Last week I wrote all about the thyroid. I focused almost entirely on hypothyroidism because pretty much every woman who’s ever come to me with a thyroid problem has an underactive thyroid.
That said, the ladies with thyroids that are working overtime (hyperthyroid) let me know that they needed information too! So here it is.
Hyperthyroidism is a disorder characterized by an overactive thyroid, which means that your lovely little thyroid has gone into overdrive and is producing too much T3 and/or T4 (thyroid hormones). Interestingly enough, many women who are hypothyroid usually start out as hyperthyroid. But over time, the thyroid gland gets damaged, causing it to no longer secrete enough thyroid hormone, making it under-active (hypo).
Here’s a little recap on the thyroid hormones from last week:
- Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH): Produced by the pituitary gland to stimulate the thyroid to produce T3 and T4.
- Thyroxine (T4): The inactive version of thyroid hormone and a precursor to T3.
- Triiodothyronine (T3): The active version of thyroid hormone which is converted from T4.
- Reverse T3 (rT3): Slows down metabolism to save energy during times of stress. Illness, trauma and calorie-restriction will raise Reverse T3 and slow down metabolism.
- T2, T1: They play pretty minor roles so we won’t worry about them for now.
Signs and Symptoms of Hyperthyroidism
Nervousness and anxiety, weight loss (though 10% of people put on weight) even if you’re eating the same or more food, heart racing and irregular heartbeat, mood swings and irritability, tremors, heat intolerance or increased perspiration, and the development of a goiter (an enlarged, swollen thyroid gland) are all symptoms of hyperthyroidism. Additional symptoms include proptosis (bulging eyes), difficulty sleeping, thinning of the skin, fine brittle hair, a lighter menstrual flow, irregular menstrual cycles, and amenorrhea (no menstrual cycle).
Causes of Hyperthyroid
- The most common cause of hyperthyroidism worldwide is Graves’ disease, an autoimmune disorder. Just like Hashimoto’s, it has a specific antibody test called the thyroglobulin antibody test.
- Inflammation of the thyroid or thyroiditis can cause the thyroid to overproduce thyroid hormone. Symptoms include pain over the thyroid area and obvious swelling of the thyroid.
- Consuming too much iodine, or taking too much synthetic thyroid hormone to treat hypothyroidism can swing the thyroid into hyperthyroid mode.
Why Did I Get Hyperthyroidism?
Last week after my first post on the thyroid, someone asked, “What causes the thyroid to suddenly go overactive, if there’s no family history or obvious risk factors?” Family history or not, there may be a genetic underpinning—meaning, she might be susceptible to Graves’ Disease or some other condition related to her thyroid.
I would obviously need more information about her unique situation, but it’s more than likely that this young lady’s overt hyperthyroidism was a subclinical case for a while. In addition, she was either asymptomatic or she had symptoms but the test results came back within the normal range, and no one looked any deeper into the matter. In my experience, these thyroid problems never suddenly come out of nowhere, they’ve just been overlooked.
Best Testing Options & Diagnosis
You want to get the following tests to determine your thyroid status:
- TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone): Should be between 0.3 – 2.5 mIU/L. If it is below 0.3, that indicates hyperthyroidism.
- Free T4: Should be in the top half of the normal range on your test results. If it is normal, then you could have subclinical hyperthyroidism. If it is higher than the highest number on the range, that indicates overt hyperthyroidism.
- Free T3: Should also be in the top half of the normal range on your test results. If it is normal, then you could have sub-clinical hyperthyroidism. If it is higher than the highest number on the range that indicates overt hyperthyroid.
- Reverse T3: Should be in the bottom half of the normal range on your test results.
- For Hashimoto’s and Graves Disease, test TSI antibodies (for an overactive thyroid) and TGB antibodies, as well as antithyroid peroxidase antibodies (anti-TPO): These tests will determine the presence of antibodies in the blood, which suggests that you have an autoimmune disorder such as Hashimoto’s or Graves’ disease.
These tests will give you a complete picture of what’s going on in thyroid land. TSH alone, total T4, and total T3 are not sufficient enough to determine thyroid issues. Don’t let your doctor tell you that they are.
Hyperthyroid and Your Menstrual Cycle
Thyroid problems are frequently linked to irregularities in a woman’s menstrual cycle. With hyperthyroidism, there is the likelihood of delayed puberty, lighter periods, sporadic periods or infrequent periods, and amenorrhea (absent periods). On the contrary, hypothyroidism can cause menorrhagia (heavy periods), more frequent and longer periods, and dysmenorrhea (painful menstruation). Both can cause issues with fertility.
The reason that hyperthyroidism causes irregular or absent periods is because your thyroid hormone affects your reproductive hormones. Excess thyroid hormone can result in low estradiol. That means estrogen will not be as effective at getting it’s jobs done—stimulating and building the uterine lining among other things. Over time, this can make the uterine lining too thin which will lead to sporadic or absent periods. In addition, we need a thick uterine lining in order for egg implantation to be successful. Check out my post on missing periods to learn more.
What Should a Gal Do to Help Hyperthyroidism?
When diagnosed with hyperthyroidism or dealing with it’s symptoms, it can feel beyond frustrating. Just know that this condition is treatable and there is a lot you can do.
- Go crazy on the cruciferous veggies! Cruciferous veggies contain goitrogens, which are compounds that suppress thyroid hormone production. Broccoli, kale, brussels sprouts, cabbage, and a whole host of other veggies are included in this list. I usually have to tell people to limit these foods (for hypothyrodism), so if you’re dealing with hyperthyroidism then today is your lucky day! 🙂
- Start to cut back or cut out stimulants. Caffeine and sugar can cause or worsen anxiety, nervousness, irritability and insomnia so do yourself a favor and remove them from your diet. If you love your coffee too much to part with it, try decaf or an alternative like Dandy Blend or Teeccino.
- Reduce thyroid antibodies by reducing inflammation in your gut. This goes for both hypo and hyper because Hashimoto’s and Graves’ are autoimmune diseases in which your immune system attacks your thyroid. Seventy percent of your immune system is located in your gut and many women with thyroid issues also have gut problems like gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, etc. Not a coincidence! It therefore makes sense to reduce anything that will adversely affect your gut and ultimately your immune system.
Start to reduce thyroid antibodies:
- Try an elimination diet. Gluten, refined sugar, dairy, soy, and corn are common culprits. Keep track of what you are eliminating and how you and your digestive tract feel.
- Introduce probiotic-rich foods and/or a probiotic pill. Fermented foods such as sauerkraut and kimchi rebuild healthy gut bacteria, while helping to push out the bad bacteria that can sometimes take over. A probiotic pill taken daily is also a good idea, too.
- Stop the stressing. You know how when you feel nervous your stomach has butterflies? That’s the mind/body connection right there. Our digestive tract is the first thing that shuts down when we’re stressed, this is because it’s not needed for immediate survival when we’re in fight-or-flight mode! So seriously, do whatever you need to do to lower your stress response. Your health and life depend on it.
If you want even more solid solutions to address your thyroid/adrenal/reproductive issues, take my quiz to determine which of my programs is right for you. Each of my programs has a module that breaks down how your thyroid functions, the causes of thyroid problems, as well as my thyroid healing protocol to help you get your thyroid humming along again! 🙂