Hypothyroid is the term used to describe an underactive thyroid, meaning it does not properly generate hormones (primarily T3 and T4) or release thyroid hormones into the body. It is estimated that about 4.6 percent of the United States population ages 12 and older struggle with hypothyroidism.
A few common symptoms of hypothyroid include:
- Weight gain or increased difficulty losing weight
- Coarse, dry hair
- Dry, rough pale skin
- Hair loss
- Cold intolerance (you can’t tolerate cold temperatures like those around you)
- Muscle cramps and frequent muscle aches
- Memory loss
- Abnormal menstrual cycles
- Decreased libido
Hypothyroid can be caused by various reasons. For years, the thought in the medical field was that low thyroid was caused primarily by iodine deficiency, so they supplemented iodine in salt and other foods to prevent the major types of deficiencies. If it was just that easy to correct hypothyroid disorders by giving iodine, we would have fixed the vast majority of the problems out there. But here’s the real cause for almost 90% of the patients that are dealing with low thyroid … it’s your immune system that is attacking it’s own thyroid gland! For all of these people that have Hashimoto’s disease, it’s not a thyroid disease, it is an autoimmune disease that is attacking the thyroid gland. What does that mean for treatment and outcome of people’s symptoms? Unless the immune system that is going haywire is addressed, no amount of thyroid hormone replacement is going to fix the problem. The true underlying cause of the malfunction of the system has to be addressed.
In contrast to hypothyroid, hyperthyroid is the term used to describe an overactive thyroid, meaning you are producing too many thyroid hormones. Approximately 1.2 percent of people in the United States have hyperthyroidism and women are 2 to 10 times more likely to experience hyperthyroid than men.
A few common symptoms of hyperthyroid are:
- Fatigue or muscle weakness
- Hand tremors
- Mood swings
- Nervousness or anxiety
- Rapid heartbeat
- Heart palpitations or irregular heartbeat
- Skin dryness
- Trouble sleeping
- Weight loss
- Increased frequency of bowel movements
- Light periods or skipping periods.
There are a number of causes of hyperthyroid, one being an autoimmune condition called Graves’ disease, where the body produces an antibody that causes the thyroid gland to produce an excess amount of thyroid hormone. It can also be caused by a goiter or lumps/nodules in the gland that can cause an overproduction of hormones. Inflammation of the thyroid gland, or thyroiditis, which is a result of a dysfunction of the immune system, can also cause hyperthyroidism. Lastly, diet can cause an imbalance in the thyroid, primarily due to an overconsumption of iodine in the form of foods or supplements or medications containing iodine.