Many women report to me that they don’t feel heard when they visit their primary care physician. The scenario goes something like this:
- “I went to the doctor because, while I know it’s normal to feel tired after having a baby, it’s been six months! We’re sleeping okay, and I still feel like I’m dragging myself around.”
- “I’m eating better than I ever have, and I’m exercising more than I ever did, but the scale won’t budge!”
- “My periods have been getting heavier.”
- “I just can’t seem to fall asleep and stay asleep.”
Their concerns are dismissed as “normal” and they go on thinking they’re just weak and blaming themselves for not measuring up. Worse than that, often they’ll leave the doctor’s office with a prescription for something, that may, for a time ease some of their symptoms, though often it makes them feel even worse.
What do all of those women have in common?
Those are all signs of thyroid dysregulation, and that’s a problem.
During the month of October, we’ve been focussing on Women’s Health at Healthoholics. We couldn’t possibly have a women’s health month without discussing thyroid health, because thyroid dysregulation affects women nearly 8 times more often than men.
However, like in the examples above, the signs and symptoms can be so mundane that no one takes a deeper look. Even if a woman is lucky enough that her physician does check her thyroid hormone, most often they will just look at the TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone). This is a small piece of a very complex puzzle. Then, if TSH comes back “normal” no further investigating is done.
But wait! How do labs determine what “normal” is? They take an average of the results of all the people who have had that test done at that particular lab. Think about who is typically having lab work done. Is it strong, healthy people with no health concerns? Typically, no. So normal just means you’re just like a lot of other people who feel crummy and are looking to blood work for answers. Arg! There is a different between “normal” and “optimal” blood work results.
It is currently estimated that 1 in 10 Canadians have some form of thyroid condition, with as many as half of those undiagnosed.
Some people believe that thyroid dysfunction is so prevalent that it should be a mandatory screening done during pregnancy, or even preconception as an unbalanced thyroid is linked to infertility, miscarriage, pre-term delivery and pre-eclampsia among other concerns.
It is interesting to note that the majority of thyroid disease is auto immune (your own immune system attacking your thyroid), yet rarely are thyroid antibodies measured in blood work requests. Some doctors don’t even know they exist! I’ve heard stories of doctors Googling the labs I’ve suggested to my clients.
I’m aware that the treatment your doctor prescribes will not change whether or not your thyroid issue is auto immune. But, that does not mean that there isn’t more that can be done to slow or even reverse the damage to this vital organ!
Every single cell in the body has receptors for thyroid hormones. These hormones regulate heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature, weight and metabolism, both speeding up and slowing the process. But unfortunately, as just one example, individuals almost never have their full panel of thyroid hormones checked before they’re prescribed a blood pressure medication.
There are so many factors that can influence thyroid health, and many signs and symptoms that you may be unaware of.
If you’d like more information about this, as well as what testing to ask for, the difference between “normal” and “optimal”, and what you can do to affect positive change in your thyroid health… join me on Wednesday, November 1st at Healthoholics where I will go over all that and more!
I look forward to seeing you there.