You’ve heard of the thyroid gland and may even know it plays a role in regulating your metabolism, but you may not be sure what else it does or even where it’s located.
But it pays to educate yourself about this powerful little gland, and we’re here to help. The thyroid is a small gland in the neck essential to your health and well-being. For example, this butterfly-shaped gland regulates your weight, energy levels, body temperature, and sleep schedule.
Family nurse practitioner Elizabeth Martell, FNP-BC. in Hudson, New Hampshire, offers telehealth support at Lux Health for people with thyroid conditions.
When your thyroid doesn’t function properly, you’re at risk for various health conditions. Some people have a family history of thyroid problems; others have nutritional deficiencies. Here are some things to consider.
3 things that affect your thyroid health
The thyroid produces hormones that regulate your body. If it produces too little or too much, it can cause health concerns.
1. Hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism
Those with hypothyroidism don’t produce enough thyroid hormones and may develop a goiter or enlarged thyroid gland. Without well-balanced thyroid hormones, you can experience weight gain, fatigue, and constipation. It can also lead to a slower heart rate, cold sensitivities, thinning hair, and a hoarse voice, leaving you at risk of high cholesterol, possibly leading to heart disease.
If you’re pregnant and have untreated hypothyroidism, you have a higher risk of:
Pregnancy hypothyroidism can also harm your baby, causing neural, cognitive, and developmental abnormalities.
Hyperthyroidism is the opposite problem — an overactive thyroid that produces more thyroid hormones than you need. It can cause anxiety, rapid heartbeat, weight loss despite increased appetite, excessive sweating, bloating, shaky hands, and sleep problems. If you ignore these symptoms and don’t treat hyperthyroidism, you may face serious health complications, such as blood clots, stroke, thinning bones and osteoporosis, and menstrual and fertility issues.
Iodine is essential for thyroid synthesis. While many Americans get enough iodine from their diet, some don’t, and iodine deficiency can cause an enlarged thyroid and hypothyroidism.
3. Gut health and thyroid connection
Sometimes known as the “second brain,” the gut microbiome regulates the digestive system, reduces inflammation, and keeps the immune function strong. Your thyroid hormones are integral to your digestive health since they regulate metabolism.
When your thyroid isn’t functioning well, you may experience gastrointestinal symptoms like acid reflux, heartburn, stomach cramps, bloating, diarrhea or constipation, and general digestive discomfort.
The thyroid is a small but mighty gland that affects many aspects of your body. When it’s not functioning properly, it can impact your health. Some common symptoms of thyroid problems include:
If you suspect you could use thyroid support, schedule a virtual consultation with thyroid expert Elizabeth Martell.