What Causes Thyroid Problems – Getting To The Cause Of The Issue
Let’s look at exactly what causes thyroid problems. The most common cause of thyroid issues is an autoimmune disorder known as Hashimoto’s disease. This occurs when the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys the cells in the thyroid gland, resulting in an underactive thyroid known as hypothyroidism. Other causes include Graves’ Disease, iodine deficiency, selenium deficiency, vitamin deficiencies, pregnancy, radiation exposure, certain medications, and genetic abnormalities.
Approximately 27 million people in the United States are afflicted by thyroid disorders, and shockingly, 13 million of these individuals remain unaware that they have a thyroid-related issue. Thyroid disorder is recognized as the most under-diagnosed condition in the country, with an estimated 4.6% of U.S. citizens aged 12 and above suffering from hypothyroidism, wherein the thyroid becomes underactive.1 2
How Do I Know If I Have A Thyroid Problem?
Symptoms of a thyroid disorder include changes in weight, fatigue, dry skin, hair loss, constipation, depression, brittle nails, sensitivity to cold or heat, increased heart rate, and irregular menstrual cycles.3
Diagnosing thyroid disorders typically begins with a TSH blood test. While this method allows for the detection of many thyroid problems, it may not detect issues until TSH levels have drastically changed. This could mean that you suffer from the symptoms of a thyroid disorder for years before finally receiving an accurate diagnosis. Your doctor may insist that all is well during this time, even though you may still be experiencing symptoms. For this reason, it is important to stay aware of your body and watch out for any changes that could indicate a thyroid disorder.
What Causes Thyroid Problems – Autoimmune Diseases
Autoimmune diseases such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and Grave’s disease are often responsible for thyroid problems. In these conditions, the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks the thyroid gland, resulting in inflammation that impairs its ability to function properly.4 5
Another cause of thyroid problems is that T4, also known as thyroxine, is not able to be converted into T3, the active form of thyroid hormone. If T4 is unable to convert to T3, the message it is carrying cannot be relayed to cells even if there is a high amount of T4 circulating in the blood. This means that the typical treatment, Synthroid (T4), doesn’t correct the problem.
The conversion of T4 into T3 takes place in the liver. When the liver is under extreme stress, it produces an alternate form of the thyroid hormone T3 known as reverse T3 (rT3). This form of the hormone binds to cell thyroid receptors and prevents T3 from binding to them, thus blocking its message from being transmitted to cells.6
What Causes Thyroid Problems – Environmental Toxins
Environmental toxins can also contribute to the development of thyroid problems. Toxins such as lead, mercury, arsenic, manganese, and cadmium can disrupt the functioning of the thyroid. These heavy metals are all known endocrine disruptors that can alter hormone levels and cause inflammation in the body. Exposure to these environmental toxins may impede normal thyroid functioning and cause hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, and other thyroid problems.7 8
Additionally, pesticides, herbicides, dioxins, PCBs, and other chemicals that are sprayed in the environment can also affect the body’s hormones and cause thyroid imbalances. It is important to reduce exposure to these toxins whenever possible in order to help maintain healthy thyroid function.9
Read more about toxins in our environment.
What Causes Thyroid Problems – Genetic Predisposition
Certain genetic conditions may increase the risk of thyroid disease. In some cases, individuals inherit a thyroid disorder from their family members or have an autoimmune condition that affects the thyroid gland. Having a close family member who has had thyroid issues increases the risk of developing a thyroid disorder for yourself. Additionally, some people may have an inherited tendency to develop autoimmune conditions which can increase the risk of developing thyroid problems.10
What Causes Thyroid Problems – Iodine Deficiency
Iodine deficiency is a major cause of thyroid problems. Iodine is an essential mineral that plays a critical role in the production of thyroid hormones in the body. Without sufficient iodine, the thyroid cannot produce enough hormones to keep the body functioning normally, leading to hypothyroidism.
A lack of iodine can also lead to goiter, which is an enlargement of the thyroid. Goiter can occur when the body does not have enough iodine to produce hormones. The most common form of goiter is endemic goiter, which is caused by a lack of iodine in the diet.
In areas where there is insufficient access to iodized salt or seafood, people are at risk for developing iodine deficiency and related thyroid problems. It is important to consume a diet that contains foods rich in iodine, such as seafood, seaweed, dairy products, and eggs. Additionally, supplementation with iodine may be necessary for individuals who are unable to get enough from their diets.11
What Causes Thyroid Problems – Selenium Deficiency
Selenium deficiency is a common cause of thyroid problems. As a trace mineral, selenium is necessary for our bodies to produce certain enzymes and hormones that are essential for the proper functioning of the thyroid gland. When there’s not enough selenium present in the body, the production of these compounds can be impaired, resulting in an array of thyroid-related symptoms such as fatigue, depression, weight gain, and difficulty concentrating.
Selenium can be found naturally in many foods, but it’s not always easy to get enough of it through diet alone. Those who are at risk for selenium deficiency include people on vegetarian or vegan diets, those with gastrointestinal disorders like celiac disease or Crohn’s disease, and those taking certain medications that interfere with the absorption of selenium. If you think you may be deficient in selenium, supplement or better yet, increase your intake of foods high in selenium, like Brazil nuts, tuna, and mushrooms. Selenium is an essential mineral for overall health and should not be ignored if you’re dealing with thyroid issues.12
What Causes Thyroid Problems – Vitamin D Deficiency
One of the most common causes of thyroid problems is vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D helps to regulate the production of hormones in the thyroid gland. A lack of vitamin D can also cause fatigue, depression, bone loss, autoimmune diseases, and other health issues.13
To prevent a vitamin D deficiency, it’s important to get adequate amounts of sunlight each day. Additionally, eating foods high in vitamin D such as fatty fish, eggs, and mushrooms can help to keep levels up.
Read more about how important adequate vitamin D intake is.
What Causes Thyroid Problems – Vitamin B12 Deficiency
Vitamin B12 deficiency also causes thyroid problems. Vitamin B12 plays an important role in hormone production, including the hormones that help regulate your metabolism. When you don’t get enough B12, your body can’t make enough thyroid hormone, leading to hypothyroidism and other related health issues. A lack of B12 can also create an imbalance in other hormones, further contributing to thyroid problems.
Certain medical conditions such as pernicious anemia or celiac disease can make it difficult for the body to absorb enough B12 from food sources. Additionally, taking certain medications over a long period of time can lead to a vitamin B12 deficiency. If a vitamin B12 deficiency is diagnosed, supplementation can help reverse the symptoms associated with thyroid problems.14
What Causes Thyroid Problems – Iron Deficiency
Iron deficiency can cause thyroid problems. Iron helps the body make red blood cells which carry oxygen and other nutrients to the cells in our body, including those in the thyroid gland. When iron levels are low, it causes a decrease in red blood cell production, which can lead to hypothyroidism. Anemia caused by iron deficiency can also cause a person to become fatigued, have difficulty concentrating, and even gain weight due to a slow metabolism.
Additionally, it’s important to make sure that the diet contains adequate amounts of iron-rich foods such as lean red meat, fish, nuts and seeds, and dark green leafy vegetables. If an iron deficiency is not identified and treated, it can lead to more serious health problems such as heart failure or even death.15
Read more about common vitamin and mineral deficiencies.
What Causes Thyroid Problems – Microbiome Dysfunction
The human microbiome is composed of trillions of microorganisms that inhabit the body and play a role in regulating metabolism, digestion, and other functions. Recent research suggests that microbiota dysregulation may play an important role in the development of thyroid problems.16
Dysbiosis, or an imbalance of beneficial and pathogenic bacteria, can cause inflammation in the gut which can lead to autoimmune conditions and disrupt the functioning of the thyroid gland. Additionally, dysbiosis can lead to increased intestinal permeability or “leaky gut” which allows toxins, bacteria, and other microorganisms to enter the bloodstream and trigger an immune response leading to inflammation in other parts of the body including the thyroid.
Read more about Leaky Gut Syndrome.
What Causes Thyroid Problems – Pregnancy-Related Issues
Pregnancy can also be a major cause of thyroid problems. During pregnancy, the body’s immune system may become suppressed, which can lead to an overactive or underactive thyroid gland. Changes in hormones during pregnancy can also contribute to thyroid issues, and they can affect both mother and baby.
Common conditions related to pregnancy include Graves’ disease and Hashimoto’s disease. In addition, some pregnant women may develop postpartum thyroiditis, a condition in which the thyroid gland becomes inflamed after giving birth. This condition can cause symptoms of both hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism that usually last for about 6 to 12 months.17
What Causes Thyroid Problems – Getting To The Cause Of The Issue
Now that you know what causes thyroid problems, there are many factors that you have control over. A lifestyle change that focuses on staying away from environmental toxins, as well as consuming sufficient iodine, selenium, vitamin D, iron, and vitamin B12 through a healthy diet like my Cellular Healing Diet can reduce the risk of developing thyroid-related conditions.
Read more about my Cellular Healing Diet.
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2 Blackwell J. Evaluation and treatment of hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism. J Am Acad Nurse Pract. 2004 Oct;16(10):422-5. doi: 10.1111/j.1745-7599.2004.tb00418.x. PMID: 15543918.
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4 Hashimoto’s Disease. (2022, November 16). National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/endocrine-diseases/hashimotos-disease?dkrd=hispt0297
5 American Thyroid Association. (2020, June 8). Graves’ Disease | American Thyroid Association. https://www.thyroid.org/graves-disease/
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