Literally millions of Americans are living with either an under-treated or undiagnosed chronic condition. Unfortunately, symptoms simply become a part of everyday life. Groggy mornings, fatigue, lack of focus, anxiety and other negative symptoms simply become the norm. Except there’s only one major problem — that isn’t normal.
Many people with these types of symptoms are living with hypothyroidism. Could you too be suffering from a low functioning thyroid? Here are some of the signs to look out for.
What does your thyroid do?
To understand this condition, we must first look at the “master gland” that, in this case, leads to abnormalities. Your thyroid itself is a large gland that secretes hormones, regulating both growth and development. Once it slows down, so does every other system in your body, including your gut, muscles, brain and heart. Well, that doesn’t sound very good, now does it?
As stated by the Thyroid Foundation of Canada, approximately 200 million people across the globe suffer from some type of thyroid dysfunction. This includes hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid), hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid), goiters, cancer and other related conditions. Of those, as many as 50 percent are undiagnosed.
What is hypothyroidism?
Hypothyroidism tends to be the most common. Although a critical condition to treat, it is often misunderstood, even among physicians. Unlike many illnesses, which can be accurately diagnosed through approved testing, hypothyroidism isn’t as black and white — and that’s the issue.
A TSH test is often administered, which measures the amount of TSH in a patient’s blood. More often than not, patients will generally only receive a diagnosis and treatment if their blood level is over 5.0.
The only problem is, this discounts those who are living with subclinical hypothyroidism — triggering low-grade symptoms that reduce one’s quality of life. Some adults will fall within the 1.5 to 3.0 range, and in turn, not receive treatment. These levels, however, may still indicate that thyroid support is needed.
Due to a range of common factors, including toxins in our food, nutritional deficiencies and chronic stress, our everyday lives are interfering with thyroid function. More specifically, for those who are suffering from poor thyroid function, you may notice the following signs.
Signs your thyroid is making you sick
You may now be thinking, “Am I suffering from thyroid dysfunction? I’m tired and struggle to lose weight, could this gland be to blame? If so, how else is it affecting my well-being? If doctors struggle to diagnosis this condition, how will I know if I have it?”
I can’t stress this often enough: listen to your body. If you feel as though something is abnormal, then you need to investigate. With so many common symptoms, affecting such a large portion of the population, many of us just “accept” dysfunction as a normal part of life.
The worst thing you can do is nothing at all. The best thing you can do is become more aware of how you feel. Only then will you be able to effectively intervene. If you are feeling less than great, potentially due to your thyroid, here are some clues:
1. Your skin is abnormally dry or puffy
When you begin to notice issues with your skin, this is your body’s way of telling you that something isn’t quite right. These symptoms will generally be more severe than the type of dry skin you suffer from during the winter months. They are often accompanied by pale yellowish skin, cracked heels, itchy scalp and even eczema.
Since the thyroid hormone is an important regulator of epidermal homeostasis, when there’s an internal imbalance, external signs begin to surface. More often than not, patients experience scaly, dry skin. In more severe cases, myxedema becomes a significant issue. Although rare, it can be life-threatening.
The dermatological changes associated with myxedema can occur in patients with either hypo or hyperthyroidism. As long chains of sugar molecules are deposited in the dermis, swelling results. More common in women than in men, individuals often notice issues within their lower legs or around their eyes as their skin begins to thicken.
2. You have very little energy
Does this sound like you? Are you noticing that you’re just too tired to do the things you used to? This is definitely one of the top signs that your thyroid isn’t functioning at an optimal level. For those suffering from thyroid dysfunction, the fatigue they experience can be debilitating.
Since your thyroid impacts all of your energy systems, it may be to blame. Of course, there are many reasons why people experience fatigue. But when you develop a thyroid problem, you cannot generally sustain energy long enough. For many, they begin to rely on stimulants such as cigarettes, coffee and sugar — which can worsen one’s condition.
One of the most significant signs is a heavy head. For some, when they sit down, they can’t help but conk out. Since thyroid-related fatigue is often due to poor conversion of hormone T4 to the biologically active T3, nutrition can help. In order to improve mood, energy levels and your metabolism, selenium, manganese, vitamin B12 tyrosine, iodine and zinc are all required for healthy thyroid function.
3. Issues with digestion
A major area of concern among those who suffer from thyroid dysfunction is poor gut health. From constipation to diarrhea, these symptoms may be a sign of poor thyroid health. Once thyroid hormones are out-of-whack, you bet your digestive system will take notice.
Once again, hormones T4 and T3 are involved. The majority of your cells want T3 and T4 to be effectively converted — and in this case, the gut is involved. A highly complex process, low conversion rates and poor gut health generally lead to diarrhea for those with hyperthyroidism and constipation for those with hyperthyroidism.
Within one study, published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, researchers found that 54 percent of patients with a history of hypothyroidism suffered from small intestinal bacterial overgrowth — influencing clinical gastrointestinal manifestations.
4. Fluctuations in weight
For those who suffer from hypothyroidism, they are experiencing the effects of an underactive thyroid. Meaning, their basal metabolic rate is generally quite low. Once this occurs, weight gain is generally a noticeable symptom, as well as difficulty shedding those extra pounds. In comparison, hyperthyroidism can cause patients to suffer from unhealthy weight loss.
Within one study, published in Archives of Internal Medicine, researchers found that even a slight increase in TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone), across time, was associated with weight gain. A key point here is, the patients fell within the “normal” range of 0.5 to 5.0, as discussed above. Yet, even slight increases caused weight-related symptoms.
See your doctor for a thyroid evaluation
If you are currently overweight and cannot seem to shed those excess pounds, despite a balanced, active lifestyle, it’s best to have a thorough thyroid evaluation. Before you see a physician, write down all of your symptoms. Even if your TSH levels are within the “normal” range, you must listen to your body. Immediately begin to actively balance thyroid function — these superfoods can also help!
Become more aware of your body and what it’s trying to tell you. Half the battle is figuring out why you’re experiencing problematic symptoms, as that will be the best way to implement effective, natural treatments. If you are currently suffering from hypothyroidism, you may also be sensitive to the cold, experience symptoms of depression, have brittle nails and suffer from regular brain fog.
Take action today. Eliminate refined sugars, increase your intake of quality protein, support your gut and address adrenal fatigue. You can achieve internal balance, but you need to start changing external habits!
— Krista Hillis