According to the American Thyroid Association, an estimated 20 million Americans are currently struggling with some type of thyroid dysfunction. And more than half of those haven’t been diagnosed and are currently unaware that their thyroid is not functioning properly. Worldwide, as many as 200 million people struggle with thyroid dysfunction…and the problem is rapidly growing. And women are ten times more likely than men to experience thyroid related problems.
The thyroid is a small, butterfly shaped gland that is found in the base of the neck. It’s job it to release hormones that help control metabolism and regulate important functions in the body such as body weight and temperature, cholesterol levels, breathing and heart rate. It also helps to control the central and peripheral nervous systems. The thyroid can become both over and under active. Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid is under functioning and hyperthyroidism when the thyroid is over-functioning.
In the US, hypothyroidism is underdiagnosed. This happens because most doctors only use two tests to screen, missing other potential indications of dysfunction. They also rely on laboratory reference ranges, and not functional reference ranges and can miss the subtler signs of dysfunction that may be present.
As a wellness professional, it is important for you to understand some of the symptoms that go along with thyroid issues.
What are the top signs of thyroid dysfunction?
If your client regularly sleeps 7-9 hours a night or more, and still has fatigue which prevents them from functioning during the day without stopping for a nap, they may have a thyroid problem. Fatigue this strong relates to hypothyroidism. What separates thyroid related fatigue from other fatigue from other causes is that nothing that will relieve it. No matter how much sleep your client gets, they will still be tired and have trouble functioning. And It is one of the most common thyroid related symptoms that doctors see.
If you have a client that is complying with their healthy diet and exercising regularly, and the scale won’t budge, or continues to climb, they may be dealing with hypothyroidism. For these people, no matter what they do, they simply can’t lose the weight. Or worse, they continue to gain weight. For those with hyperthyroidism, they may experience something different. They may begin to lose weight suddenly, even if their diet hasn’t changed, or they are eating more.
Mood swings, anxiety or depression
If a client has been feeling a little blue, hypothyroidism could be a contributor. Low levels of thyroid hormones can cause lowered levels of serotonin, the “feel good” hormone, which can lead to depression. Those with hyperthyroid tend to experience more anxiety and feelings of being “wired”.
Muscle and joint pain
Most people experience the type of muscle pain that occurs after working out or using the muscles in other strenuous activities. But if your client is experiencing unexplained joint or muscle pain, stiffness, swelling, tingling or numbness in the extremities, it could be a sign of hypothyroidism. When too little of the thyroid hormones is produced it can cause damage to the nerves, leading to mysterious pain throughout the body.
Has your client lost their sex drive? It could be the result of a low functioning thyroid. This symptom can be distressing for a client (not to mention their spouse or partner) and a diminished sex drive may occur slowly as the levels of thyroid hormone continue to diminish.
Dry cracking skin
Does your client have dry, itchy skin throughout the year? This could be a sign of an under active thyroid! The thyroid manages hormones that play and important part in keeping skin healthy. When those levels are low, the health of the skin will be compromised and can lead to dry, itchy, cracked skin.
Swelling in the neck/hoarseness
If your client has swelling in the lower neck, feels the sensation of a lump in the throat or experiences continuous hoarseness, it could be a sign of a thyroid issues. These types of symptoms indicate that there is swelling of the thyroid, known as a goiter. This can be a sign of thyroid dysfunction, but can also be caused by iodine deficiency.
If a client has hair that is brittle and dry, or their hair is falling out, they may be experiencing hypothyroidism. Too little production of thyroid hormones can disrupt the growth of hair all over the body. When the thyroid is overactive, it can typically cause thinning hair on the head only.
Both and under and overactive thyroid can mess with the bowels. Thyroid dysfunction compromises digestion which in turn affects the bowels. Those with hypothyroidism often experience constipation, while those with hyperthyroidism experience an increase in frequent diarrhea.
Brain fog or difficulties focusing
When the thyroid is not functioning as it should, it is not uncommon for there to be some problems with cognitive functioning. Those who experience hypothyroidism often complain of having brain fog and being more forgetful. Those with hyperthyroidism frequently have difficulty with focus and concentration.
Menstrual cycle abnormalities
Female clients who are facing thyroid issues may experience a change in their period. Those with hypothyroid may experience longer, heavier periods with more cramps. Their periods may also be closer together. Women with hyperthyroid may experience short, light periods that are farther apart.
Cold hands and feet
This is common for those struggling with hypothyroid to experience cold hands and feet. When thyroid hormones are low, metabolism becomes sluggish and the result is lower body temperatures. This can cause the hands and feet to be cold at times when they shouldn’t be, such as the warm summer months. If your client regularly experiences cold hands and feet, look at thyroid function.
Most doctors treat hypothyroidism with synthetic hormone replacement and treat hyperthyroid conditions with anti-thyroid medications, radioactive iodine or even surgery. But what has caused the thyroid dysfunction in the first place? And are there things that can be done other than what conventional medicine provides?
The answer is yes! Instead of taking an allopathic look at thyroid dysfunction, it is important to look at thyroid disorders functionally. It is important to know which questions to ask that can help uncover why the dysfunction exists in the first place. It is also important to fully understand the anatomy and function of the thyroid and how dysfunction in that one gland has far reaching consequences throughout other systems of the body, and which systems are typically impacted the most by thyroid conditions. Functional lab testing and understanding how to interpret those tests can tell you a lot about how the thyroid is functioning and can also give clues about overall health as well.
If you are a health coach, personal trainer, or other wellness practitioner, you will undoubtedly face clients who are struggling with thyroid issues. Having advanced knowledge about thyroid dysfunction as well as knowing natural protocols that can restore proper function gives you tools to help your clients begin to heal. And it gives you and edge as a practitioner and allows you to take your business to the next level.
FDN Advanced Thyroid Course
Functional Diagnostic Nutrition is now offering an advanced course on the thyroid. The Thyroid Function, Assessment and Intervention training course can help you to know if your client’s thyroid is functioning properly. It looks at the anatomy and function of the thyroid and common symptoms that present with thyroid dysfunction. You will also learn about the complications that arise from a faulty or malfunctioning thyroid.
To help your clients more fully, you will learn how to support thyroid health in the most optimal way, which labs to run, when to run them, and how to interpret the results, what you can do to repair and maintain a healthy thyroid and what things are counterproductive for thyroid health.