In this article:
- The importance of a healthy thyroid
- What causes hypothyroidism?
- 8 daily habits to maintain a healthy thyroid
Many people don't know about the importance of the thyroid gland until something goes wrong. This small, butterfly-shaped gland is part of the endocrine system located in the neck and releases "thyroid hormones" which control your metabolism. Specifically, it manages the production and release of two hormones, T4 (thyroxine) and T3 (triiodothyronine). Thyroid hormone levels are extremely influential to the body's metabolism, which is the process that controls how food is transformed into usable energy. Metabolism also regulates body temperature, and when hormone levels are too high or too low, the pituitary gland compensates for the over/underactive thyroid hormone production by adjusting the amount of hormone it creates. This hormone is called thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) and it helps restore healthy thyroid function, putting the body back into balance.
There are two main thyroid conditions that can influence how much thyroid hormone is released. Having an overactive thyroid that produces too much thyroid hormone is called hyperthyroidism. Conversely, having an underactive thyroid that doesn't produce enough thyroid hormone is called hypothyroidism. Of the two, hypothyroidism is more common, with a rate of about 4.6 percent of Americans ages 12 years and older developing this thyroid disease.
The signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism often go unnoticed at first, but can worsen over time. Typically these symptoms include:
Thyroid problems can be properly diagnosed through blood tests, imaging tests, and physical exams conducted by a healthcare professional or endocrinologist.
Hypothyroidism and other thyroid disorders are often caused by other underlying conditions such as:
With the exception of iodine deficiency, preventing the listed causes of hypothyroidism can be quite difficult. However, there are simple lifestyle changes that may help to improve the symptoms of hypothyroidism or keep the symptoms of these underlying conditions at bay!
Not surprisingly, many of the "run of the mill" health and wellness tips you hear, like exercising, eating a healthy diet, and managing stress, can also have a positive benefit on the health of your thyroid and body as a whole. There is no single "cure" for hypothyroidism. For a personalized approach to managing hypothyroidism, it often takes work with an endocrinologist and nutritionist to eliminate potential irritants and discover a balanced diet that works for your body.