Disorders of the thyroid affect more women than men and commonly goes undiagnosed. It is estimated that 1 in 7 Americans have a thyroid disorder, but just over 40 percent are diagnosed and seeking treatment.
Why are so many women affected by thyroid disorder?
Eighty percent of thyroid disorders are diagnosed in women. Some statistics blame the disparity between men and women when it comes to seeking care for ailments (a 2019 survey found 72 percent of men would rather do household chores than go to the doctor.) However, thyroid function is a highly delicate feedback loop that impacts multiple body systems. Women face multiple hormonal transitions across a lifetime—such as menopause and pregnancy—making them more susceptible to dysfunction compared to men.
The thyroid impacts several aspects of everyday function in the body, including sleep-wake cycles, regulation of your metabolism, hungry and full signals, temperature regulation, and much more. An untreated thyroid issue can significantly impair your wellbeing and keep you from enjoying simple activities, but it can also put you at risk for serious diseases, like osteoporosis, heart disease, and certain cancers. If you know—or even suspect—your thyroid is dysfunctional, it is a significant health risk to avoid treatment.
What are the signs of thyroid disorder?
The signs and symptoms of a thyroid issues or thyroid disease are easy to dismiss, especially when symptoms initially appear. Feeling tired or sluggish, gaining or losing weight, and mood swings may easily be written off as side effects of everyday life. When you are busy with a job, family or social obligations, it can be hard to notice when the symptoms stack up. However, when the symptoms extend to greater, more obvious discomforts, like hair loss, heart palpitations or heat/cold intolerance, you may start ask, what is wrong with me? Ignoring these symptoms is risky since untreated thyroid disorders can develop into much more serious diseases, including osteoporosis, heart disease and thyroid cancers.
The most common form of thyroid function testing is a TSH test. However, this isn’t a popularity contest. As they say, what is popular may not always be right and what is right, may not always be popular. Many physicians who are not highly trained and educated in the field of hormone health or are not specialized in thyroid health may not be aware of more extensive forms of thyroid testing or even understand the vast complications of thyroid dysfunction.
In 2007, a review led by the Society of Endocrinologists was found to exclude people with borderline low thyroid function, leading the group to change the upper and lower limits for dysfunction. Despite the change in recommendation, many physicians that do specialize in endocrinology or hormone disorders still use the outdated ranges, leaving millions of patients untreated and undiagnosed.
Comprehensive lab testing and face-to-face consultations are vital to accurate diagnosis and treatment of thyroid disorders. If you are having symptoms of a thyroid disorder, we will test TSH, T3, T4, reverse T3 and even look at your cortisol levels. We’ll take the time to chat with you about how life has changed since your symptoms began. Your medical history and lifestyle are also important factors in treatment and diagnosis. The most effective treatment will ideally fit your needs and not some poorly defined version of “normal.” When each factor is examined, we will develop a treatment strategy that will ensure the result is an optimally functional thyroid gland.
The most common form of hormone therapy for the treatment of thyroid disorders is the synthetic version of T4, known as levothyroxine. Most consumers know the drug by its brand names, such as Synthroid, Levoxyl, and Tirosint. Patients taking these drugs do not always express satisfaction with the outcomes. The problem with using these medications alone is that they exclusively restore T4. For many patients, T4 may be inadequate therapy because if the problem is poor conversion of T4 to T3, adding more T4 will not solve the problem.
Prescriptions for synthetic hormones to treat thyroid disorders are often inaccurate or ineffective because the lab testing to reach a diagnosis and treatment plan was highly limited. When a practitioner only tests TSH levels rather than all the hormones involved in thyroid disorder—TSH, T3, T4, reverse, T3, and cortisol—the picture is incomplete.
Bioidentical hormone therapy is a highly effective solution to thyroid disorders and often works best when paired with high-quality nutraceuticals or medicinal herbs designed to support healthy thyroid function.
Nutritional deficiencies and stress have significant impact on optimal thyroid function. Low levels of the mineral selenium often contribute to thyroid dysfunction for many patients. In these cases, an effective treatment plan would include selenium supplements and accompanying supplements or herbs to promote absorption.
When stress plays a role in thyroid dysfunction, levels of cortisol often help tell the story. For patients with unbalanced cortisol levels, and effective treatment plan may include meditation, mindfulness exercises, or recommendations for a peaceful night’s sleep. Stress triggers the release of cortisol, as does poor quality sleep, too little sleep and being unable to relax.
Achieve optimal function and balance with thyroid disorder is challenging and takes times. The thyroid hormones operate on delicate, highly dependent feedback loop which pinpointing makes pinpointing the precise treatment an art. The appropriate lab testing, patient to doctor conversations and analysis must occur to arrive at the best treatment plan.
We will begin every consultation with thorough lab testing to ensure you get a complete picture of what is happening inside your body. Testing includes assessment of all the thyroid hormones, plus reverse T3 and cortisol. After reviewing your lab results and medical history, we will chat with you about your lifestyle and how things have changes with the onset of symptoms. This information and discussion will help us partner with you to develop a treatment plan to suit your lifestyle and restore hormonal balance, wellbeing, and optimal function.
Thyroid disorders should not be ignored. Untreated thyroid issues worsen and compile symptoms, as well as increase your risk of certain diseases. Seeking help is the first step to reclaiming your life. Although healing won’t happen overnight, if you take this first step on your journey today, you can start feeling better much sooner.
Please let us know how we can help you!
To get started with our practice we recommend either scheduling a complimentary 15-minute one-on-one discovery call or attending one of our virtual discovery events. During your consultation we will listen to your concerns and give you an overview of our practice philosophy and provide you with education about balancing your hormones. If you feel our practice is the right fit for you, we will send an order for lab work to the lab of your choice and schedule your first in-office visit. During your first in-office visit, we will review your lab results, give our recommendations, and discuss your options for hormone replacement therapy.
We are dedicated to providing you with an individualized plan of care that we are both comfortable with. We will never push you into a decision that you are not ready to make. Our goal is to help you get well and stay well! It is our hope that we can walk along side you during your hormone health journey!