What do you consider to be the most important functioning part of your body? Many of you would probably say your heart or brain (others have their mind in the gutter). What you’re probably not thinking about is your thyroid gland, but you definitely should because it basically regulates everything. Yet, while thyroid testing is incredibly important, most of us don’t even know what it is – much less understand what your thyroid does.
Your thyroid stores and creates hormones that are responsible for balancing nearly all of your most important body functions. It’s located just below what some refer to as their Adam’s apple, and it’s a pretty impressive gland – especially since it’s also only about 2-inches long. Its hormones regulate your:
- Body’s metabolic rate
- Heart rate
- Brain development
- Peripheral and central nervous systems
- Body temperature and weight
- Muscle control and strength
- Menstrual cycles
- Bone maintenance
- Cholesterol levels
- And much more
In short, if you’re having a thyroid problem, it’s best that you resolve it immediately. If your thyroid is overactive or underactive, it will throw your body out of homeostasis and can cause a plethora of issues.
You May Have a Thyroid Problem If…
Thyroid problems are no laughing matter, but how can you tell if you have one? Unfortunately, there are multiple systems that could indicate that your hormones are off-balance. Given all of the functions that thyroids help regulate, this shouldn’t come as a surprise. A few symptoms include:
Are you constantly feeling tired no matter how much sleep you get? While there are many potential reasons for this (you’re getting sick, have an infection, anemia, etc.), a poor performing thyroid gland might be one of them. Thyroid hormones tell your muscles that they need to wake up and get moving. If they’re not doing that, you’re likely always tired.
Depression or Anxiety
Like fatigue, depression and anxiety are naturally occurring feelings. If you’re discovering that you’re more depressed or anxious than usual, your thyroid may be the culprit. If your thyroids are producing too many hormones, it can overstimulate your hypothalamus – a region of your brain that controls sleep, growth, emotions, and your sex drive, to name a few. An overactive thyroid can also negatively affect your serotonin levels, which are largely responsible for your mood.
Reduced Sex Drive
As mentioned above, if your thyroid is produced too many hormones it can decrease your sex drive. While our bodies and emotions are complex and alterations to your sex drive can be caused by many things, don’t rule out your thyroid’s hormone levels. You may be able to increase your libido simply by calling your doctor and asking about thyroid testing.
Poor or Increased Appetite and/or Weight Gain
If you find yourself ravenous or not hungry at all, thyroid testing might be the answer. When your thyroid gland is overactive, it could speed up your metabolism or make you always feel like you’re hungry. If you’re eating more than usual and not gaining weight or if you’re experiencing the exact opposite, get your thyroid checked.
Increased Blood Pressure
Thyroid hormonal imbalances can also lead to high blood pressure. While the obvious culprits for this are genetics, high cholesterol, increased stress, or a variety of cardiovascular conditions, don’t rule out your thyroid gland – especially if you can rule out some of these other symptoms.
Some of the other common symptoms are:
- Irregular body temperature
- Dry, rough skin
- Slowed thinking or memory loss
- Face swelling
- Muscle cramps or constant aches
- A hoarse or deeper voice
- Irregular menstrual cycles
- And the list goes on and on
Thyroid testing can lead to remedies for many of these conditions, as well as others that you may not have realized were imbalanced.
Thyroid Testing Options
Your thyroid gland produces two main hormones: triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). These hormones travel through your bloodstream and reach nearly every cell in your body. While your doctor may suggest administering multiple tests to check your thyroid levels, we’re going to focus specifically on your T3 and Reverse T3 (rT3) tests.
Your T3 hormones frequently bind to protein, while those that don’t are known as “free T3” and circulates unbound in your blood. Your doctor will order this test if:
- Your thyroid is producing too many hormones (hyperthyroidism)
- Your pituitary gland isn’t producing the correct amount of pituitary hormones (hypopituitarism)
- You already have a confirmed thyroid problem and they need to determine if your conditions have changed
If your T3 levels are out of whack, you may be experiencing an increased heart rate, weakness or fatigue, body temperature sensitivities, weight fluctuations, hair loss, or dry or puffy skin. This procedure is done simply by having your blood drawn and tested in a lab.
Reverse T3 (rT3)
Reverse T3 is a less common form of T3. This is often ordered in conjunction with a T4 test because it’s a hormone produced from your T4’s metabolism. If you’re experiencing chronic stress, depression, brain fog, anxiety, weight fluctuations or hair loss, your doctor may recommend this test for you.
How to Naturally Balance Your Thyroid Levels
Whether you’ve already scheduled a thyroid testing appointment with your doctor or are thinking about one, keeping your thyroid hormones is homeostasis is fairly straightforward. There are several ways to keep them regulated. Keep your body hydrated and functional by drinking lots of water. You should also eat lots of vegetables like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage and keep a nutrition journal. Also, exercise when you can. Exercise helps alleviate many of the symptoms caused by thyroid problems (e.g. depression, low energy levels, weight gain, and mood). Last but certainly not least, find ways to reduce stress.
The next time you’re feeling like your body’s imbalanced – or if your feeling that way now – don’t rule out your thyroid gland as one of the culprits. Sometimes getting your body to function regularly again is easier than you think.