The thyroid, a butterfly-shaped gland in the neck, can have a dramatic impact on a huge variety of bodily functions, and if you're a woman over 35 your odds of a thyroid disorder are high—more than 30 percent, by some estimates.
At least 30 million Americans have a thyroid disorder and half—15 million—are silent sufferers who are undiagnosed, according to The American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists. Women are as much as 10 times as likely as men to have a thyroid problem, says integrative medicine specialist Robin Miller, MD, co-author of The Smart Woman's Guide to MidLife & Beyond.
Located above the Adam's apple, your thyroid produces thyroid hormone (TH), which regulates, among other things, your body's temperature, metabolism, and heartbeat. Things can start to go wrong when your thyroid is under- or over-active. If it's sluggish, it produces too little TH; amped-up and it produces too much. What causes your thyroid to go haywire? It could be genetics, an autoimmune attack, pregnancy, stress, nutritional deficiencies, or toxins in the environment, but experts aren't entirely sure. Because of thyroid hormones far reach in the body—from brain to bowels—diagnosing a disorder can be challenging.