The thyroid gland lies in the neck, just below the Adam’s apple. It measures about 2 inches across and normally cannot be seen. It can barely be felt upon palpation. The Pituitary gland, located in the brain, releases TSH or thyroid stimulating hormone, which sends a signal to the thyroid gland to release thyroid hormones. The thyroid gland then secretes the two primary hormones, Thyroxine or T4 and Triiodothyronine or T3, which control the body’s metabolic rate in two primary ways: by stimulating tissue response in the body to produce specialized proteins and by increasing cell oxygenation. To produce these vital hormones, the thyroid needs the element iodine, which is ingested from food and water.
A thyroid deficiency (hypothyroidism) means that the thyroid gland is producing too little thyroid hormone. These two hormones regulate every metabolic process from thinking clearly to having regular bowel movements. Think of your thyroid gland as your engine. When it is under active, your body operates with much less efficiency. Your thyroid is responsible for the conversion, absorption and metabolism of essential vitamins, minerals and fatty acids. Thyroid function diminishes with age and/or is also a genetic condition in some. The Thyroid is also affected by the adrenal glands. Adrenal Function is more often than not, poor or acutely fatigued, due to prolonged emotional and physical stress. Once a clinical diagnosis of hypothyroidism is established through serum blood levels and the patient’s reported symptoms. You can also detect a possible thyroid deficiency by taking your basal body temperature. Place a thermometer at your bedside and as soon as you wake up before you step out of bed, place the thermometer under your arm for 3 minutes. If you are T3 deficient, you will find your basal temperature to be below 97.8 ∞F. (Normal basal body temperature throughout the day is 98.6∞F). If your first morning temperature is consistently low, it likely means that your basal or resting metabolic rate is also low.
Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis: This condition occurs when a person over produces thyroid antibodies. Antibodies protect our individual organs, but when one over produces these antibodies, these antibodies begin to attack your thyroid, causing you symptoms of low thyroid. Auto-Immune Thyroiditis does not always cause low or hypothyroidism, but can also cause hyperthyroidism, which makes treating this condition a little more challenging. The goal is to minimize the amount of antibodies that are present, by regulating thyroid hormones.
The symptoms of hypothyroidism are gradual and are sometimes mistaken for depression. Facial expressions become dull, the voice becomes hoarse, eyelids droop, and the face and eyes can become puffy and swollen.
Hypothyroidism can cause a number of symptoms and conditions such as, allergies, skin problems, fatigue, clinical depression, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, nervousness, abnormal weight gain or unwanted loss of weight, brittle nails, dry skin, constipation, mental sluggishness or mental fog, low immune function, and intolerance to cold. Carpal tunnel syndrome has also been associated with thyroid deficiency.
If left untreated, hypothyroidism can cause anemia, low body temperature and heart failure.