As a naturopathic physician, I address thyroid issues everyday and your thyroid health affects literally every cell in your body. This is because the thyroid gland controls our body temperature and temperature is important for overall metabolism in all our tissues. In other words, the little engines of our cells must be adequately powered with thyroid hormone activity to function properly.
When women complain of symptoms related to thyroid problems like fatigue, difficulty losing weight, hair loss, constipation, heart palpitations, poor sleeping patterns, vague joint pains and foggy brain, it’s always a good idea to check the health and functioning of the thyroid gland. Especially if a woman has recently gone through a transitional stage of life, puberty, postpartum (or even after a pregnancy that didn’t go full-term), perimenopause–thyroid issues should be a strong consideration and should be evaluated promptly.
Often times a woman’s thyroid is not fully evaluated by her doctor. The most common test that general practitioners and even endocrinologists run is the thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) test. This is only a measure of how well your pituitary gland (in your brain) is gently asking your thyroid to produce proper levels of hormone. It’s important to evaluate this but many times your TSH levels are “normal” and yet there’s some imbalances that have not been detected in hormone levels.
A comprehensive thyroid evaluation should include:
Thyroid-Stimulating Hormone (TSH)
Anti-thyroid Antibody (ATA)
Thyroid Peroxidase (TPO)
Please also be aware that normal results are based on the population as a whole and the ranges for normal shift between laboratories and even change over time as the population becomes sicker. I spend a lot of time educating women about the importance of looking at the endocrine/glandular system as a whole, not just thinking about your stressed adrenals or your “pooped out” thyroid. I often use the analogy of a hanging mobile, when one gland is out of balance all the other glands that are connected to it must adjust to regain homeostasis or balance as well. When it come to the thyroid, one of the closest relationships is with the adrenal glands and levels of the stress hormone cortisol. I address this more fully in my article about adrenal health.