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Is Your Thyroid Really a Key to Overall Health? Yes!

Your thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped gland that lies at the base of your neck, just below your Adam’s apple. It may be small in size, but your thyroid has a big impact on your body and overall health and wellness. Tired? Gaining weight? Too cold (or too hot) throughout the day? Dry skin? Hair loss? Have the blues? All could be signs of thyroid disease.

Working in concert with a whole team of glands to keep things running smoothly, your thyroid controls essential bodily functions including regulating your energy level, metabolism, heart rate, blood pressure, and body temperature. Yep, your thyroid hormone helps the performance of every tissue and cell throughout your body.

Because your thyroid gland can be fragile, it is often susceptible to toxins or chemicals from your diet, personal care products, or environmental exposures. Thyroid disease typically includes several conditions with at times overlapping symptoms. There are two types of thyroid gland disorders. Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid, i.e., too much thyroid hormone) or the more common Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid, i.e., too little thyroid hormone).

Symptoms can present themselves in subtle ways, but you are not alone. In fact, it’s estimated that 1 out of every 8 women will develop a thyroid issue in her lifetime, and unfortunately many more are overlooked or mistaken for other health issues, going largely undiagnosed.

Here are some of the more common symptoms and differences to look for between Hypothyroidism and Hyperthyroidism:

Thyroid disorders can be derived from a variety of health issues. Some of the common causes are:

1. Autoimmune Disease. The most common cause of hypothyroidism is an autoimmune disorder called Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, where the body produces antibodies that attack the thyroid gland.

2. Thyroid Surgery. Following thyroid removal due to an overactive thyroid (Graves’ disease), injury, or cancer, patient’s typically need ongoing thyroid hormone replacement therapy.

3. Medications. A number of medications can affect thyroid function and require supplemental thyroid medication.

4. Radiation Therapy. Any radiation to the head or neck could result in the thyroid becoming underactive and require hormone replacement therapy.

5. Pregnancy. Some women can develop hypothyroidism during or after pregnancy.

6. Iodine Deficiency. This trace mineral found primarily in seafood and iodized salt plays a big role in your thyroid hormone balance.

7. Pituitary Disorder. A rare disorder where the pituitary gland is not secreting enough TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone).

Feeling fatigued, losing your hair, and being cold all day is not normal. Women are usually in tune with their body, you know when something’s not right. Early stages of thyroid disease may not be as noticeable however, over time if left untreated may lead to significant health issues such as obesity, joint paint, heart disease, and infertility.

What should you do if your experiencing symptoms of thyroid dysfunction? “Test. Don’t guess.” Make an appointment with your health care provider to undergo a complete thyroid panel including:

  • TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone)

  • Free T4

  • Free T3

  • RT3

  • Total T4

  • Total T3

  • Thyroid antibodies (TGAb, TPO, TSI)

In addition, I highly recommend the following to be tested as well, as they all play important roles in supporting the thyroid gland:

  • Iron Panel with Ferritin (this is your body’s iron stores)

  • Vitamin D

  • Selenium

  • Iodine

I understand the above may read as a foreign language to some. The takeaway here, is that you need more than just your TSH and T4 levels checked. Far too often I see patients who have symptoms that coincide with an underactive thyroid and come to find out their doctor only checked a TSH and told them their thyroid function was “normal.” A TSH only tells what’s happening in the brain. It has no reflection on active thyroid hormone (T3) getting into the cells, which is essential if you want your body to run smoothly and feel good.

What happens if I’m diagnosed with a thyroid disorder? If you are found to have an underactive thyroid, your health care provider will recommend hormone replacement medication. Just keep in mind that in addition to the new medication you may need to replenish any vitamin or mineral deficiencies (like vitamin D, iron, selenium, or iodine).

In addition to replenishing any deficiencies, you most likely will need to make changes to your diet. There are many foods that can exacerbate the thyroid condition. Some of the most common triggers are gluten, dairy, and soy, especially if there’s an autoimmune component like Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. You will need to prioritize getting some ZZZ’s. Getting quality sleep is essential to helping support your body and balance your hormones. Lastly, I recommend you learn to manage your stress level and take more time for self-care. By engaging in dietary and lifestyle interventions you can optimize your thyroid health.

Meghan Punda, CRNP is a Nurse Practitioner and Functional Nutritionist with a focus on women’s health. She works with women on lifestyle and dietary issues. Meghan is passionate about educating her clients so they can reach their full wellness potential.


Symptoms of Thyroid Disease, by Mary Shomon. Reviewed by Do-Eun Lee, MD. February 20, 2022.

9 Things You Need to Know About Your Thyroid, by Hallie Levine. August 22, 2017.

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