The thyroid is one of the glands, which means it secretes hormones. A hormone is a chemical that regulates body functions. For example, one hormone may speed up the rate of your heartbeat, while another slows it down. Thyroid hormones control almost all of our body functions. Basically, their concentration determines how “fast” we live; they resemble the gas pedal in a car. As they increase, so does body temperature, heart rate, intestinal speed, rate of cell nutrition in joints, skin… literally everything is under the control of the thyroid.
As you can see, an imbalance here will cause the entire body to become dysregulated. The symptoms are so varied that sometimes a little experienced doctor will not put them together. Because what do constipation and crackling in the ears have in common? Neurosis and that’s it, next please.
Hyperactivity manifests itself, first of all, with the impression that we are still too warm, in winter we can run in short sleeves, in addition, there is increased heart rate, diarrhea, general hyperactivity. It also very often causes severe panic attacks.
Hypothyroidism is much more common. The primary symptom we’re interested in will of course often be severe depression and anxiety attacks, and here I list the most common associated symptoms:
- lowering of body temperature
- constant feeling of being very cold, dressing thickly even in summer
- constant constipation and bubbling in the intestines
- crackling and squeaking in the ears
- joint problems
- constant weight gain
- very strong tiredness, even exhaustion
- weakening of the immune system
- constant severe pain in the joints, their gradual degeneration
- slowed heart rate
- constant fungal infections
There are a number of conditions that “mimic” hypothyroidism, for example, in iron deficiency hormone levels drop and all possible symptoms appear. Hormone therapy is then a mistake, you should supplement iron, which will allow hormones to return to normal. Similarly, vitamin D3 deficiency will cause a number of symptoms that can confuse even an experienced doctor. Any disease with malnutrition also alters hormone levels. For example, to diagnose iron deficiency, you need to test ferritin levels, not iron. Doctors often fail to do this, prescribing hormones to a patient who should be getting iron pills. As a result, the anemia will not be cured, and in addition, the thyroid gland will be destroyed with hormones.
The basic, cheapest test to detect hypothyroidism is to measure TSH, if it comes out strongly elevated, we have the culprit. If not, there are several thyroid conditions where TSH is normal or even very low. Most often they come out when measuring FT3 and FT4 (concentration of thyroid hormones in blood), but not always. There are a few conditions where there is an adequate concentration of hormones in the blood, but they do not respond properly. The hormone simply does not get to the place where it is supposed to cause a certain reaction. These diseases are the most difficult to diagnose, often they are simply treated with very mild doses of hormone. Fortunately, they account for a promille of cases.
The most common thyroid diseases are simple lack of iodine (we have very little of it in most countries and iodization of salt is simply not enough), Hashimoto’s disease, in which our white blood cells attack the thyroid as a foreign body (some say that we must not take iodine then because the thyroid is destroyed faster, others point to the many functions of this element outside it), and all kinds of tumors and degeneration of the gland itself. It is also quite common to find congenital underdevelopment of the thyroid gland, which begins to give symptoms only at a certain age, when the youthful storm of hormones wears off.
Finally, it is worth mentioning a specific form of hyperthyroidism, in which FT3 levels rise but FT4 levels remain normal. This type of disorder can often trigger panic attacks and anxiety disorder, and is sometimes caused by the iodine deficiency. However, it is not known whether iodine supplementation will be the right solution in this case, because it may exacerbate the symptoms, but alternatively there are therapies that may eventually make a person crippled, depriving them of their thyroid gland. I provide a link to an article where this issue is discussed: