Are you on your knees with exhaustion?
Often the very first thing that people notice when their thyroid is out of whack is the sheer exhaustion for no particular reason. That's because your thyroid is your internal motor that regulates the speed of EVERY function of your body. That also explains why the symptoms of thyroid problems are so varied. (By the way, if it's on your mind that you have a thyroid condition, check the lists here for some of the most common symptoms or underactive and overactive thyroid – if you have any of these symptoms, make sure you see your GP to discuss).
Time and time again in clinic I see women who have been told that their results are all 'normal' or 'within range'. But here's the thing: there’s a major problem with how conventional medicine treats thyroid issues. Firstly, the ‘normal’ range for thyroid function is especially broad, which means many people with low thyroid function are not quite ‘bad enough’ to qualify for treatment under the NHS and, therefore, a huge number of thyroid problems probably go undetected.
Secondly, the NHS tests are – if I’m honest – not the best. There is a whole host of thyroid hormones but GPs start by measuring your TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) and, if that is above or below range, they then test T4. If T4 is out of range, you will be prescribed a synthetic form of T4 hormone called Levothyroxine.
Trouble is, there’s more to thyroid health than that. T4 isn’t actually useable by the body. It needs to be converted to the active form – called T3 – in the liver for the body to be able to make use of it. Some people just don’t convert well so, regardless of how well supplemented you are with T4, you are still not giving your body what it needs.
It gets more complicated because the T3 your body makes can be reversed by something called rT3. A standard GP test picks up on none of this, but the good news is that these blood tests can be arranged privately for you if you are still experiencing symptoms and they're not enormously expensive.
GPs also don’t like to test for thyroid antibodies, mainly because it wouldn’t alter their clinical management of your case. However, it makes a huge difference to the kinds of foods that you should be eating.
Adrenal fatigue is something that happens when your body has been under stress for a long, long time. It doesn't necessarily have to be a massive, life-changing event that tips you over the edge. Many clients I see with adrenal fatigue have just had that drip, drip, drip of stress through their lives. You know the kind of stuff: working, bringing up children, coping (in some cases) with divorce or the breakdown in a relationship. And, as women, we just keep on going because we can and we're strong, and everybody is counting on us.
The adrenal glands are two walnut-sized organs that sit on top of the kidneys and are responsible for helping us deal with stress. Eventually, after years of dealing with life's small traumas, the body cannot make sufficient adrenal hormones to do the job and you end up feeling absolutely rubbish (click here for a list of symptoms).
Two extra things are worth knowing: after menopause, when the ovaries are no longer producing oestrogen, the adrenals are your only source so you'll want to make sure you get a handle on your stress levels as you reach 40. And, believe me, a few glasses of wine and the promise you'll catch up on Downton Abbey isn't going to cut it as an anti-stress programme.
The other thing is that your adrenal and thyroid glands are best friends so, when one is not functioning optimally, the other is likely to be affected. So, what I'm really saying is that, if you know you have a thyroid problem, you'll want to get massively into stress reduction.