Our bodies are marvels of nature, made up of thousands of tiny parts that all work together to support life. When a part malfunctions, the ripple effect can be significant and potentially deadly.
The thyroid gland is one such part, which influences almost all the metabolic processes taking place in the body. Thyroid disorders range from a minor enlargement of the gland to life-threatening cancer, and even common thyroid problems can cause you a lot of discomfort.
An underactive thyroid, called hypothyroidism, is the most common of all thyroid conditions and it can sneak up on you without any fanfare or warning. It occurs when the thyroid doesn’t make enough T4, T3, or both, and bodily functions slow down. It can also be a result of Hashimoto’s disease, an autoimmune condition and one of the primary causes of hypothyroidism. With Hashimoto’s, the immune system attacks the thyroid gland, and over time, this impairs the thyroid’s function.
Here are some signs and symptoms that could indicate you have thyroid problems:
Feeling exhausted for no apparent reason is one of the primary hypothyroidism symptoms. The thyroid gland controls the amount of energy you have, and when it malfunctions your energy levels may be noticeably lower. Patients with high levels of thyroid hormone are typically highly energetic and possibly even jittery, while those with low levels experience reduced activity, low motivation, and mental tiredness. They also feel less rested even after getting more sleep than high-thyroid patients are accustomed to. So, if you’re starting to feel sleepier than usual in spite of getting the right amount of rest, chances are your thyroid could be to blame.
There was a time when people who were heavily obese were assumed to have “glandular issues.” Those days are over, but this belief likely stemmed from the fact that people with thyroid problems typically experience weight gain before getting the problem under control. Several reasons exist for this, including lower levels of physical activity due to reduced energy, and slower metabolism, which causes your liver, muscles and fat tissue work to retain calories as fat instead of converting them to energy. Research shows newly-diagnosed hypothyroid patients gained 15 to 30 pounds in the first year of their diagnosis.
Warmth is produced by burning calories, such as we experience during a workout. Even when you’re doing nothing, you’re still burning a few calories. When your metabolism slows, you generate less heat. Approximately 40% of thyroid patients become more sensitive to cold than usual and want the indoor temperature to be cranked up.
It’s difficult to look and feel your best when your body is behaving erratically, and skin and hair changes that accompany an underactive thyroid can be challenging to deal with. Like other cells, the hair follicles are regulated by thyroid hormone, and low levels of this hormone can cause them to stop regenerating. When that happens, you continue to lose hair at your normal rate, but it doesn’t return. In addition to hair loss, the texture of your hair may change and become coarser as a result of a thyroid condition.
Skin cells, like hair follicles, have a rapid turnover rate, making them especially vulnerable to thyroid function. In the absence of sufficient thyroid hormone, the cells regenerate more slowly. This means old, dead skin hangs around longer, accumulates more damage than usual and takes longer to shed resulting in dry, flaky skin. While there are many causes of dry and damaged skin, studies show 74% of hypothyroidism patients reported this problem. In addition, if a patient develops the redness and swelling of the skin known as myxedema, this could be related to hypothyroidism caused by an autoimmune disease.
Multiple medical conditions are linked to mental clarity and function, and hypothyroidism is no exception. More than half of all thyroid patients report feeling depression and/or anxiety, and while the number of sufferers is higher in women, a sizeable number of men also experience hypothyroidism symptoms. As with skin complaints, mental issues can have numerous causes, but it was a common problem among thyroid patients. Others complain of mental fogginess and difficulty concentrating, with 22% having problems solving math equations while 39% felt their memories were no longer up to par.
Constipation is another of the hypothyroidism symptoms experienced by sufferers, although it is by no means specific to this condition. Research shows this complaint affects 17% of those with low thyroid levels, compared with 10% of people without. It’s a common problem among thyroid patients, as are heavy or irregular menstrual periods.
Most people experience some joint pain, stiffness, or swelling during their lives, and this can be related to a number of conditions. In low thyroid patients, however, these occur more frequently, and 34% get muscle cramps after periods of inactivity. Patients are also twice as likely to feel pain and weakness resulting from catabolism, which is when the body breaks down tissues or muscle for energy.
The thing to remember is that so many hypothyroidism symptoms have the potential to be caused by other conditions, it’s difficult to pinpoint low thyroid levels as a common denominator between them. That’s one of the reasons an underactive thyroid can be hard to diagnose because any of the symptoms could have completely unrelated causes. It’s often only when you see a specialist and he or she draws the connections between your various complaints that hypothyroidism is even identified as a possibility. By that point, many patients are already very sick.
Partly as a result of the complexity of diagnosing underactive thyroid symptoms, medical science has recently begun looking for ways to practice prevention in this area. If you’re at risk for hypothyroidism symptoms or you have cases of this in your family, being proactive about managing your thyroid can be beneficial. Some things you can do to support it are:
A delicate balance needs to exist between stress hormones and cortisol for proper thyroid function. Chronic stress can cause problems in your body for years before lab tests show a problem. All the while, you may experience hypothyroid symptoms, such as tiredness and weight gain. This is because stress puts pressure on your adrenal glands, suppressing both the hypothalamus and pituitary glands. These both have an impact on the thyroid function. Find ways to reduce your stress by taking part in calming activities like meditation, deep yoga breathing, journaling, and walks in nature.
Thyroid conditions can have an effect on your sleep patterns, and that’s problematic because our bodies need enough sleep for overall health and healing. Try to get between 7 and 9 hours’ sleep each night, but avoid prescription sleep medication. If you have difficulty sleeping, be sure not to eat later than two hours before bed, so you don’t try and rest on a full belly. Sip calming chamomile or herbal tea, and drip a few drops of lavender oil on your pillow or the soles of your feet. Try using a natural remedy like Dr. Garber’s Natural Solutions Sleep Aid to help send you off to the land of dreams.
Taking part in low-intensity exercise can help with hormone production and speed up a sluggish metabolism. Try yoga, swimming, or jogging, and eat a diet rich in minerals like selenium, iodine, zinc, thiamine, B12, and vitamin D. Add sea vegetables, dark leafy greens, quality fats, and plant-based protein sources, and go easy on refined sugar, carbohydrates, and alcohol. These items all cause inflammation, weight gain, and high blood-sugar levels.
Endocrine disruptors are any types of chemicals that imitate natural hormones. These interfere with the communication between our hormones and cells. To reduce your exposure to disruptors, choose glass containers instead of plastic, drink filtered water, and buy organic produce. In addition, choose non-toxic, natural bath and beauty products, household cleaners, and laundry detergents.
Round off your thyroid-building regimen with Dr. Garber’s Natural Solutions Thyro Support, which contains a proprietary blend of biotherapies specially formulated to support healthy thyroid function.