Thyroid Disorder: Thyroid Health

It’s small, in the shape of a butterfly, and located right above your collarbone and in front of your windpipe or trachea.  It’s like the “gas tank” of the body, producing two hormones that are in charge of the body’s metabolism. These hormones—decide how your body breaks down the food that you eat, or stores the food for later, so that you can use it as energy.

So that’s why this small little gland packs a powerful punch, when it’s working everything’s good in the world. But when it’s not—the weight can pile on, your energy plummets, and your ability to concentrate takes a back seat.   The hormones that the thyroid produces tell your organs to either speed up or slow down, and can even control things like oxygenation and how your body regulates its temperature. That also explains why  another common symptom of a thyroid disorder is feeling cold all the time—when others are warm. Or feeling overly hot. Both are spectrums on the thyroid roller coaster that can make you feel badly if your thyroid is off kilter.

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The American Association for Clinical Endocrinologists (AACE) estimates that 27 million people in the United States are currently dealing with a thyroid disorder. Estimates are that one half that number, approximately 13.5 million Americans may have a thyroid problem but are currently undiagnosed.

If your body doesn’t have enough  thyroid hormones this can  resulting a condition called hypothyroidism. Your body’s metabolism may slow to a crawl, less oxygen is needed by the body, because organs are working slowly, and you generate less body heat, so you may always feel cold.  Weight gain is common, along with the loss of hair, muscle cramps. trouble concentrating or foggy thinking, difficulties with memory, irritability, exercise intolerance, headaches and fatigue.  It is more likely to occur in women and as we age, the incidence increases.  Hypothyroidism is more prevalent than hyperthyroidism.

Having too much thyroid hormone in your body is not a good thing either. If this happens, your metabolism is too high—and this racing metabolism causes increased sweating, tachycardia, or rapid heart rate, loss of weight, fatigue, nervousness, headaches, and intolerance to warmer temperatures.

If you suspect you may have a thyroid problem, be persistent, and ask for all of the following tests. Many physicians are not testing the thyroid comprehensively, and instead are simply ordering one thyroid  test, called the TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone Test).  This is not the conclusive test for detecting thyroid hormone problems and so if your physician only tested the TSH but you are still having ongoing symptoms that suggest a thyroid problem, then ask that the following tests be done

THYROID TESTING:
TSH
Free T3
Free T4
Reverse T3
TPO Antibodies (Thyroid Peroxidase Antibodies)
TG  (Thyroglobulin Antibodies)

Sometimes physicians will simply check off a box on a laboratory slip which has old or outdated thyroid panels on them, and either order tests you do not need or tests that still will not give a comprehensive overview of a possible thyroid problem. The tests listed above are the ones that you should ask your doctor to run to rule in or rule out thyroid problems along with a good clinical exam and having a clinician who pays attention to your symptoms and does not try to diagnose you based upon one, very limited lab test, the TSH.

Undiagnosed thyroid disorders can lead to a variety of other problems-especially over time. It is not unusual for patients to experience cholesterol elevations, blood sugar issues, and immune and skin disorders if thyroid disease is not treated.   Your health depends upon you taking an active role in managing your care—and knowing what has been tested as well as what quite possibly, could have been missed. Don’t let years go by if you are not feeling well thinking that it’s just “natural to put on the pounds, lose your energy, and forget where you placed your keys. There could very well be a reason for it, and if you haven’t had your thyroid properly checked—it could be your thyroid!

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