Feeling “Off” Lately? Check Your Thyroid If You Experience These Common Thyroid Symptoms
Before we dive into the symptoms of Hypothyroidism I think it’s important to first overview the role of the thyroid gland and why it’s so important to your beauty, fertility and overall health. The thyroid is an endocrine gland located in the neck that produces and release hormones into the bloodstream in order to reach the cells of your body. The thyroid uses iodine, tyrosine, selenium and other nutrients from the foods you eat to make two main hormones: Triiodothyronine (T3) + Thyroxine (T4). These hormones are important because they regulate the body’s metabolism, digestive function, mood, energy and so much more. A well functioning thyroid is also critical for fertility and hormonal balance since thyroid output is closely linked to female reproductive health.
Unfortunately, research estimates that a whopping 1/3 people have thyroid disease yet more than half of those with a thyroid condition likely don’t know they have it. Women are especially vulnerable as they are 5 – 8 times more likely to have thyroid disease. I recommend that you get your thyroid properly tested if you’ve been struggling with any of the following common thyroid symptoms:
Depression + Anxiety
If you’ve been feeling low or anxious lately for no obvious reason your thyroid gland may be to blame. A well functioning thyroid gland is critical to a balanced mood since thyroid hormone is directly linked to the regulation of important neurotransmitters such as GABA and serotonin. When your thyroid malfunctions the production of these neurotransmitters tends to fluctuate causing unwanted effects on your mood. Depression is especially common in hypothyroidism and thyroid hormone replacement therapy even used to be a common treatment for low mood before the discovery of serotonin regulating medications.
Feeling depressed and anxious? Make sure your doctor runs thyroid antibodies. Autoimmunity creates antibodies against the thyroid which cause gland destruction leading to fluctuations in mood. When autoimmune thyroid disease is active it can manifest as anxiety since antibodies attacking the thyroid causing an excess of hormones to spill into your blood stream. The most common cause of thyroid dysfunction is due to a condition called Hashimoto’s thyroid disease which causes your immune system to attack the thyroid gland. This anxious + depressed fluctuating pattern is common in Hashimoto’s disease since your thyroid will be in a state of deficiency some of the time causing low mood and can also exhibit hyperthyroid symptoms like anxiety when the thyroid gland is actively being destroyed by the immune system.
Early hypothyroidism commonly manifests in lethargy and low motivation, but not all fatigue is due to thyroid malfunction. If your fatigue is thyroid-related, you will likely experience worsening difficulty sustaining energy. This could look like a lack of energy for activities that were one a part of your normal routine, like exercise. If you used to hit the gym regularly but currently struggle to have the energy to workout you should definitely visit you doctor to see if your thyroid is to blame. I often find that my hypothyroid patients also experience a feeling of heaviness in body and head, especially throughout the afternoon. While it’s normal to feel tired if you’re pushing yourself too much at work or haven’t been sleeping well, a new onset of profound tiredness that doesn’t resolve with rest is a good sign that your thyroid may need extra support.
Thyroid hormones act as the ‘gas’ that fuels your metabolism. This means that when thyroid output is low your metabolism will be low as well. I typically suspect hypothyroidism when a patient presents to my clinic with new onset weight gain despite a heathy diet & exercise plan. These patients are doing everything right and are still struggling with their weight.
If you’ve gained weight rapidly over the past few months then it’s time to run a full thyroid panel. I’ve seen hundreds of women that were dismissed as having ‘normal thyroid function’ after their basic lab work failed to show elevated TSH levels. Upon further investigation, most of these women with complaints of new onset weight gain had low free thyroid hormone levels and elevated antibodies against the thyroid gland. It is essential to look at both free T4 and free T3 in resistant weight loss cases since T3 is the metabolically active form of thyroid hormone. T4 is primarily produced by the thyroid gland and it’s converted to T3 in peripheral tissues where it then acts as fuel for your metabolism. Unfortunately for those of you struggling with weight gain low conversion is common since it can be effected by hormone levels (low progesterone / high estrogen), nutritional deficiencies (specifically B vitamins and selenium), and chronic stress.
Thyroid dysfunction can manifest as hormonal problems like long heavy menstrual periods and more severe PMS symptoms. An under active thyroid can also worsen the severity and progression of female endocrine disorders like endometriosis, PCOS and fibroids.
Hypothyroidism messes with female hormones because low free thyroid hormone levels cause a decrease in the clearance of estrogen. It also increases aromatization, a chemical reaction that increases the production of estrogens within the body. This unfortunately means that hypothyroidism not only causes your body to make more estrogens, it also inhibits your ability to effectively excrete these excess hormones. While estrogen is critical for hormonal health too much estrogen is associated with heavy periods, fibroids, and even some hormonally-driven cancers like breast and ovarian cancers. Higher estrogen can also directly feedback and further impact the the thyroid gland because the cells involved in thyroid regulation also contain estrogen receptors. Bottom line: it’s time to get your thyroid checked if you’re experiencing irregular periods, or if you’ve recently noticed a significant change in your hormonal health.
The thyroid gland is often referred to as the body’s natural thermostat because it helps to regulate body temperatures. My patients with hypothyroidism often have low body temperatures and experience new onset cold intolerance as an early symptom of thyroid disease. Feeling cold is a symptom that many women write off as ‘normal’ but a low body temperature typically equals a low metabolism so it should not be ignored. A cheap and easy way to screen for thyroid disease at home is through body temperature screening. Specifically, temperatures should be measured three hours after waking and then every three hours after that, three times per day. Having a low body temperature does not confirm thyroid disease but it is a good indicator that you should have some blood work done to look at your thyroid and iron levels.
If you’re experiencing any of these thyroid symptoms then it’s time to assess your thyroid health with a knowledgeable health professional that has additional training in functional thyroid health. You want to make sure that your levels are optimal, and not simply falling within the ‘normal’ range. If you live in the GTA and you’re looking to book an appointment to discuss your thyroid health you can book here.
- Wilson, et al. ‘Evidence-Based Approach to Restoring Thyroid Health’ April 2014.
- Kachouei, et al. ‘The Effect of Levothyroxine and Selenium versus Levothyroxine Alone on Reducing the Level of Anti-thyroid Peroxidase Antibody in Autoimmune Hypothyroid Patients.’ Adv Biomed Res. 2018 Jan 22;7:1
This information is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your Naturopathic doctor or other primary health care provider. Do not use the information in this document for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease. Always speak with your Naturopathic doctor before taking any medication or nutritional or herbal or using any treatment for a health problem. If you have or suspect that you have a medical problem, contact your health care provider promptly. Do not disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking professional advice because of something you have read online.