By Nicole Catanese, Designed by Ammiel Mendoza, Refinery29
By now, you may have heard some of the health buzz surrounding your thyroid gland and the ways that it can potentially affect your health. This small gland - really, just the size and shape of a (little) butterfly - found in the base of your neck, plays a big role in your health, as well as how you feel on a daily basis. Here's how it works: your thyroid converts iodine (a substance found in foods items ranging from potatoes to dairy products) into two hormones: T3, which is triiodothyronine, and T4, known as thyroxine.
So, why should you care? "The thyroid secretes these hormones, and then they go directly into the blood, which then affects the entire the body because [the hormones travel all over your system and work into every single cell," says Betul Hatipoglu, MD, an endocrinologist at the Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio. That's right - the thyroid affects everything in your body, head to toe.
The problem: the thyroid doesn't always function perfectly, and thyroid issues are becoming more and more common. An estimated 20 million Americans have some type of thyroid disorder, and one in eight women will develop one in her lifetime, according to the American Thyroid Association. According to Hatipoglu, thyroid issues are very common during menopause, but they can pop up if even you're thirty-something (especially if new to the Pill or pregnant, as an increase in estrogen can throw the thyroid out of whack). A family history of issues with the gland can raise a red flag on how it will behave for you. While the thyroid is most known for its role in metabolism - either making it work double time, leading to weight loss; or more commonly, slacking off and causing weight gain - having your favorite jeans feel a little snug isn't the only sign of a malfunctioning thyroid. Here are some symptoms of a thyroid gone wrong, and exactly what to do about it.
The good news: a simple blood test can detect high or low levels of thyroid-stimulating hormones (TSH) and lead to setting them straight, by getting a prescription from a doc to either speed them up or slow them down. "Typically, in a standard screening, looking at TSH can make it clear how the thyroid is functioning-but in more extreme cases, looking at T3 and T4 specifically will need to ... more
Photo by: Ammiel Mendoza, R29
How To Reset Your Thyroid
The good news: a simple blood test can detect high or low levels of thyroid-stimulating hormones (TSH) and lead to setting them straight, by getting a prescription from a doc to either speed them up or slow them down. "Typically, in a standard screening, looking at TSH can make it clear how the thyroid is functioning-but in more extreme cases, looking at T3 and T4 specifically will need to be done," explains Farwell. Once a blood test is done, if thyroid hormone levels are way above normal, a doctor may prescribe Methimazole or Propylthiouracil, which can help slow down the production of TSH. On the flip side, Levothyroxine can help kick-start the production of TSH.
Some medical experts may push natural thyroid balancers such as iodine. However, the doctors interviewed for this story say that in the United States (unlike, say, developing nations), getting enough iodine from a normal diet to aid the thyroid in doing its thing is not a less