Thyroid is a small gland in the neck, below the Adam’s apple, which is shaped like a butterfly. This gland might seem tiny but it handles several important functions of the body, including regulation of metabolism by producing hormones in the required quantity, such as thyroxine and triiodothyronine. When a thyroid condition affects the body, the glands either become overactive or underactive, affecting the level of hormones in the body. This consequently alters other functions of the body that rely on hormones, including heart rate and metabolism.
The two common thyroid conditions are:
- Hypothyroidism – here the hormone level is too low for the body to carry out metabolism functions effectively
- Hyperthyroidism – here the thyroid gland is overactive and produces higher levels of the hormone
Hyperthyroidism affects the body such that the metabolism happens at a faster rate and the body loses weight even when the appetite and diet is adequate; hyperthyroidism also accelerates and causes excessive sweating and palpitations. On the other hand, in hypothyroidism, the underactive gland and low production of hormones slows down metabolism and results in weight gain, anxiety, fatigue, high cholesterol, depression, and menstrual problems too.
Thyroid disorders more common in women
Thyroid conditions have been on the rise and nowadays statistics reveal that nearly one in every third person is suffering from thyroid disease, especially women. In fact, numbers and studies say that women are at least five to eight times more likely to develop thyroid disorder as compared to men. And the type of thyroid condition that women suffer from more commonly is hypothyroidism.
The cause for hypothyroidism is Hashimoto’s disease, which is an autoimmune disorder in which the body itself acts against the thyroid gland. This affects production of the hormones and leads to thyroid disorders which affect the well-being of the entire body.
Women are more susceptible because they undergo menstruation and pregnancy, during which the level of other hormones in the body such as estrogen is high and progesterone is low. This further leads to hormone imbalance, which causes problems in the functioning of the body.
To elaborate further, the body maintains a fine balance between the estrogen and progesterone levels in the body. But when in stress, the estrogen level increases in comparison to the progesterone, creating an estrogen-dominance in the body. With lesser progesterone to block the estrogen, the estrogen hormones go on a rampage and put pressure on other glands and affect the tissue too. Estrogen in higher levels can enhance the immune system’s inflammatory process. This means the immune system has an inflammatory effect on the thyroid glands, which in turn leads to underactive thyroid and low production of the hormones, thereby leading to hypothyroidism. The stress situation is experienced in women during pregnancy too.
This explains why women tend to be more prone to disorders related to the thyroid glands and must therefore be careful and carry out routine check-ups.