The thyroid gland, a small organ with a big impact. Unfortunately, thyroid problems are among the most 'under-diagnosed' health problems, while an imbalance in the thyroid has a huge impact on your health. It is estimated that there are more than 300,000 people in the Netherlands with vague complaints who are not recognized as thyroid patients. With this article we zoom in on the importance of a well-functioning thyroid gland, which complaints you can experience with an imbalance and why a correct diagnosis is often not made.
The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped organ located at the front of the neck. It is part of our endocrine system: the sum total of glands that secrete hormones in the body. The thyroid produces the hormones T3 and T4 under the influence of TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone). These hormones are involved in the regulation of various processes namely:
- heart rate and blood pressure
- metabolism/energy metabolism of the body
- body temperature
- muscle and nervous system
- growth and development of the body
- brain development, brain activity and psyche
- libido and menstrual cycle
The operation is somewhat comparable to that of a thermostat. You can imagine what happens when it is unnecessarily high or too low.
Because the thyroid is involved in so many processes, an imbalance in the thyroid can cause a huge range of health problems. Symptoms of an underactive thyroid (also called hypothyroidism) include:
Fatigue, fluid retention, 'unexplained' weight gain, hair loss, low libido, PMS, fertility problems, brain fog, sleep problems, constipation, dry skin, constant cold, depression, mood swings and depressed thoughts.
Symptoms of an overactive thyroid (also called hyperthyroidism) include:
Feeling of agitation, 'inexplicable' rapid weight loss, palpitations, trembling hands and fingers, premature ageing, constant feeling hot, diarrhoea, sleeping problems, bulging sometimes bulging eyes, in some cases a visibly enlarged thyroid gland, depression, mood swings and depressed thoughts.
Because an imbalance can cause such a wide range of complaints, it is not always easy to make the correct diagnosis. It is therefore possible that you make an appointment with the doctor in connection with constipation and that you then receive bags of fiber to take home while you have a thyroid problem. Or that you experience fertility problems and, for example, only research is done on the female hormones while the cause lies with the thyroid gland. Or that you suffer from depressed feelings and go to a psychologist (and in the worst case get antidepressants) but actually have a thyroid problem. Unfortunately we can go on like this for a while.
In addition to the fact that diagnosis is a challenge because of the overlap between thyroid problems and other health complaints, there is another problem that causes the diagnosis not to be made or incorrectly made. Namely the limited test method of the GP. Regularly, only 1 or 2 thyroid values are often examined. The focus is mainly on the TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone). When only TSH is examined, this gives an absolutely limited picture of the situation. TSH can be good while there is indeed an imbalance. It is important to investigate whether the thyroid itself is 'ill' or whether the imbalance is caused by one of the other systems (digestion, detoxification, sex or stress hormones).
Unfortunately, the reference values regularly also ensure that only serious thyroid complaints are detected. Where a value is regularly assessed as 'desirable', we could assess it as an incipient imbalance. An important point since you want to detect and treat health problems as early as possible in order to limit the damage.
It is important to get the full picture. We do not only test for TSH, but also for fT3, fT4 and T3 reverse. If necessary, we also look for antibodies (anti-TPO and anti-Tg) if we suspect an autoimmune problem. It is also important to always look at the entire system and not only treat an organ or a lab result. That is why we often include intolerances, allergies, heavy metal load, liver function, inflammation markers, vitamin and mineral status and intestinal health. Of course we also look at lifestyle, diet and stress factors. The psycho-emotional part should not be skipped in this either. We see that thyroid problems often occur in clients who have difficulty speaking up and standing up for themselves.
Unfortunately, I have personally experienced that the diagnosis is more often not found than it is. Yes, even me with 'all my knowledge' and my network. For years I suffered from a feeling of restlessness and agitation. I felt shaky, could eat whatever I wanted without gaining an ounce and felt dizzy very often. I also experienced a certain powerlessness during sports, something I was not used to from myself.
Under the guise of the unwritten rule 'don't treat yourself' I visited one of the best orthomolecular therapists (in my opinion) and went to an osteopath. One thing was clear, there was certainly no question of a thyroid problem.
- I always worked a lot and hard so yes 'do you think it's strange that you feel restless'.
- I was slim but hey 'your whole family is slim anyway and you have a slim build'.
- I felt dizzy 'but I ate almost entirely plant-based and an iron deficiency ran in the family so yes'.
- That powerlessness 'well, you do indeed work hard, don't you'.
- And that shakiness, 'well that's nothing to worry about'.
Blood tests were therefore not necessary and a breath test showed that I had my heart rate under control. With an overactive thyroid gland, the heart rate would remain high, despite the breathing exercise. So no thyroid problem - great!
Still, it kept gnawing, because the longer I walked with it, the harder I could get around it. The vague complaints persisted and I started to literally feel my throat area in times of stress. After a period of ostrich politics, I decided to take matters into my own hands at the beginning of this year and have an extensive blood test done myself. After consultation with my colleague and specialist at Klaever Health, it indeed turned out that my thyroid gland has accelerated somewhat. This was an important realization moment for me. Not only for myself but certainly also for all people who walk around with complaints. Because, if I already run into this 'with all my knowledge', what must this be like for people who don't have this knowledge.
That's why I'm sharing this story. It is so incredibly important that you know that you are the person who knows your body best. Are you not feeling well? Then that is a signal to track down where this is coming from. Don't get an answer? Then look further. Your body doesn't let you feel this for nothing. And again, be aware that when your doctor indicates that there is nothing wrong and your values are fine, this is not always the case!
What you can do best with a diagnosed thyroid problem strongly depends on the diagnosis. Is the thyroid sped up, slowed down, is there an autoimmune problem, is there a problem with the thyroid itself or is the cause at another level. A complete picture of this is essential so that you can work on the cause of your complaints and from there you can work on a sustainable recovery. Don't settle for your symptoms and choose optimal health!
Do you have questions about this (or another) theme? Don't go on any longer, we would be happy to schedule a no-obligation call with you via firstname.lastname@example.org