The 6 Main Systems and Organs Affected by Thyroid Diseases
Symptoms involving the thyroid gland, whether they stem from hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, Graves' disease, or Hashimoto's thyroiditis, reflect the damage to the various systems and organs of the body.
Damage to the thyroid gland affects the body's metabolic rate. As a result, weight can be easily gained (hypothyroidism) or lost (hyperthyroidism). Hashimoto's disease can cause both weight loss and gain depending on the phase of autoimmune destruction of the thyroid gland.
Cold hands and feet are related to a low metabolism caused by hypothyroidism while sensitivity to heat is linked to hyperthyroidism.
Cardiovascular System (Circulatory)
The cardiovascular system responds to minimal changes in the amount of circulating thyroid hormones.
Hyperthyroidism induces a hyper-dynamic cardiovascular state which manifests by a faster heart rate, higher systolic and diastolic function i.e. higher blood pressure, atrial fibrillation, and reduced exercise performance.
Insomnia is often associated with hyperthyroidism. Some of the symptoms and signs of hyperthyroidism can make sleep difficult. The stress of having a "racing" heart or palpitations, rapid pulse (above 100 beats per minute is considered tachycardia), and higher blood pressure can cause lack of sleep. Insomnia can also be related to a decreased amount of serotonin production that is linked to gut issues which are often seen with thyroid problems.
Hypothyroidism is characterized by the reverse- a lowed heart rate and lower blood pressure. With lowered thyroid hormones in circulation there is an increased risk of atherosclerosis and myocardial infarction (heart attack).
The central nervous system (CNS) can be greatly affected by a thyroid disorder. The CNS reacts to both too little and too much thyroid hormone. Too little hormone causes mental sluggishness or "brain fog" while too much hormone induces anxiety and nervousness. Depression is commonly associated with thyroid conditions.
Recent studies have linked hypothyroidism and Hashimoto's disease with accelerated brain degeneration and development of Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and Huntington's disease.
Hypothyroidism can be related to heavy menstrual flow, miscarriage, and infertility in women. Hypothyroidism can decrease the absorption of the sex hormone, progesterone, by the body's cells which can upset the menstrual cycle. Hypothyroidism can also cause constipation which can delay the body's normal elimination of another sex hormone, estrogen.
Chronic constipation is associated with hypothyroidism while diarrhea or frequent bowel movements are linked with hyperthyroidism. These symptoms are partly due to altered metabolism but also are created by faulty digestion beginning in the stomach. Hypothyroidism can reduce the production of stomach acid by its effect on the hormone, gastrin. When too little gastrin is produced, this reduces the amount of stomach acid (HC1). Bloating, G.E.R.D., heartburn, intestinal inflammation, decreased food digestion and more can result from the lack of normal HC1 levels.
Food allergies are consistently seen in those presenting with thyroid problems. Beyond gluten sensitivity, which most people are aware of, there are other food allergens to which patients will test positive.
Anemia is diagnosed in 20-60% of patients with hypothyroidism and is often the first sign of hypothyroidism. Anemia caused by an iron or B12 deficiency begins in the stomach and stems from low stomach acid also known as hydrochloric acid or HCl. Hypothyroidism causes the hormone, gastrin, to decrease.
The production of stomach acid, HCl, depends on the hormone gastrin. So when gastrin is diminished there is less stomach acid. Less stomach acid hinders the absorption of such vital nutrients as B12, iron, and calcium.
The most common symptom of anemia is fatigue which is also the hallmark symptom of hypothyroidism.
Thyroid function is intricately tied to our adrenal health. Part of a comprehensive, functional medicine thyroid treatment plan usually involves adrenal gland support for the following reasons:
-Adrenal fatigue causes the thyroid receptors on cells to lose their sensitivity to thyroid hormones
-Adrenal fatigue can decrease the conversion of T4 to T3 to a usable form
-Adrenal fatigue decreases the efficiency of the immune system barriers in the gut, lungs and the blood/brain barrier
-Adrenal fatigue inhibits absorption of thyroid hormone into cells
-Adrenal fatigue disrupts the interchange between the hypothalamus and pituitary gland with the thyroid gland