It was estimated in 2019 that approximately 1 in 20 people in the UK have a thyroid problem. Seems rather high doesn't it!? The large majority of these individuals are hypo-thyroid (low or "inactive") with the rest hyper-thyroid (high or "overactive") - or Graves disease.
Hypothyroid symptoms may include:
being sensitive to cold
slow movements and thoughts
muscle aches and weakness
dry and scaly skin
brittle hair and nails
loss of libido (sex drive)
pain, numbness and a tingling sensation in the hand and fingers (carpal tunnel syndrome)
irregular periods or heavy periods
Hyperthyroid symptoms may include:
hyperactivity – you may find it hard to stay still and have a lot of nervous energy
nervousness, anxiety and irritability
feeling tired all the time
sensitivity to heat
needing to pee more often than usual
loss of interest in sex
Quite a few different things as you can see.
Now this is where it starts getting interesting - typical diagnosis for a thyroid issue is made (or at least started) by looking at your TSH levels - thyroid stimulating hormone. If there is too little of this in your system then it may follow that your are hypo-thyroid. Seems simple right? Well yes and no.
If you have too little TSH you may be put on medication to try and increase thyroid function to normal levels (because TSH isn't doing it). So why is this a problem? Well TSH is produced by the pituitary gland which is a small gland in the base of your brain that produces a couple of hormones for us. But rather than trying to figure out why the pituitary gland is not producing TSH the typical medical approach just gives you replacement synthetic thyroid medication to do its job.
Why is this a problem? Well for starters once you go onto thyroid medication you almost never come off it. It is essentially a prescription for life. In April 2019 thyroid prescriptions cost £4,942,451 to cover 32,185 of the things. Levothyroxine (commonly prescribed for hypo-thyroid) is the 3rd most prescribed drug in the UK!
But surely TSH is not being produced by the pituitary for some reason / imbalance in the body? And so the thyroid is not the problem in itself but instead a downstream problem that is being affected by something else. Turns out that research tells us that 90% of hypothyroidism has an underlying autoimmune component. Graves (hyper-thyroidism) is an autoimmune disorder. (The other 10% is made up of a few different things including T3 to T4 conversion problems, and receptor site competition problems).
So there are more often than not underlying components which are affecting our thyroid health and the immune system is involved somehow. The thyroid itself is rarely the problem and yet this is the thing we treat. Baffles me.
If you are looking for someone to spend the time figuring out WHY you have an ongoing thyroid issue then get in contact to see if we could help you and spread the word that the thyroid is almost never the problem itself - poor thing is just the fall guy / girl.