include:
- Hashimoto’s thyroiditis (autoimmunity)
- Family history of thyroid disease
- Congenital hypothyroidism
- Food allergies
- Gut dysbiosis
- Heavy metal toxicity
- Mold toxicity
It all goes back to traumas, toxins, and thoughts.
Causes of Hyperthyroidism
Some potential contributors to hyperthyroid conditions include the following:
- Graves’ disease (autoimmunity)
- Family history of thyroid disease
- Postpartum thyroiditis
- Food allergies
- Gut dysbiosis
- Heavy metal toxicity
- Mold toxicity
Again, traumas, toxins, and thoughts.
How Does Mainstream Healthcare Address Thyroid Conditions?
At The Wellness Way, we describe approaches to healthcare as either the “fireman approach” or the “carpenter approach.”
The “Fireman doctors” have two tools: an axe and a hose. The axe represents cutting things out in a surgical procedure. The hose is similar because it represents medications used to extinguish inflammation and symptoms. The Wellness Way doctors are like carpenters. They first assess the damage with testing. Then they lay out a personalized plan to rebuild with the appropriate materials.
Mainstream healthcare or “Fireman doctors” generally look at thyroid conditions as unfortunate events: “We don’t know what causes it” and “It probably runs in your family.” They approach thyroid conditions as a fireman would. After a physical exam or blood test, they may use the “axe” and do a biopsy (cut into the thyroid). If the situation is too bad, they may even resort to thyroid surgery. They may also grab the “hose” and use radioactive iodine on an overactive thyroid. They might prescribe a thyroid hormone replacement, like levothyroxine, for an underactive thyroid.
Common Medications for Thyroid Conditions:
Here are some of the most common medications prescribed for the top thyroid conditions:
- Synthetic T4 replacement drugs like levothyroxine (Levoxyl, Synthroid, and others)
- Synthetic T3 replacement drugs like liothyronine (Cytomel)
- Anti-thyroid drugs like methimazole (Tapazole)
- Beta-blockers (also used for heart disease) like atenolol (Tenormin) and metoprolol (Lopressor) to disrupt the effects of excess thyroid hormones.
Common Surgical or Radiation Treatments for Thyroid Conditions:
Click on the links to see all the potential side effects of these commonly prescribed medications. Then there are surgical or radiation treatment options, such as the following:
- Radioiodine therapy
- Thyroid surgery
- Chemotherapy or radiation
- Radiofrequency ablation or cryoablation
Are these treatments really helping the body heal? Are they considering other aspects of the body’s functions outside the thyroid gland? The answer is No. Mainstream medicine offers treatments that either synthetically manipulate the body or remove all or part of the organ with the issues. There must be another way.
Most Thyroid Conditions Are Not Just About the Thyroid
Because the thyroid impacts many organs and systems, it’s not as simple as saying you have a thyroid condition. If you have hypothyroidism, your thyroid is making fewer hormones than it should. The result is that the organ(s) or system(s) those hormones target will slow down. When stomach acid production slows down, digestion slows down, for example. Digestion and nutrient absorption affect everything.
This again comes full circle–the body is like a finely tuned Swiss watch. One gear or system always affects the others. While the results may show up in the thyroid, that doesn’t mean the thyroid has a problem. This is especially true because most doctors measure only one or two hormone levels. The most commonly tested (TSH) isn’t even a thyroid hormone. It’s a brain hormone that communicates with the thyroid. This is why people can be on thyroid medication and feel like it’s not doing anything. The doctor may say the thyroid is normal, yet symptoms remain.
How to Sort Out Your Thyroid Condition
How do you tell if your thyroid condition is truly the thyroid or if it’s coming from a different gland or system? Our first suggestion here at the Wellness Way is to get tested. Test not only your thyroid, but your food allergies, gut health, and other hormones in our DUTCH panel. Allergies often result in inflammation, which is a common thread behind most chronic health conditions. Many health issues also have thyroid complications. Signs and symptoms may include fatigue, aches and pains, brain fog, swelling, and more.
Next, bring down the inflammation in your body from places you may not expect — your food, drinking water, and the air around you. When the body doesn’t have to work as hard to eliminate the toxins within, it gives your immune system a rest. An exhausted immune system contributes to many autoimmune disorders. Graves’ and Hashimoto’s are two that target the thyroid. If your immune system and organs aren’t overwhelmed with toxins and can rebalance, the thyroid won’t have to work so hard to adapt. Give your thyroid support it needs by removing some of the burden.
In these scenarios, it’s not the thyroid that’s the problem. It’s the immune system, liver, and gut. If you just treat the thyroid and ignore the other systems, it will be more difficult to recover your health and energy.
The Wellness Way Approach to Thyroid Conditions
At The Wellness Way, we dig deeper to solve the health challenges others can’t. The thyroid can be complicated — you may have a thyroid issue, but you may also have a gut or immune problem. The only way to know for sure is to test! Check out Doctor Flynn’s thyroid series to learn more about how the thyroid works and what affects its function.
Important Tests for Thyroid Conditions:
Get complete testing and learn how best to support your thyroid by healing your gut. Here are some commonly recommended tests at The Wellness Way:
- Food Allergy Test: Immuno Food Allergy Test The Wellness Way Store
- Thyroid Panels: Access Custom Thyroid Panel or Thyroid with Hormones Panel
- Antibody Test: Aurora Life Sciences – Autoimmune 30+
- Gut Health Test: Genova GI Effects with Parasitology The Wellness Way Store
These tests are dependent on which ones your Wellness Way practitioner considers most important for your situation.
Dietary Changes for Thyroid Conditions:
- Personalized Nutrition, based on your food allergy test results
- Organic, whole foods
- Non-inflammatory, no sugar
- Liver/organ meats, sauerkraut, and microgreens for added nutrition.
Supplementation for Thyroid Conditions
Common supplements used at The Wellness Way for Thyroid Conditions include the following:
The type of thyroid condition and your test results dictate which supplements will work best for you.
Lifestyle Modifications for Thyroid Conditions
Start somewhere! Begin to eliminate toxic household and personal care items.
The thyroid gland is particularly sensitive to toxins. Support your thyroid by lowering your toxic burden.
Educational Resources for Thyroid Conditions
Videos & Webinars for Thyroid Conditions
- Thyroid Issues | A Different Perspective | Episode 111
- There’s No Such Thing as a Thyroid Problem! | A Different Perspective | Episode 91
- Thyroid The Untold Story Part 1
- Thyroid The Untold Story Part 2
- Thyroid | TWW Quick Tips
- Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) | The Wellness Way Lab Series
- Thyroid | DPF Unscripted
Articles to Support Thyroid Conditions
- Thyroid Conditions: How Do You know if You’re Low or High, and What Can You Do?
- Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis: The Destructive Thyroid Disease That Slows You Down
- Graves’ Disease: This Eerie-Sounding Thyroid Disease Isn’t as Deadly as it Sounds
- Levothyroxine and CBD: Which One? When? Or Both?
- What Your MD Isn’t Telling You About Your Thyroid Medication
Events to Support Thyroid Conditions
- Inflammation Talk
- Hope for Hormones
These events are offered at your local Wellness Way clinic and may also be accessible online.
Connect with Us!
We invite you to connect with us! Find an event at a clinic near you! Follow us on social media. Tune in to A Different Perspective each Saturday morning LIVE to get cutting-edge training directly from Dr. Patrick Flynn. Set up a no-obligation health consult with one of our doctors today. The best is yet to come! Think differently – and THRIVE. Reach out to a Wellness Way clinic today to get thorough testing and start on your health journey. We are here to help!