How to tell if your thyroid is out of whack and things you can do immediately to help it!
Is your thyroid out of whack?
Extreme weight fluctuations, fatigue, hair loss, irregular periods? Your body might be at war with a tiny – but mighty – gland in your neck
Words by Lizzie Pook
Imagine waking up every morning to what feels like the world’s worst hangover and then discovering that your bed sheets are drenched in sweat. Or, if your body was struck with such a deep lethargy every time you tried to move your limbs, it was like hauling it through a pool of thick molasses. Sadly, this is the reality for millions of women who silently suffer from thyroid dysfunction. It’s a condition that affects around one in 20 people in the UK and either zaps energy levels, leaves them bloated, mentally foggy, or disrupts their body functions to induce insomnia, anxiety attacks and extreme weight loss.
Thyroid disorders can have a huge impact if left untreated and, for reasons still unknown to experts, they affect women significantly more than men. Yet many of us living with thyroid problems are completely unaware of the real cause. So what is thyroid dysfunction and how can you spot the symptoms?
Thyroid disorders: the low-down
The thyroid is a small butterfly-shaped gland found in front of your windpipe. It has a huge job – it produces the hormones thyroxine and triiodothyronine, which help to control many of the body’s key functions, including how quickly you burn calories or how well you sleep. If your hormone production becomes unbalanced, it can lead to ‘hyperthyroidism’ (an overactive thyroid producing too much of the thyroid hormones) or ‘hypothyroidism’ (an underactive thyroid producing too little) – conditions that can create chaos in the body. Women with hypothyroidism, for instance, are likely to find it more difficult to conceive, while those with hyperthyroidism are at an increased risk of miscarriage. As a result, doctors advise against trying to get pregnant if you think you may have thyroid problems until you have sought advice from a GP, because you could be putting your health – and that of your baby’s – at risk.
Know the triggers
‘For younger women, autoimmunity is the most common cause of thyroid dysfunction,’ says endocrinologist Dr Mark Vanderpump. ‘This is where your immune system develops an antibody which, instead of fighting a bug, fights you instead.’
Experts don’t know why this occurs, but it only happens if you have a genetic predisposition to making these antibodies. ‘You are born with the gene and you meet something in the environment that triggers it off,’ explains Dr Vanderpump. ‘Some believe it’s a condition caused by diet, but it could be brought on by stress, pregnancy or changing hormones.’
Research into the causes and effects of thyroid dysfunction are still misunderstood, but recent studies from the University of Cincinnati suggest that migraine sufferers are at greater risk of developing hypothyroidism, while the Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam found that people with an underactive thyroid have an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes. The upshot is, if you think you might have a problem, get it checked out with a simple blood test.
Video: Signs That Your Thyroid May Be Out Of Wack
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