Have you been feeling tired and having trouble concentrating? Or perhaps you’ve noticed some not-so-awesome changes in your hair, nails, or weight. Or maybe you just don’t feel like your old self, but can’t pinpoint it, you just feel a little “blah”. You (and your family doctor) might simply attribute these issues to other health problems, or to simply getting older.
But these symptoms can also be signs of a sluggish thyroid.
The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland in the neck. It’s job is to produce the hormones that regulate metabolism. Low levels of thyroid hormone can cause a range of symptoms, including fatigue, constipation, dry skin, brittle nails, weight gain, hair changes, aches and pains, low body temperature and low moods. Untreated, an underactive thyroid (clinically we call it hypothyroidism) can increase the chances of developing high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and heart disease.
The thyroid is a serious gland!
Women are more likely than men to have problems with their thyroid, particularly as they get older. I know, that isn’t fair. But science rarely is.
In some women, the onset of thyroid trouble is so gradual that it’s hardly noticeable; in others, symptoms come on abruptly over the course of a few weeks or months.
Unfortunately, conventional medical doctors often overlook the thyroid and instead tell us that our symptoms are just a normal part of aging. If we persist, saying there is a problem, some will even prescribe an anti-depressant – which will do little to address the actual problem.
Here are some of the symptoms that could mean you have a thyroid issue
You may feel unusually tired and have less energy.
You may feel chilly even when others around you are comfortable. If you find yourself grabbing a sweater when everyone else is wearing tank tops – this is what I mean. Bye-bye backless dress, hello cardigan sweater.
Seems backwards, right? Less food, but more weight happens when metabolism is dragging, you need fewer calories so your appetite may decrease — at the same time, you are using fewer of the calories you do eat, so more are stored as fat.
Low levels of thyroid hormone can lead to high blood pressure as well as elevated levels of total and LDL cholesterol. If you suddenly see your cholesterol creeping up on your annual exam with no real changes in your diet – your thyroid could be the culprit. Over time, an underactive thyroid can compromise the ability of the heart to pump blood effectively.
Hypothyroidism and depression share many of the same symptoms, including trouble concentrating, memory problems, and loss of interest in things that are normally important to you.
Hypothyroidism can cause symptoms throughout the body, from constipation to muscle aches and pain around the joints. Thin skin, broken nails and dull, weak hair are also signs.
Are you experiencing any of these symptoms?
While it is true you ARE getting older, that may not be the real reason you are suffering. And while gaining weight, broken nails, and thinning hair is enough to depress most women, anti-depressants are not the answer. In fact, you may be able to simply support your thyroid and naturally alleviate and reverse many of this unwelcome symptoms.
Because I always prefer to test, rather than guess, I recommend getting a complete thyroid panel. You will want one that not only measures Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH), but also measures active and inactive thyroid hormones, thyroid binding globulin (T3, T4, and RT3), and thyroid antibodies.
Unfortunately, most conventional practitioners only check TSH – thyroid stimulating hormone. This is actually a hormone that is released by your pituitary gland, so it is actually measuring the function of your pituitary – not your thyroid. Relying on TSH alone can cause them to completely miss the root cause of your symptoms and instead blame old age – even if you aren’t that old!
A complete thyroid panel will test your thyroid function as well as pituitary and tell you if you have primary thyroid dysfunction or an autoimmune thyroid disorder.
But what if your thyroid tests come back “normal”?
First, you must understand that in conventional medicine, “normal” is not the same as “optimal”.
You’ll notice that I put the word NORMAL in quotes. A “normal” range is generally the average of all the people who take the test. The problem is, most people who are getting lab tests done are experiencing negative symptoms – which skews the average to be the mean of all sick people.
In functional medicine, we look at optimal ranges – in other words, we base our reference ranges off of where healthy individuals would function their best. So it is important to understand your lab values when assessing your health.
But there is also more to look at.
Many women, however, have what I call a secondary thyroid dysfunction.
Secondary Thyroid Dysfunction is where another system in the body is struggling or operating sub-optimally and causing a strain on the thyroid. Some examples of this can be GI dysfunction, hormonal imbalances, metabolic syndrome and adrenal fatigue. Understanding the root of your low thyroid output and subsequent symptoms can be the key to reversing the condition naturally.
Wondering if you have a primary or secondary thyroid dysfunction or if your symptoms are due to another health issue?
Wishing you could have a clear mind, small waist, and gorgeous hair and nails again?
Let’s figure this out together.
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