Part I – What Is The Thyroid?

Irish physician Robert Graves (1796-1853). Graves was the first person to clearly describe exophthalmic goitre, a form of what is now known as Graves’ disease, in 1835. Graves’ disease, a form of hyperthyroidism, most commonly occurs when the body develops antibodies that trigger the overproduction of hormones by the thyroid gland. This can lead to a swollen neck due to expansion of the thyroid gland (goitre), and a staring appearance caused by the swelling of the tissues around the eyes (exophthalmos).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m going to start this off with a question – Do you suffer from any of these issues? GERD (Gastrointestinal Esophageal Reflux Disease), upset stomach/gut pain, constipation/diarrhea, infertility/miscarriage, fatigue/sleeplessness, hair loss, weight gain/loss, brittle weak splitting nails, anxiety/depression, migraines/foggy brain (forget things/sayings/words)? If so, get your thyroid checked and don’t accept just a TSH reading. Get your T3, Free T3, T4, Free T4, and Thyroid antibodies checked. By the way, this doesn’t just apply to women, but also to men. The ratio is 8:1 women to men who have thyroid disease issues. So do not think this is a women’s only problem.

I know I did a piece back in Nov 2016 on Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, but since then I’ve watched the most amazing series on “The Thyroid Secret” produced by Dr. Izabella Wentz and could not let that go to waste!

This series completely changed the way I’ve looked at my Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis and Hypothyroidism.

Let me also tell you that Dr. Wentz has written a book called “Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis Root Cause” which you can pick up at Amazon.com (in USA), or Amazon.ca  (in Canada) by clicking on one of these links. Or if you have access to your community library – check it out.

This book has changed the lives of so many people who have been diagnosed, or haven’t yet been, by explaining (both in professional and lay terms) what it is, what you should look for, what can be done to put it into remission (yes it is possible), what diet(s) to follow, and a lot more information.

I will try my best to help you out here in decoding some of that information, as I know it can be very overwhelming to a lot of people. Especially if you are not either in a medical capacity, or don’t tend to understand all of the jargon that goes along with it. (As I’ve mentioned in past posts, I am not a medically trained person and you should always speak with your medical team to get the advice and any medications you need. I only present suggestions.).

In my post from November 2016, I told you a little about my mother’s diagnosis, but don’t believe I told you that she almost died as a result of doctors not knowing what she was suffering from. It took them 8 weeks of her suffering to get to the bottom of it and it almost killed her. I now believe she was incorrectly told that she had hypothyroid (initially), but it was most likely Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, as I’ve learned over time. It took the doctors about 6 months to get her medication right. But, this was back in the early 1960’s and a lot of doctors didn’t look too far, at that time, for her symptoms. We had a great team of doctors then, but . . . .

Advance to today, she might have been diagnosed with hypothyroidism, but then would likely be referred to an endocrinologist for a definitive answer, which most likely would have been Hashimoto’s. It may have still taken 6 months to get her medications right, but they would have diagnosed it much faster. Things had changed. What changed – she had miscarried 3 times in the past, was in menopause, had moved recently and was managing a stressful job, but didn’t complain until all this hit her. Apparently, it takes about 10 years (or more) to actually develop symptoms, but her symptoms were there, just not recognized, especially as they probably began in the 1940’s or perhaps earlier.

OK, what has this got to do with my diagnosis of Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis – well first off, it’s hereditary. When I was initially diagnosed with Hypothyroidism, it was also mentioned that it was most likely Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, but nothing else was pursued, except medication to help, until recently (2016).

Now let’s get to the subject – What is the Thyroid?

As stated by the National Library of Medicine article on PubMed – “The thyroid (Latin: glandula thyreoidea) is a vitally important hormonal gland that plays a major role in the metabolism, growth and maturation of the human body. It helps to regulate many body functions by constantly releasing a steady amount of hormones into the bloodstream.”

It’s a butterfly shaped endocrine gland that is located in the throat area below the Adam’s apple. The thyroid is responsible for producing hormones – one is T4 (thyroxine) now thought to be the prohormone, and T3 (Triiodothyronine). The hypothalamus and the pituitary glands communicate with the thyroid gland to release T4 and T3 as needed to keep everything in balance. The hypothalamus (which plays a huge role in both the endocrine and nervous systems and regulates functions such as: body temperature, thirst, weight control, emotions, sleep, sex drive, childbirth, and blood pressure/heart rate) produces TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone) that signals the pituitary gland (which ensures that all your body’s internal processes work as they should) directs the thyroid gland to release more or less T4 and T3 into the body’s cells, depending on the need. T4 actually converts to T3 to be stored in the thyroid gland for use when needed. (That was a lot of information, but very important for you to understand just how these delightful pieces of your body work.)

If there is too little thyroid hormone it will result in Hypothyroidism, and too much thyroid hormone will result in Hyperthyroidism. So a balance is required to have a healthy thyroid gland and a healthy you.

If T4 and T3 are not balanced, you will likely experience some or all of the following issues.

For Hypothyroidism (a deficiency in thyroid hormone and is a result of autoimmune Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis) your symptoms will include: slow metabolism, fatigue, dry skin, thin dry splitting nails, hair loss, forgetfulness (brain fog), weight gain, loss of eyebrow hair (usually the outer 1/3 of the eyebrow), infertility, joint pain, weakness, depression, cold intolerance.

For Hyperthyroidism (an overabundance of thyroid hormone and is related to autoimmune Graves’ Disease) your symptoms will include: possible hair loss, weight loss, increased appetite, menstrual problems, fatigue, heat intolerance, palpitations, anxiety, eye bulging/puffiness, tremors, irritability, goiter.

Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis is an autoimmune condition that will cause destruction of the thyroid gland, which will ultimately lead to Hypothyroidism. Most doctors miss this diagnosis, as they are not taking into consideration the thyroid antibodies (TPO Ab thyroid peroxidase antibody) that may be present which is the indicator of Hashimoto’s Disease.

Graves’ Disease is an autoimmune condition that is caused by the overproduction of thyroid hormones and antibodies (TG Ab Thyroglobulin antibody) released into the body which may then cause symptoms as mentioned above for Hyperthyroidism.

The body may switch back and forth between Hypothyroidism and Hyperthyroidism depending on which way your hormones swing. In which case, you may experience all of the above symptoms at one time or another. (Quite the machine our body is!)

Keeping your thyroid hormones in balance is critical for your health and well-being. If you even suspect you might have a thyroid issue, please do yourself a huge favor and get it checked out. As I mention in my introduction above, get those blood tests done, and do not settle for just a TSH reading (which can be misleading at best). You do not want your thyroid to be attacked by your own bodies’ antibodies (which is the autoimmune problem that results in Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis or Graves’ Disease). So get ALL the proper testing done. This may not be something your GP will want to handle, so get yourself referred to an Endocrinologist. He/She will have all the proper testing done to hopefully eliminate the Hashimoto’s or Graves’ diagnoses, but the thyroid may be just a bit out of whack! In which case, they will be able to recommend a medication to help get you back in line. If your GP is fairly new to practice, have an in depth conversation with them and get those blood tests done. They might surprise you (like mine did many years ago) and hit the nail securely on the head! But at that time he didn’t indicate what might happen! Remember, this is YOUR BODY and only you know how you feel. Your doctor is a guide and should be listening to your symptoms and acting accordingly.

You will need to have these tests done at least yearly to ensure your medications (if on them) are working properly and you haven’t over-corrected. I spent almost an entire summer with incorrect medication because the only reading that was being paid attention to was my TSH, which turned out to be incorrect. I insisted on being returned to my initial dose of medication and then everything returned to my normal.

I know this information is a bit daunting, but it’s important for you to have a base knowledge before going forward.

I will be introducing you to a lot more information about thyroid health in the next few posts, so keep reading and acting on the suggestions if you feel they apply to you.  It really is critical for you to maintain proper health.

Have a wonderful day and week ahead.

Louise