How Does TSH Affect Metabolic Health?
- TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) can affect your metabolic health.
- Produced by the pituitary gland, TSH is essential for the healthy functioning of every cell in your body.
- If you have an overactive thyroid, you have too much TSH and this speeds up metabolism.
- If you have an underactive thyroid, you have too little TSH and this slows down metabolism.
- Treatment can include medication as well as healthy lifestyle changes.
Your TSH and metabolic health are linked. TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) is produced by the pituitary gland, a small but important gland in the body’s endocrine system, often referred to as the ‘master gland’.
Your pituitary gland is below your larynx and makes hormones that control many of the body’s vital functions. It also stimulates hormone-creation by other glands.
What does your thyroid do?
Your thyroid regulates the hormones that instruct your body’s energy use. Your thyroid keeps your metabolism working properly by telling your body to speed up or slow the breakdown of calories.
What is TSH?
The pituitary gland manages this process by monitoring and controlling the amount of thyroid hormones in your bloodstream with its thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH). TSH instructs the thyroid gland to convert iodine from the food you eat into the thyroid hormones thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). Essential for the healthy functioning of every cell in your body’s tissue and organs, these hormones are stored and released into the bloodstream as needed.
Why is the TSH normal range important?
The normal TSH range in an adult is 0.5 to 5.0 mlU/L. If the thyroid stimulating hormone doesn’t balance hormone production, and therefore metabolism, a person can start to experience symptoms of ill health. A high TSH level means the underactive thyroid gland (hypothyroidism) isn’t producing enough hormones and is known as hypothyroidism. With a low TSH level the overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism) is producing an excess of T3 and T4.
Women are more likely than men to experience thyroid dysfunction, with an estimated 1 in 8 women experiencing thyroid dysfunction during her lifetime. Thyroid dysfunction in women can lead to erratic menstrual cycles, difficulties becoming pregnant and problems during pregnancy. It is more common after pregnancy or menopause.
TSH, hyperthyroidism and metabolic health
In hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid) overproduction of thyroxine hormones speeds up metabolism. Weight loss, hair loss, fatigue, rapid or irregular heartbeat, palpitations, change in bowel movements, changes in menstrual patterns and infertility are all symptoms of a low TSH and hyperthyroidism. Graves’ disease, an immune system disorder, is a common cause of hyperthyroidism and tends to affect male and female adults under 40.
Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) is when the thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough hormones for the body’s needs and metabolism slows down. Unexplained weight gain, puffy face, thinning hair, fatigue, muscle pain, and constipation are common symptoms of high TSH and an underactive thyroid in women. Hypothyroidism is often linked with autoimmune condition Hashimoto’s disease, an inflammation of the thyroid gland.
How do I check my TSH levels?
Your doctor will discuss your symptoms and may suggest a TSH test. A TSH blood test will check TSH levels in your blood and measure how the thyroid is functioning. Your doctor may also check your T3 and T4 levels.
You can also check your TSH levels in the comfort of your own home with an at-home testing kit from Nabta Health.
Treatment options may include lifestyle recommendations – dietary changes, regular exercise, sleep, relaxation – alongside the appropriate thyroid medication.
If you are concerned you may have issues with your metabolism, get tested in the privacy of your own home by ordering a blood test here.
Nabta is reshaping women’s healthcare. We support women with their personal health journeys, from everyday wellbeing to the uniquely female experiences of fertility, pregnancy, and menopause. You can track your menstrual cycle and get personalised support by using the Nabta app.
Get in touch if you have any questions about this article or any aspect of women’s health. We’re here for you.