The thyroid gland is one of the unsung powerhouses of the body – some of its very important roles involve controlling our metabolic rate, body temperature, energy levels, and growth and development. If not enough thyroid hormone is produced by the thyroid gland, our metabolic rate and the systems of the body slow down – this is known as hypothyroidism or an underactive thyroid. At the opposite end of the spectrum, too much thyroid hormone can cause a speeding up of metabolic processes resulting in an overactive thyroid, also known as hyperthyroidism. So what the common symptoms of thyroid issues?

As thyroid hormone acts directly on the brain, gastrointestinal system, cardiovascular system, bone metabolism, red blood cell metabolism, gall bladder and liver function, steroid hormone production, glucose metabolism, lipid and cholesterol metabolism, protein metabolism and body temperature regulation, any imbalance in thyroid function – producing either too much or too little thyroid hormone – can have significant and widespread effects throughout the entire body. Thyroid conditions are relatively common (more so in women) and are on the rise. 

The thyroid gland and autoimmune disease

Did you know that autoimmune thyroid disease is the most common cause of thyroid dysfunction in Australia? Known as Hashimoto’s Disease, the most common cause of hypothyroidism, occurs when the cells of the immune system mistakenly attack the thyroid gland, causing inflammation and destruction of the thyroid. This destruction greatly reduces the thyroid’s ability to secrete thyroid hormone, and leads to a slowing down of the body’s metabolic processes.

Grave’s disease, frequently associated with hyperthyroidism, is also an autoimmune condition. In this instance, the immune system produces antibodies that stimulate the thyroid gland to grow, with the follicles inside producing an excessive amount of thyroid hormone, leading to a speeding up of the metabolic processes in the body.

What triggers an autoimmune reaction?

Autoimmune conditions are complex but can be triggered or caused by a number of factors including physical and emotional stress, environmental triggers (iodine, medications, infection, smoking), genetics, and leaky gut (increased intestinal permeability), to name a few.

What’s the link between gluten, coeliac disease and autoimmune thyroid disease?

Prospective studies have identified an increased prevalence of coeliac disease (CD) in patients with autoimmune thyroid disease. In susceptible individuals with coeliac disease, when they eat gluten-containing foods, an autoimmune response can be triggered in the body. Treatment of Coeliac disease with a gluten-free diet may reduce the recognised complications of this disease and provide benefits in general health. So what are the common symptoms of thyroid issues?

Hypothyroid – common signs and symptoms:

  • Depression/low mood
  • Constipation
  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss resistance/weight gain
  • Cold hands/feet
  • Thinning of outer eyebrow
  • Low basal body temperature
  • Dry skin
  • Weak nails
  • Hair loss
  • Problems with menstrual cycle
  • Poor wound healing
  • Brain fog

Hyperthyroid – common signs and symptoms: 

  • Weight loss/increased appetite
  • Loose bowel motions
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Heart palpitations
  • Hand tremors
  • Restlessness
  • Irritability
  • Shortness of breath
  • Protruding eyes

How can we, at Perpetual Wellbeing, help?

There is no ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to treating thyroid conditions, particularly when the immune system is dysfunctional. An individualised and thorough treatment plan works best for these conditions. We may recommend testing such as a standard Thyroid function test (TSH, T4, T3), but very often this is not enough information for us to fully understand the thyroid function. We may request additional tests including Thyroid co-factors (Tyrosine, Iodine, Selenium), Reverse T3 and Thyroid Anti-bodies. These tests give us a much better idea as to how well it is functioning at a cellular level. A qualified Naturopath or Nutritionist can provide an individually tailored treatment plan that helps to normalise immune function, reduce inflammation and restore thyroid health through dietary advice, lifestyle advice, and if indicated, herbal and nutritional supplementation.