As women, we’re five to eight times more likely to suffer from thyroid dysfunction than our male counterparts. In fact, one out of every eight women will develop a thyroid disorder during her lifetime, many experiencing symptoms, including depression, anxiety, fatigue, mood swings, weight gain, irregular menstrual cycles, infertility, and miscarriage.
Furthermore, an imbalance of thyroid hormones during pregnancy poses serious risks to the long-term health of her unborn child, including preterm delivery, and severe developmental delays throughout her child’s life.
Small Gland, Big Deal
The thyroid is responsible for regulating the metabolism and consequently determines the rate at which every cell, tissue, and organ in the human body functions. The small gland plays such a critical role in a woman’s overall wellness that its dysfunction, whether due to an excess or deficiency of thyroid hormones, oftentimes presents doctors with a range of symptoms so expansive that misdiagnosis has become commonplace.
Missing the Mental Health Mark
Certain conditions, like bi-polar disorder and menopause, tend to mirror the symptoms of thyroid dysfunction and consequently, many women are being diagnosed and treated for mental health conditions that aren’t necessarily the ultimate underlying diagnoses, while the root cause of their suffering is left unaddressed, untreated, and free to continue to wreak havoc on their health, only worsening over time.
An Aging Approach
Women are also at a higher risk of developing thyroid dysfunction as they get older. And just as thyroid dysfunction is all too commonly mislabelled as mental health conditions in younger women, thyroid dysfunction is often being inaccurately chalked up to ‘getting older’ as women develop symptoms later in life.
The reason so many women continue to suffer from thyroid dysfunction is actually quite simple- their doctors are not screening them. This lack of testing is arguably the result of confusing and conflicting guidelines set forth by different factions of the medical community.
The US Preventive Services Task Force even recommends against screening “asymptomatic, nonpregnant adults,” citing that such testing is not cost-effective.” But the truth is, the cost of not testing certain women for thyroid dysfunction is extremely high, and currently, these women are picking up the check.
And so, the reality remains; many women are repeatedly miscarrying, developing cardiovascular diseases, osteoporosis, facing infertility, suffering from severe depression and anxiety, and all without explanation.
Bringing Balance Back
You can proactively begin to balance your thyroid hormones through small changes in your daily diet- it certainly won’t correct a thyroid imbalance or cure thyroid disease, but it can help to reduce symptoms and bring balance back to your body.
Eating more protein can boost your metabolism and can help get things moving in the right direction again. However, you may need to slow your roll when it comes to goitrogens and gluten, so while we know asking you to cut back on the carbonara may seem cruel, at least you can finally stop trying to make the whole ‘kale thing’ happen.
You may also need to cut back on the coffee, green tea, and alcohol, for a bit- instead of giving you the caffeine rush you’re looking for, they may actually be making you more tired and foggy-headed.
If you suspect you may be experiencing symptoms of thyroid dysfunction, are over the age of 60, have a medical history which includes thyroid dysfunction or mental health conditions, request TSH and Free T4 screenings from your medical provider on an annual basis.
Last but not least, always trust your intuition when it comes to your health. You don’t need to have all the answers to achieve wellness- however, you may need to start asking the right questions.