1 in 20 people struggle with a thyroid issue in the UK.

This percentage could be higher because many people don’t realise they have thyroid dysregulation. The statistic raises the question: 

Could you be one of those numbers?

I’ll tell you what a thyroid is and why healthy thyroid functioning is critical. You’ll learn signs that you need a thyroid test and how to test your thyroid functioning effectively. 

What is a Thyroid?

The thyroid is a gland in your neck between your collarbones and below the voice box (or Adam’s apple if you’re a man). Two sides of the gland sit on either side of your windpipe (or trachea) and are connected by tissue, giving it the shape of a butterfly. The thyroid’s function is to create and regulate hormones for a healthy internal system. 

If your thyroid is underactive or overactive, it has a knock-on effect on your entire body. When it’s not working correctly, it can create daily struggles (such as persistent tiredness) and potentially cause serious health consequences. 

What Does Your Thyroid Do?

The thyroid’s crucial function is to manage your metabolism. Your thyroid releases thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3) into your bloodstream. These are hormones responsible for the metabolism of every cell in your body, so they can properly function, regenerate and repair. 

If the thyroid produces too much T4 or T3, cells behave erratically. Think, your body constantly on Red Bull. While this may sound ideal, it increases heart rate and difficulty sleeping. On the other hand, too little of these hormones means the cells slow down. They cannot provide enough energy to help you grow and develop. 

What Happens if Your Thyroid is Underactive?

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Another term for an underactive thyroid is hypothyroidism, when the gland isn’t generating enough of the hormone thyroxine (T4). Thyroxine manages your energy levels, including how much you use and store.

Signs of an underactive thyroid:

What causes an underactive thyroid?

What Happens if Your Thyroid is Overactive?

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An overactive thyroid is called hyperthyroidism when the gland is hyperactive. The thyroid releases excessive hormones, flooding the cells and causing imbalances within the body. 

Signs of an overactive thyroid:

What causes an overactive thyroid?

FAQs

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How do I know if my thyroid needs checking?

If you’re noticing significant weight changes for no apparent reason, such as dramatic weight loss or increase, it could be a sign that your thyroid is not functioning optimally. You may also feel sensitive to the cold or heat, struggle with mental health issues or feel tired. Usually, a mixture of these symptoms may point to a thyroid issue.

At what age do thyroid problems start?

Thyroid issues can occur at any age, but an overactive and underactive thyroid is more likely to affect women aged 20-40, particularly middle-aged women. However, children, men, and teens can also have problems with their thyroid.

What is the leading cause of thyroid disease?

Autoimmune diseases, underdevelopment in the womb, and a lack of iodine are the most common causes of thyroid issues.

Who’s more at risk of a thyroid Imbalance?

Women are six times more likely to have an overactive thyroid gland than men.

Due to women’s hormones fluctuating far more than men’s to accommodate the reproductive system, they are more likely to have thyroid issues.

Can Men Have Thyroid Issues?

Yes, men aged 40 upwards have a higher risk of a thyroid imbalance. Signs may include erectile dysfunction (ED), low libido, tiredness, and depression. 

How to Test Your Thyroid Function

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The only way to properly test if you have a healthy thyroid is by taking a blood test. This is because tests check your thyroid hormones, and an imbalance is challenging to pinpoint externally, as you may be unsure which hormones are causing what.

How Does a Thyroid Blood Test Work?

A Thyroid Function Blood Test checks stimulating thyroid hormones (TSH) and free T4 hormones (FT4) to determine whether your thyroid gland is producing the right level of hormones.

Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH)

A gland in the brain creates TSH, which travels to the thyroid and signals it to stimulate the hormones. However, if the brain is not producing the right amount, it will impact your thyroid. A blood test for TSH levels can detect thyroid issues before you have any symptoms.

Free T4 (FT4) 

T3 (triiodothyronine) converts into T4. The test measures how much is in the blood to indicate whether the levels are too low or too high. Therefore it is critical to analyse.

How to Balance Your Thyroid

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Get enough fibre – there’s a reason doctors recommend getting five portions of fruit and veg a day, and that’s because they’re packed full of fibre. You may have gut issues when you don’t have enough fibre because your body cannot efficiently digest food. A thyroid imbalance affects your digestive system, so giving it that fibre boost is vital.

Eat lots of protein – proteins that contain iodine are crucial to balance the thyroid because the mineral builds thyroid hormones. Iodine is mainly inside animal protein but is also found in sea vegetation such as seaweed and kelp.

Exercise – getting your blood flowing can help an underactive thyroid because it minimises the overproduction of TSH, balancing the hormones T3 and T4. 

Stop smoking – smoking increases the risk of Grave’s disease – an autoimmune condition that attacks the thyroid. 

Test Your Thyroid Function for Optimal Health

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An under or overactive thyroid can seriously impact your day-to-day life. Your weight may be uncontrollable, you feel tired all the time, and anxiety or low moods affect your overall well-being. If you are especially at risk of a thyroid issue, then regular testing is a great practice to check your thyroid hormones. 

Want to test your thyroid functioning? Yes, please!

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References

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