Have you ever experienced fatigue, weight gain or loss, depression, or anxiety for no apparent reason? 

The thyroid plays a crucial role in regulating your metabolism, growth, and development, and when it fails to produce the right amount of hormones, it can lead to either hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism. Because they both affect the same gland, these two conditions are often mistaken for each other. But the reality is they present different symptoms, require different treatments, and have different long-term consequences. Let's take a closer look at the difference between hyper and hypothyroidism, and why they are commonly mistaken for each other.

Hypo vs. Hyper: What’s the difference? 

Hyperthyroidism is a condition that occurs when the thyroid gland produces too much thyroid hormone. This results in an overactive metabolism, leading to a host of symptoms. The most common symptoms of hyperthyroidism include heart palpitations, anxiety, increased blood pressure, GI issues, and extreme weight loss. These symptoms can vary in intensity, and they can significantly affect the quality of life of the individual affected.

On the other hand, hypothyroidism is a condition that occurs when the thyroid gland produces too little thyroid hormone. This results in an underactive metabolism, leading to a different set of symptoms. The most common symptoms of hypothyroidism include weight gain, fatigue, hair loss, brain fog, depression, and constipation. Like hyperthyroidism, these symptoms can vary in intensity, and they can significantly affect the quality of life of the individual affected.

Despite the different symptoms of hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism, the underlying mechanism of dysfunction is the same. The thyroid gland is not producing enough or producing too much thyroid hormone, resulting in an imbalance. This is why many people believe that these two conditions are completely different, when in reality, they are not all that different.

The best way to determine whether someone has hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism is through a blood test. The first stop to a proper diagnosis is to measure the levels of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). If the TSH level is elevated, hypothyroidism is indicated, while a low TSH level is indicative of hyperthyroidism.

It is important to note that both hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism can lead to serious health problems if left untreated. However, hypothyroidism creates long-term or chronic problems, while hyperthyroidism typically poses higher risks for acute problems (even a deadly cardiovascular event).

The root cause of both hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism is typically derived from the development of autoimmune diseases. This is known as Hashimoto's disease (hypo) or Graves' disease (hyper). In fact, 90% of thyroid dysfunction is rooted in autoimmune disease. This means that the immune system is triggered to start attacking the thyroid.

Overcoming autoimmune disease 

When someone goes to a medical doctor for treatment, they are often prescribed medication to level out their thyroid hormones. While this may be helpful in managing symptoms, it does not solve the root of the problem, which is why functional medicine doctors approach thyroid disease differently. When you seek help from a functional medicine doctor, they will look to identify the root cause of the thyroid dysfunction to prevent further damage and to promote healing.

To identify what is triggering the immune system to attack the thyroid, a functional medicine doctor will conduct comprehensive testing to understand what is really going on. This will involve examining the individual's health history, performing a physical examination, and conducting specific laboratory tests. With this information, a functional medicine doctor can create a personalized treatment plan that addresses the root cause of the dysfunction. This may include dietary changes, supplementation, stress management, and other lifestyle modifications to restore optimal thyroid function.

Healing IS possible

While medication can help artificially balance thyroid hormone levels in the short term, it's not a long-term solution. To REALLY heal your thyroid, you need to discover what is triggering an autoimmune response in your body. That's where functional medicine comes in. A functional medicine doctor will take a comprehensive approach to testing and understanding what is really going wrong in your body, beyond just looking at thyroid hormones. 

By identifying the root cause of your thyroid dysfunction, you can make lifestyle and dietary changes that can reduce inflammation, support your immune system, and promote overall wellness. Don't settle for just managing your symptoms with medication. Take control of your health and work with a functional medicine doctor to address the underlying causes of your thyroid issues.

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