Do you feel less sharp than you used to? Do you have trouble remembering people’s names, or find yourself searching for a word? Have you experienced feelings of depression or anxiety? Maybe you’re starting to wonder if you are in the early stages of Alzheimer’s or Dementia.
I’ve been diving deeply into research about thyroid health for a while, and I still find it amazing the far-reaching effects this butterfly shaped gland can have – perhaps none more striking than the toll thyroid dysfunction can have on mood and mental health. Yes, thyroid dysfunction can be behind all these symptoms, and more!
Several years ago I found myself feeling very flat and unable to find joy in things that had previously been a source of happiness. I was having “female troubles”, and some minor, yet nagging, joint pain. The worst of it was the brain fog. I’d enter a room and forget why I was there, or open the fridge for something and have to do a mental retracing to remember what it was I wanted.
I went to see my doctor, as we are urged to do when dealing with such things. After listening for a moment or two his recommendation was that I consider an antidepressant, or perhaps just shake it off and be grateful for the lovely life I was leading.
With this advice in mind, my next step was to seek out other options. I started seeing a counsellor to work on the mental and emotional aspect of this change. I also began working with a naturopath to dig a little deeper into what was going on physically. That is where we discovered some underlying thyroid imbalance. My TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) was “normal” but certainly not optimal, and my other thyroid hormones were way out of whack.
What I’ve found in my research in the last several years is that a great deal of interesting information exists in published, peer reviewed medical journals surrounding mood and thyroid health. I wonder though, are their fellow physicians listening?
“…thyroid function should be evaluated before a diagnosis of depression or bipolar disorder is made. “
In my own story, I’m one person. That singular experience is near meaningless to anyone else. However, in my practice I see many people being treated in a variety of ways for mood disorders, and most of them have never had their thyroid hormones looked at, and almost none have had a full thyroid workup.
Now, I’m not saying people don’t suffer from depression (or other mood disorders), but I AM saying there may in fact be a deeper root cause of those symptoms that a different therapy can address, with far fewer negative side effects.
In a University of Massachusetts General Hospital study of 142 patients unresponsive to typical antidepressants it was found that a full quarter of those improved with thyroid medication, thyroxine. 
“Pharmacologic doses of estrogen depress the secretion of thyroid hormone by suppressing TSH” 
1.3 million women in Canada use oral contraceptives. This does not include other forms of estrogen therapy. How many of these women are being monitored for thyroid dysfunction? Most doctors will begin investigating thyroid issues by looking at TSH alone, and if those levels are within “normal” range, the patient is told just that, everything is normal. But wait, if oral contraceptives lower TSH, how can we put faith in this number. It is possible, that TSH is falsely low, and if thyroid function was explored more thoroughly by looking at free thyroid hormones and antibodies, a clearer picture would appear.
“Hypothyroidism should always be considered in the differential diagnosis of children who are hyperactive.”
The research shows that children (aged 1 – 24) in Ontario with ADD/ADHD and similar diagnoses are often prescribed medications. Of those prescribed medication, 70% are for Ritalin and Adderall, about 20% were prescribed an anti-depressant, and shockingly 16% were prescribed an antipsychotic. The most commonly prescribed antipsychotic in children with ADHD was Risperidone, a drug with serious possible side effects. Are our children being medicated or otherwise managing hyperactivity disorders that are rooted in thyroid dysfunction?
The thyroid is often called the master gland, and it’s easy to see why. Nearly every cell in the body has receptors for thyroid hormone with brain cells having more T3 receptors (T3 is the active form of thyroid hormone) than any other tissue. This means proper conversion and uptake of thyroid hormone is essential for the brain cells to work properly.
There is so much to know about thyroid hormones and function I can’t possibly do it justice in a blog post.
Sources: https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/732977  https://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/thyroid-deficiency-and-mental-health  http://www.drbobnd.com/low_thyroid.htm  http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/ontario-children-and-youth-with-adhd-often-prescribed-antipsychotics-study-finds-1.3942049  https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/874722