Your thyroid is a vital piece of your body’s machinery. If it goes out of whack, lots of other bodily functions stop working the way they should, too.
The thyroid is a gland located at the base of your neck, in front of your windpipe. It’s often described as butterfly-shaped and is about two inches long.
This tiny gland and the hormones it releases are responsible for how your body’s cells use energy. For instance, it helps regulate your heart rate, your menstrual cycle if you’re a woman, and even your breathing.
One aspect of thyroid function many people don’t know is that it can affect your weight, too.
In fact, if you’re experiencing unexplained weight loss or weight gain along with other symptoms, your thyroid could be to blame.
Let’s look at the connection between your thyroid and body weight. You may be surprised to find that a malfunctioning thyroid is a problem that can affect your entire body.
Your thyroid is part of your endocrine system, which produces hormones that the bloodstream delivers to most of your body’s cells.
The thyroid, in particular, produces the hormones T3 and T4 (triiodothyronine and thyroxine). These essentially tell your cells how fast they should work.
Your brain communicates with your thyroid to regulate hormone production. If your thyroid produces too much hormone, it’s called overactive thyroid, or hyperthyroidism, and your body processes speed up as a result. Hyperthyroidism can lead to weight loss as well as other symptoms, such as:
Overactive thyroid often feels similar to a caffeine high and can interfere with your ability to function normally day-to-day. You may feel strung out, stressed, and edgy for no apparent reason.
An overactive thyroid can have many causes, including thyroid autonomy (where the thyroid no longer responds to regulating hormones from the pituitary gland in the brain) and autoimmune diseases like Graves’ disease.
The opposite scenario can also occur – your thyroid can fail to produce enough hormones. When this happens, it’s called underactive thyroid, or hypothyroidism. As a result, your body processes can slow down, producing symptoms including weight gain and some or all, of the following:
Underactive thyroid is characterized by a slow, sluggish feeling. It’s easy to see why sufferers may feel depressed, tired, and heavy. In fact, they’re often mistakenly prescribed depression medication when it’s really their thyroid that’s to blame.
Chronic inflammation of the thyroid (called Hashimoto’s disease), use of specific types of medication, or genetics can all cause an under-active thyroid.
Lots of people struggle with over-active or under-active thyroids without knowing the cause of their weight loss/gain and accompanying issues. Many are misdiagnosed and receive treatment for specific symptoms (like depression, lack of energy, dry skin, and brittle hair) that don’t address the larger thyroid problem.
If you have unexplained weight loss or weight gain along with any of symptoms from one of the lists above, it may be time to get in touch with a thyroid doctor in Las Vegas.
Luckily, there are lots of treatment options for a malfunctioning thyroid gland that can help you get back to normal and, most of all, feeling better.
When you make your appointment to see a doctor, you may wonder how thyroid issues are diagnosed.
In general, most doctors will do a blood test to check your TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone) levels.
The pituitary gland is responsible for releasing TSH, which stimulates the thyroid and prompts it to produce its hormones (T3 and T4). If your TSH levels are low, this can point to an overactive thyroid. If your TSH levels are high, you may have an under-active thyroid.
Your doctor may also do a physical check of your thyroid to see if it’s enlarged or swollen. (An enlarged thyroid may point to Graves’ disease, thyroid nodules, or a goiter.) Your doctor may order an ultrasound, CT scan, or MRI to get a better picture.
Cancer is also a possibility with thyroid nodules. However, most are not cancerous, as this type of cancer is relatively rare. Only about 3.4% of new cancer cases in the U.S. turns out to be thyroid cancer.
Treatments for thyroid problems and their associated symptoms, including weight gain or weight loss, will vary.
Many practitioners will address the symptoms themselves, but not the underlying health issue. Others will look at the thyroid and address it alone as opposed to looking at whole-body health and how the different systems interact.
For an overactive thyroid and the accompanying weight loss, nervousness, fatigue, and other symptoms, many doctors prescribe anti-thyroid drugs that will stop the gland from overproducing hormones.
Another treatment involves taking radioactive iodine, usually by mouth in pill form. Since the thyroid absorbs all the iodine that enters your system, it will take up all the radioactivity as well, which destroys the tissues of your thyroid gland, without affecting other tissues in your body.
After radioactive iodine treatment, you must be on hormone replacement therapy for the rest of your life to keep your body functioning normally.
People who don’t respond well to medication may even have their thyroid removed entirely. These people also need replacement hormones for the rest of their lives.
An under-active thyroid, which can cause weight gain, sluggishness, depression, and other symptoms, is treated differently. Most doctors will give you thyroid hormone pills to make up for what your gland isn’t producing on its own. How long you’ll have to take these pills depends on your individual case.
While pills and drastic measures like radioactive iodine or surgery are the most common treatments for thyroid problems, they’re not your only options. Instead, you can get your weight under control and alleviate your other symptoms with a combination of solutions.An integrative approach treats the whole problem; instead of treating the effects, it seeks to treat the cause.
A functional approach to thyroid treatment looks at the underlying causes of the issue and addresses the issue as it relates to your whole-body health. It doesn’t just rely on medication to put a bandage on the symptoms. (While medication can be helpful for short-term relief, it’s not a long-term solution for better health.)
Functional treatment also looks at you as an individual, including what personal factors play a major role for you in your illness. It works with your body and its natural healing processes.
A major difference between this type of treatment and simply prescribing medication are the questions doctors ask at the outset. Instead of asking “What medication do you need for this problem,” functional medicine practitioners ask, “Why do you have this problem at all?”
Since functional medicine looks at outside factors that may contribute to your thyroid health, including your overall health, treatment may include making changes to your lifestyle, habits, and diet.
For example, if you’re overweight with an under-active thyroid, your diet may also be poor and lack proper nutrition. As such, your doctor may prescribe medication for short-term relief in addition to exercise and changes in your eating habits. You may also be instructed to take vitamin and mineral supplements along with herbal remedies.
These treatments will be specifically prescribed for your thyroid problem and will address the entirety of the issue – not just the symptoms that occur because of it.
In the end, the goal is to get your body back to functioning normally on its own, with vitality and energy. That means not relying on drugs to carry you through. In fact, most functional medicine practitioners hope to wean their patients off drugs entirely.
Your body is remarkable. It can heal itself, but only with the right care and dedication. This is what functional medicine is all about, and it can be a good option if you’re looking for alternative treatments.
The right doctor for your under-active or over-active thyroid can help you achieve better health and renewed energy. They won’t just get you on track with managing symptoms; instead, they’ll focus on treating the underlying causes of your illness and your health hurdles. Instead of dealing with one single puzzle piece, they’ll look at the complete picture of your health.
It can be hard to deal with the weight gain or weight loss due to a malfunctioning thyroid gland. That’s not to mention the other symptoms you’re probably experiencing that interfere with living your best life.
If you’re concerned your thyroid is contributing to your poor health, it’s time to see a Las Vegas doctor who can help you get on track with the right thyroid treatment.
Contact the professionals at Valhalla Wellness for personalized care that works for you and your health needs, and get back to a life filled with verve and vitality.