Our hormones can be a very tricky aspect of our health to manage because many factors of our lifestyle affect them, from diet to sleep patterns to stress levels. But they also can depend on each other to function normally. Think of your hormones like an orchestra. They all need to be “playing in unison” for the body to be functioning at its best. And if one instrument is playing out of key or off timing, it will affect the sound or quality of the piece being performed, and usually not in a good way.
The same thing happens in our bodies when individual hormones are not able to function the way they are intended to, resulting in disruptions to other hormone systems. Take, for example, how the thyroid functions and interacts in the body. Because it has such wide-ranging control over many parts of our body and physiology, poor thyroid function can be linked to many health conditions such as:
- Weight gain
- Brain fog
- Low sex drive
- Poor energy
Your thyroid hormone also regulates several aspects of your metabolism, including the conversion of food into either energy or fat. An underactive thyroid gland slows metabolism, and that can lead to weight gain. This may also be partly due to the effect it has on insulin. A recent study found that people with an underactive thyroid, or hypothyroidism, may be at greater risk for type 2 diabetes — even if their thyroid hormone levels are kept within normal range!
The Unfortunate Snowball Effect
Dutch researchers in Holland conducted an eight-year-long study that tracked almost 8,500 people averaging 65 years of age. All of the participants had a blood test to measure their blood sugar levels as well as their thyroid function. They were re-evaluated every few years to check for the onset of type 2 diabetes.
After nearly eight years, 1,100 of the participants developed prediabetes — slightly elevated blood sugar levels — and 798 developed full-blown diabetes. They also found that low thyroid function increased the risk for type 2 diabetes by 13 percent. People who had an underactive thyroid and prediabetes were at even greater risk of progressing to type 2 diabetes — the risk for type 2 diabetes was 40 percent higher for this group!
While the study showed that there was a possible relationship between the two conditions, it was not a “cause-and-effect” conclusion. Many other lifestyle factors would also have an effect here. However, we do know from basic physiology that the link is a pretty strong one (which is probably why they tested it in the first place…).
Stop It Before It Starts
One underlying thought from the results of the study was that impaired blood sugar management (prediabetes) could be an indicator to screen for suboptimal thyroid function, since even people whose thyroid function was in the low-normal range had an increased risk of diabetes. Any time a doctor can identify all the contributing factors to metabolic issues in the body it gives the patient a much better chance to have a successful outcome with their health goals.
If you have been diagnosed with diabetes or prediabetes and have not had your thyroid function tested, it would be a good idea to know if there may be complicating factors there as well, especially if it has been harder to lose the weight or keep your blood sugar numbers under control. During a consultation, we can determine if additional testing may be indicated in your case and can easily have the tests performed on the day of your first visit! Then you’ll have the information to help get you on the fast track to better health!