Why Are So Many Women Experiencing Thyroid Problems
Many factors can interfere with thyroid function, which requires healthy thyroid tissue, the ability to produce adequate amounts of thyroid hormone, conversion of the inactive form of thyroid hormone to its active form , and the effective binding of thyroid hormone to your cellular receptors a key and lock type of effect that activates all of the thyroids activities in your body.
Here are some of the top factors that can interfere with these processes:
Environmental Toxin Exposure and Detoxification Overload: We are living in a veritable sea of environmental toxins about 80,000, in fact, from hormones to heavy metals that can interfere with thyroid function. This toxic burden, which affects us from a very young age, even before we are born, can cause both direct damage and also overloads our ability to detoxify fast enough to keep up. The daily and cumulative impact of these are often overlooked, but they are taking a toll on our thyroid health. Pesticides on non-organic foods, lawn chemicals, personal care products with perfumes, household cleaners, plastics, makeup, water and air pollution all add up in a big way.
Immune System Confusion: Environmental toxins, chronic stress, nutritional insufficiencies, leaky gut, food intolerances, being overweight, and having chronic inflammation are all factors that can lead the immune system to become confused and eventually start to attack our own tissue which is exactly what is happening in Hashimotos.
Thyroid Dysfunction Can Be Mistaken For Mental Illness
The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland at the front of the neck. Its job is to produce hormones which regulate our metabolism, that is, the speed at which energy is used by our bodies. Thyroid hormones are secreted into the bloodstream then carried to every tissue and organ in our bodies and help the body keep the brain, heart, muscles, and other organs working as they should. Too much or too little thyroid hormone can affect brain function. If the thyroid is under-active or over-active , the emotional symptoms that one experiences can be similar to the symptoms associated with various mental health disorders.
According to the American College of Endocrinology, thyroid disease is more common than diabetes or heart disease, effecting as many as 30 million Americans. More than half of those people are unaware of their condition, many because they have been misdiagnosed. It is not unlikely that a person reporting symptoms of depression, anxiety, fatigue, insomnia and brain fog will mistakenly receive a diagnosis of major depression, general anxiety, or bipolar disorder. They may be prescribed antidepressants, mood stabilizers, sedatives or all three, when in fact what is needed is treatment for thyroid dysfunction.
The chart below shows the similarities between the symptoms of a thyroid condition and bipolar disorder.
Do Thyroid Issues Cause Panic Disorders
An estimated 20 million Americans have some form of thyroid disease, according to the American Thyroid Association. However, 60 percent are unaware of their condition, and some believe their thyroid issues can cause panic disorders. Women, more than men, are affected by thyroid problems.
Some symptoms of an overactive thyroid can cause people to feel like they are having a panic attack. Keep reading to learn more about how this condition may cause panic disorders.
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Anxiety In Hypothyroid Patients
Hypothyroidism, or underactive thyroid gland, has a major impact on your overall health including psychological wellbeing. That is why its potential relationship with anxiety shouldnt come as surprise.
Although scientists have explored the link between the two on numerous occasions, there is still a need for further research to uncover all mechanisms that connected hypothyroidism and anxiety.
Bathla M. et al investigated the prevalence of both anxiety and depression in hypothyroid patients. Their study included a total of 100 patients with hypothyroidism whose anxiety levels were measured by Hamilton scale for anxiety and depression assessed via Hamilton depression rating scale .
Findings revealed that women were more likely to suffer from hypothyroidism and patients with this condition exhibited either depressive symptoms or anxiety.
Gender prevalence is one of many things that both hypothyroidism and anxiety have in common women are more frequently affected than men. Bathla and his team concluded that thyroid hormones play a significant role in behavior, mood, and cognition.
The correlation between thyroid status and psychiatry disorders is a major source of concern mainly because dysfunction of the butterfly-shaped gland can initiate psychiatric comorbidities.
Do You Struggle With Anxiety
Awhile back, I was speaking to a wonderful woman who was struggling with anxiety. She had already seen some major improvements with her Hashimotos through the use of thyroid medications as well as eating a Paleo diet, yet her anxiety persisted.
Most people are unaware of how frequently anxiety occurs with Hashimotos. A study in 2004 found an association between the presence of a mood or anxiety disorder, and the presence of anti-TPO antibodies. It also noted that a slight reduction in thyroid hormone secretion may affect mood as well. Therefore, its possible that the anxiety you are feeling is related to your thyroid. In fact, Trudy Scott, a nutritionist who specializes in anxiety, reports that up to 50 percent of her clients with anxiety have Hashimotos!
Let me ask you
- On a regular or frequent basis, do you have anxiety or feel stressed and overwhelmed?
- Do you get panic attacks, or feel awkward and uncomfortable in social situations?
- Do you have obsessive thoughts or behaviors?
- Do you have a busy mind that wont switch off, or negative self-talk and problems sleeping?
- Do you find yourself eating to calm stressful emotions?
These anxiety symptoms are very common in people with thyroid disorders. I know how awful anxiety and overwhelm can feel, so Im excited to share that there is a way out, and you dont have to feel this way forever.
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Could Your Thyroid Cause Anxiety And Depression
If you experience anxiety or depression, your thyroid could be part of the cause. Place your hand gently on your throat and notice the feel of a tube . Now, close your eyes and picture a small butterfly perched across the front of the trachea. That’s your thyroid, an imperceptible yet powerful gland that plays a big role in your body’s functioning, including, possibly, anxiety and depression. While research studies thus far have found mixed results regarding the thyroid’s role in mental health, there is enough evidence linking thyroid functioning to anxiety and depressive disorders to consider your thyroid as a possible cause of anxiety or depression.
How the Thyroid Keeps Us Functioning
The thyroid plays an important role in our physical health, and more and more, it appears that the thyroid also impacts mental health, including anxiety and depression. The major tasks of this two-inch gland include regulating:
- Metabolism, which is the rate at which every cell in the body turns the nutrients from the food you eat into fuel
- Body temperature
- How deep your breathing is when you’re not trying to influence it
- Cholesterol levels
- Aspects of the menstrual cycle
As far as medical science knows, the thyroid doesn’t regulate our mood or how anxious we feel. Depression, anxiety, and the thyroid forge their connection when things start to go wrong with the thyroid.
How Is Thyroid Disease Diagnosed
Sometimes, thyroid disease can be difficult to diagnose because the symptoms are easily confused with those of other conditions. You may experience similar symptoms when you are pregnant or aging and you would when developing a thyroid disease. Fortunately, there are tests that can help determine if your symptoms are being caused by a thyroid issue. These tests include:
- Blood tests.
- Physical exams.
One of the most definitive ways to diagnose a thyroid problem is through blood tests. Thyroid blood tests are used to tell if your thyroid gland is functioning properly by measuring the amount of thyroid hormones in your blood. These tests are done by taking blood from a vein in your arm. Thyroid blood tests are used to see if you have:
The specific blood tests that will be done to test your thyroid can include:
These tests alone arent meant to diagnose any illness but may prompt your healthcare provider to do additional testing to evaluate for a possible thyroid disorder.
Additional blood tests might include:
Talk to your healthcare provider about the ranges for these thyroid blood tests. Your ranges might not be the same as someone elses. Thats often alright. If you have any concerns or worries about your blood test results, talk to your provider.
An ultrasound typically takes about 20 to 30 minutes.
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Thyroid Hormones And Anxiety
The impact of anxiety on thyroid hormones is not researched as well as it should be, but the evidence does exist. Gonen M.S. et al found that subclinical thyroid dysfunction enhances anxiety in patients with both hyper- and hypothyroidism.
Mood changes associated with anxiety have a negative impact on a patients quality of life.
The same group of scientists explained, in their review, that although normal in range average thyroid hormone profile of hypothyroid subjects was still lower than in euthyroid persons. People with hypothyroidism had different levels of free T4 than their counterparts with the healthy gland.
Whats more, disturbances in fT4 could be the cause of mood disturbances in hypothyroid patients with anxiety.
Kikuchi M. et al also discovered that anxiety disorder is linked with some alterations in thyroid hormone levels. This particular research focused on panic disorder and found that the more severe panic attacks, the higher the levels of TSH.
Additionally, the severity of anxiety correlated negatively with fT4. As youre already aware, hypothyroidism is characterized by insufficient production of thyroid hormones.
Mild Hypothyroidism May Contribute To Depression
While more severe hypothyroidism might lead to more depressive symptoms, even cases of a milder underactive thyroid may cause problems. Some research has found that subclinical hypothyroidism, in which TSH levels are on the higher end of the normal range or barely above normal, may be linked to depression.
One study found that 63.5% of participants who had subclinical thyroid problems, or had symptoms of underactive thyroid but were below the diagnostic criteria for hypothyroidism, exhibited symptoms of depression. Treatment with thyroid hormone led to some relief, but it was not enough on its own to induce full recovery.
The connection between underactive thyroid and depression is strong enough that the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists suggests that all people diagnosed with depression should be evaluated for subclinical or clinical hypothyroidism.
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Thyroid Disease & Anxiety
If youre feeling completely overwhelmed and always anxious, its time to get your thyroid checked. As a Functional Medicine Practitioner, one of the first tests I run when someone tells me they deal with chronic anxiety is a complete thyroid panel.
Having excess thyroid hormone such as in the case of Graves disease can also cause anxiety. What many people dont know is that this can also occur with Hashimotos.
When dealing with Hashimotos Thyroiditis, your immune system is attacking the thyroid gland. When your thyroid gland is under attack, thyroid hormones can spill over into the bloodstream triggering anxiety and even heart palpitations.
Its also important to understand that every single cell in the body has receptors for thyroid hormones, and without proper thyroid function many systems in your body suffer. Not only that, but thyroid hormones act directly on the brain among many other body systems which makes sense as to how it can affect anxiety levels.
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I know exactly where you are because Ive been there myselfI remember being so tired that I could barely function. I gained 30 pounds out of nowhere and had a severe case of brain fog. I also started to get severe anxiety and panic attacks. I was driven and motivateduntil I wasnt. I didnt know what was happening to me. All I wanted was to get my life back
Finally, I learned about functional medicine and found a practitioner that I hoped could help me. They ran specialized tests that were far different than I had ever had before. When I got the results back, it turned out I had candida, parasites, high cortisol, the Epstein Bar Virus and many food intolerances. I also had an issue with my thyroid that no one found before because they were using the conventional medicine lab ranges which are way too broad.which I now know is one of the leading causes of hypothyroid misdiagnosis.
I went through treatment of all of these things and it completely changed my life. I immediately lost the 30 pounds I had gained plus more, I had a lot more energy, and my brain fog was gone. I felt amazing and knew that I wanted to help people find the underlying causes of their symptoms and disease.
Who Is Affected By Thyroid Disease
Thyroid disease can affect anyone men, women, infants, teenagers and the elderly. It can be present at birth and it can develop as you age .
Thyroid disease is very common, with an estimated 20 million people in the Unites States having some type of thyroid disorder. A woman is about five to eight times more likely to be diagnosed with a thyroid condition than a man.
You may be at a higher risk of developing a thyroid disease if you:
- Have a family history of thyroid disease.
- Have a medical condition .
- Take a medication thats high in iodine .
- Are older than 60, especially in women.
- Have had treatment for a past thyroid condition or cancer .
Why Does Hypothyroid Cause Anxiety
The thyroid hormone is directly linked to the regulation of very important neurotransmitters. From GABA to serotonin to norepinephrine, thyroid hormone plays a crucial role in their creation and regulation.
When your thyroid hormone is not functioning properly, these neurotransmitters tend to go haywire, causing not only anxiety, but also frequent panic attacks. This is made worse by the physical symptoms that are often associated with hypothyroidism, often causing people to worry that something is wrong with their health.
Hypothyroidism is far more common in women than men, and the risk increases as you age. Also, some people with hypothyroidism experience an increase in panic attacks and anxiety unrelated to the hormone, as a result of fear over the physical effects of the thyroid. Recall that stress itself may contribute to hypothyroidism, so in some cases thyroid issues may be the response to anxiety, not the cause.
Hypothyroidism, however, is actually not the type of thyroid disorder most associated with anxiety and panic attacks. Thats hyperthyroidism, which is when too much of the thyroid hormone is produced. Hypothyroid more commonly causes depression and fatigue, rather than anxiety. But anxiety and panic attacks have been reported, and the above reasons are the most likely causes.
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