While the causes of thyroid problems vary greatly, it is estimated that over 20 million Americans have some form of thyroid disease. Among people who suffer from thyroid problems, it is estimated that one in five people currently have Hypothyroidism in the United States, and only half of those people are even aware of their condition, according to The American Thyroid Association.
At Vitality Family Health, our mission is to help you discover WHY you are experiencing symptoms of a thyroid problem and to create a holistic treatment solution that works in conjunction with your health goals. Furthermore, we are dedicated to bringing awareness to our member’s overall health to develop a plan that will help you feel great and live the life you truly want to live.
Read on to learn more about what the thyroid is and does, as well as common thyroid problems with an emphasis on Hypothyroidism, its symptoms, and how we create a treatment plan to help you not only live, but thrive with Hypothyroidism.
Common Thyroid Problems
The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland located in the neck that produces and regulates a person’s hormones and metabolism, along with cardiovascular, neurological, and digestive functions. Several problems can occur when the thyroid becomes unbalanced or is not working correctly; the body, along with its functions, can begin to shut down, resulting in a lower quality of life. The most common of these thyroid problems include:
- Hypothyroidism – Often used interchangeably with Hashimoto’s disease, Hypothyroidism is when the thyroid under produces hormones. Hashimoto’s disease is specifically when the body is attacking the thyroid gland and producing antibodies against it (an autoimmune problem, not a true thyroid issue at its root). Hashimoto’s disease is one of the most common causes of hypothyroidism when left untreated.
- Hyperthyroidism – Is when the thyroid has become overactive, producing too many hormones.
- Goiter – A noncancerous enlargement of the thyroid gland.
- Thyroid Nodules – Fluid or solid growths that form in or on the thyroid gland.
Thyroid Cancer – Thyroid cancer is increasing at an alarming rate and has seen a 200% increase in incidence since the 1970s.
Of the above thyroid problems, the most common condition we see and treat is Hypothyroidism.
The two main types of Hypothyroidism are Hashimoto’s Disease, an autoimmune disease that causes thyroid inflammation from the person’s immune system, and Central or Pituitary Hypothyroidism, where the thyroid isn’t making enough hormones. Central Hypothyroidism can be influenced by several factors, including diet, lifestyle, stress, etc.
Unfortunately, the symptoms of many thyroid problems often overlap with other conditions and diseases, making it that more challenging to understand what is really “going on” with a person and virtually impossible to self-diagnose. For this reason, we recommend that if you are feeling “off,” which could mean gaining or losing weight at an unhealthy rate, constant fatigue, mood swings, etc., that you schedule a well check with one of our functional health providers in Oak Brook. At your initial appointment, we will spend sixty to ninety minutes, getting to know you, your health history, along with your symptoms, diet, and lifestyle factors, to help us paint a complete picture of your current health and create a plan for the future.
Following are common thyroid symptoms that could indicate Hypothyroidism:
- Weight gain
- Muscle weakness
- Pain and stiffness in joints
- Memory loss or trouble focusing
- Thinning hair
- Heavy or irregular menstrual cycles
- Dry skin
- Enlarged thyroid gland
- Increased sensitivity to colder temperatures
- Decreased heart rate
- Elevated cholesterol levels
Other symptoms you may be experiencing that could indicate a thyroid problem include:
- Weight Loss
- Infrequent or light menstrual cycles
- Vision problems
- Increased sensitivity to heat
- Swelling of the neck
- Lump in the neck
- Pain in the neck which can reach to the ears
- Trouble swallowing or breathing
- A cough (not form a cold) that won’t go away
- Dizziness when the arms are above the head
This extensive list of symptoms isn’t meant to overwhelm you, but rather to illustrate that there are many symptoms you may be experiencing that could be signs of thyroid problem or something else altogether. For example, many of the symptoms above could be symptoms of pre-diabetes (fatigue, weight gain, vision problems) or could be signs of Hypertension (vision problems and confusion or memory loss). The only way to know for certain what is causing these problems is to discuss them as well as other critical factors with your thyroid doctor in Oak Brook, IL.
Once we understand the root cause of these issues, we will be able to design a safe and effective treatment program that will improve your health and quality of life.
Treating Hypothyroidism: A Functional Medicine Approach
Once a person is diagnosed with Hypothyroidism, it usually cannot be fully cured, just controlled.
The current, conventional method to treat Hypothyroidism in the United States is through taking a synthetic thyroid hormone (thyroxine or T4) that is prescribed in order to balance the thyroid gland.
However, as functional medicine practitioners, we treat the underlying cause(s) of this condition, rather than just treating the symptoms at a surface level. Knowing this, it is vital to understand that how we treat our members who have Hypothyroidism or another condition, thyroid or otherwise, is entirely unique to the individual and is determined by a series of factors as well as the health and wellness goals of each person.
Essentially, once we know what the underlying cause(s) of the unbalanced thyroid is (which will require additional lab work and diet and lifestyle history beyond just a routine physical), we can better facilitate a holistic treatment plan that will effectively manage and treat your Hypothyroidism. Many of our patients are able to decrease and sometimes even discontinue medications as their thyroid function improves.
When Hypothyroidism is caused by Hashimoto’s, our goal is to reduce and control inflammation of the thyroid by reducing autoimmune flare-ups (which begins in the gut and GI tract). If environmental factors and lifestyle choices have caused the thyroid to not produce enough thyroxine, as in the case of Central Hypothyroidism, we develop a system to eliminate or at least reduce exposure to those known triggers. Keeping in mind that each treatment plan is completely individualized, the following are often used within a holistic treatment plan to balance the thyroid:
- Diet – Our diet affects every facet of our life. More often than not, diet is one of the first things that your thyroid doctor in Oak Brook will look into and recommend adjustments to help you to better control your thyroid. Often this begins with an elimination diet or detox and sometimes an allergy or food sensitivity panel to identify what foods may be causing inflammation and then working to eventually remove these foods and known triggers from your diet.
- Supplements – Another cause of Hypothyroidism can be nutrient deficiencies. Depending on your lab results, we may suggest supplementation with certain vitamins and minerals.
- Lifestyle Changes & Coping Techniques – Prolonged stress can cause cortisol levels to spike and increased cortisol levels are definitely a contributing factor to Hypothyroidism. And, while stress is unavoidable and seemingly beyond our control, how we handle stress is within our reach and can make all the difference in how our body internalizes stress, i.e., how much cortisol it produces. This may look like a complete life overhaul, such as changing jobs or moving, or it can be as simple as adding exercise into your daily routine, finding a meditation practice, or journaling.
If you believe that you may have a thyroid problem or if you are experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, we invite you to schedule an appointment with Vitality Family Health at your earliest convenience. Let us help you reclaim control of your health and learn the skills of being healthy so you can live the life you truly want to live!