Thyroid Problems in Men_ The Functional Medicine Approach

Thyroid Problems in Men: The Functional Medicine Approach

Dr. Shannon Evans, DO, IFMCP Author Dr. Shannon Evans, DO, IFMCP
Functional Medicine Doctor
Thyroid Health Expert

Symptoms | Causes | Tests | Supplements | Tips

According to the American Thyroid Association, about 20 million Americans have some form of thyroid disease. While women are five to eight times more likely than men to have thyroid issues, thyroid problems in men are definitely an important health topic every man should be aware of. Especially since some of the symptoms of low thyroid are similar to the symptoms of low testosterone in men, which is a common reason thyroid issues are frequently missed in men.

In this interview, we discussed thyroid problems in men with Dr. Shannon Evans, DO, IFMCP, a functional medicine doctor who specializes in thyroid health. Learn about the common symptoms, potential causes, how to know if your thyroid is healthy, general tips for a healthy thyroid, and more.

A Q&A with Dr. Shannon Evans

How did you first become interested in thyroid health?

I became passionate about helping others to optimize their thyroid health when I realized how common thyroid problems are and that patients were not getting any help or answers. As for thyroid problems in men, a lot of doctors and men don’t immediately think of thyroid issues as a cause of their symptoms since women are 5 to 8 times more likely to have thyroid issues.

Why are thyroid problems in men so unique compared to women?

When men have thyroid problems, they can develop symptoms that may be very similar to low testosterone:

  • A loss of muscle mass
  • Loss of strength
  • Decreased testosterone levels
  • Lower sex drive
  • Balding or hair loss
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Ejaculation issues
  • Problems with sperm that can lead to infertility.

In fact, a lot of men and clinicians jump to the conclusion of low testosterone without checking the thyroid levels, and think they have solved the problem. There are important questions to ask, however: Why are the testosterone levels low, and what is the root cause of the low testosterone?

These are the questions and detective work we often do in functional medicine, that really need to be further evaluated in order to address the root cause.

In addition to the above symptoms, men can also develop the commonly known symptoms of a low thyroid:

  • Weight gain
  • Decreased mood
  • Dry skin
  • Joint pain
  • Brain fog
  • Feeling sluggish
  • Feeling constantly cold

These symptoms typically affect women with thyroid issues as well.

Thyroid dysfunction in men can also occur due to the thyroid being overactive. This however, happens in a rate of one per 10,000 in men. A common symptom of an overactive thyroid in men is breast enlargement. Other symptoms may include: muscle weakness, feeling hot, heart palpitations, tremors, feeling nervous, and weight loss to name a few.

What are the common causes of thyroid problems in men?

Overactive Immune System

This is one of the most common causes of thyroid problems causing inflammation and antibodies towards the thyroid. As such, finding the root cause of the inflammation is key!

Endocrine Disruptors

Some chemicals can mimic or interfere with the body’s natural hormones. These chemicals can be found in everyday products including hygiene products, plastic bottles, foods, lawn care products, containers to name a few. Some examples of these chemicals are:

  • BPA (Bisphenol A): found in mostly plastic products and food storage containers
  • Phthalates: help plastic to be more flexible, food packaging
  • PBDE (Polychlorinated diphenyl ethers): used to make flame retardants for household products like furniture foam and carpets
  • Triclosan: found in antibacterial soaps

Iodine Imbalances

Iodine is also another factor that may cause thyroid issues. If there is not enough iodine, the thyroid is not able to produce thyroid hormones. On the flip side, if there is too much iodine, the thyroid can make too much thyroid hormone causing an overactive thyroid.

How do you know if your thyroid is healthy?

If you are not experiencing the above symptoms, your thyroid is likely healthy. The only way to really know if your thyroid is functioning properly is to have blood work and a physical exam performed by a doctor.

If you are having symptoms of thyroid problems, I recommend asking for a full thyroid panel:

  • TSH
  • Free T4
  • Free T3
  • Thyroid peroxidase antibodies
  • Thyroglobulin antibodies
  • Reverse T3

How do you keep your thyroid healthy?

First and foremost, take care of your whole self!

  • Self care including finding ways in your day to de-stress
  • Get good quality sleep
  • Take time for regular movement that you enjoy
  • Eat a well balanced diet with earth made foods. At the same time, say goodbye to sodas, box foods, and foods with added sugar
  • Stay well hydrated with filtered water

What supplements/nutrients can help to keep your thyroid healthy?

I recommend to speak with a doctor to see what supplements are right for you, and obtain high quality, third party tested supplements. Some of the key supplements that may help support thyroid health include:

  • Selenium
  • Zinc
  • Vitamin D
  • Vitamin A
  • Iodine
  • B vitamins
  • Omega 3 fatty acids

Let’s summarize the Top 5 Tips for a healthy thyroid

  1. De-stress. Set aside time everyday to do activities that are relaxing and restful to you! Do you like to read books or be out in nature?
  2. Sleep. Get good quality sleep every night. Consistency is key (going to bed at the same time and getting up at the same time everyday is recommended to make sure you are getting enough hours of sleep per night).
  3. Exercise. Perform regular movement you enjoy. I recommend to stay away from exercise 2-3 hours before bed though, as it may interfere with your sleep!
  4. Eat a well balanced diet free of endocrine disruptors. Certain pesticides/herbicides can be endocrine disruptors. For this reason, I recommend eating organic produce. If you are not able to eat all produce organic, you may want to avoid or get the produce on the Dirty Dozen list organic (www.EWG.org). Also, aim to eat a rainbow of colors everyday when it comes to
    your vegetables and fruits. Each color has different nutrients.
  5. Hydrate with filtered water. In general, you should be drinking half your bodyweight in ounces per day. For example a 150 pound person should drink ~75 oz of water per day. If you have been working hard in the sun or exercising, you may need more water, though.

Thyroid problems in men, final thoughts

Thyroid problems don’t just affect women! Men can be affected too, and these problems and symptoms should not be ignored!
If you want to see how your thyroid health measures up, I recommend finding a functional medicine doctor who offers a personalized, individualized, whole body approach to get you to your optimal health!

References:

Dr. Shannon Evans, DO, IFMCP
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