The thyroid is a gland in our neck that makes hormones. It works with our immune and nervous systems, and regulates metabolism. Due to multiple factors it can become underactive, overactive or have autoimmune issues.
In Australia there are around 60,000 new cases of thyroid disease each year. Those more susceptible to thyroid problems are women, those over 20-40 years and women who are pregnant or have recently had a baby.
How would I know if my thyroid function is a problem?
If the thyroid is underactive (hypothyroidism) it is not making enough hormones, can gradually slow down your metabolism and can result in certain digestive symptoms including:
· Sugar cravings
· Low appetite
· Flatulence and bloating
Other common underactive thyroid symptoms that may accompany these digestive issues above are weight gain, tiredness, hair loss, cold intolerance, high cholesterol & blood lipids, fluid retention in the ankles, “brain fog” and feeling blue.
If the thyroid is overactive (hyperthyroid) digestive symptoms may be the only manifestations of hyperthyroidism. Digestive problems caused by overactive thyroid include:
· Persistent abdominal pain
· Appetite increase
· Constipation or diarrhea
· Frequent defaecation
· Intractable (repeated) vomiting
Other over active thyroid symptoms that may occur with these digestive symptoms include unexplained weight loss, increased heart rate or palpitations, sensitivity to heat, sweating, anxiety.
If my thyroid function is a problem, what should I do?
Thyroid symptoms can get worse over time if not diagnosed and treated. Hypothyroid is commonly misdiagnosed, due to the many symptoms that can present and look similar to other conditions.
Treating the thyroid effectively requires consideration of the complexity of the gland, as several other organs and hormones can cause thyroid problems.
From a Naturopathic point of view, functional thyroid testing can be done to assess thyroid hormones and antibodies. Also, an individualised Naturopathic treatment plan can be written, and if necessary this will include co-treatment with your GP or specialist.
Most importantly the underlying causes will be considered, and this may help you to balance your thyroid and reduce or eliminate certain digestive (and other thyroid related) symptoms.