The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped structure located at the base of the neck and is one of the most important endocrine glands in the human body.
The thyroid gland produces T4 and T3 hormones. These hormones control every cell, tissue, and organ in the body and nearly every function in the body, affecting heart rate, digestion nutrients absorption, how quickly you burn calories, controls other hormone functions also, and much much more.
As such a malfunction of either the TSH, the thyroid-stimulating hormone, or T4 and T3 production and function can impair practically all the activities in your body.
Thyroid disease is common and women are more likely to have thyroid disease especially after childbirth and at menopause.
One big problem is that thyroid disease symptoms can be vague and feel and look like other problems or be taken as signs of aging. Take for example joint pain, and thinning hair.
And according to The American Thyroid Association, 12 percent of the US population will develop a thyroid problem in their lifetime and 20 million Americans have some form of thyroid disease.
And 5-8 more women are more likely to develop thyroid disease than men.
And one woman in 8 will develop a thyroid problem in her lifetime. And a whopping 60 percent of thyroid sufferers in the world don’t know they have a thyroid problem.
What are the main causes of thyroid problems?
The most common types of thyroid disease are hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism
What are the main causes of hypothyroidism?
According to an article published on the Cleveland Clinic website, and in a 2010 Hypokratia Quarterly Medical Journal these are the main causes of hypothyroidism:
- Thyroiditis: This is an inflammation of the thyroid causing it to swell and this lowers the number of thyroid hormones produced causing hypothyroidism.
- Hashimoto disease is an autoimmune disease where the body’s immune cells attack the thyroid gland.
- Postpartum thyroiditis affects 5% -8% of women after childbirth. It is temporary but can go on to become a permanent condition.
- Iodine deficiency can cause thyroid disease and is a problem in many parts of the world. However, too much iodine can also be a problem.
- Treatment with radioactive iodine
- External radioactive therapies
The above are primary causes meaning the thyroid fails to produce adequate thyroid hormones. The secondary causes are central or from the brain and these lead to failure to produce adequate TSH.
In secondary hypothyroidism, the cause may be the pituitary gland adenomas, surgery or radiotherapy of the pituitary, history of head trauma, or apoplexy.
In the hypothalamus, tumors can happen and radiotherapy or surgery can lead to hypothyroidism( source).
How is a thyroid problem diagnosed?
To diagnose thyroid disease, ask your doctor for the complete thyroid panel which includes TSH, free T3, and free T4, and reverse T3.
How do you know there is something wrong with your thyroid?
There are several problems you will notice if there is something wrong with your thyroid and that is the focus of this post. Unfortunately, the signs can be subtle and many people ignore them. These signs may also occur in other hormonal imbalances so it is important to get to the bottom of it when you think something is wrong.
Signs and symptoms of thyroid disease.
Problems with normalizing your body temperature
Do you find that you get cold a lot when others in the same room are not or you are always hot?
When being hot may be a sign of menopause, but oftentimes it is also caused by an overactive thyroid.
So it is a good idea to have that checked to be sure. Being either too hot or cold all the time is uncomfortable.
Brain fog can be caused by many other health problems including problems with anemia, adrenal fatigue other hormonal imbalances but is very common with thyroid disease.
If you find that you are having trouble thinking clearly, you should have your doctor check your thyroid levels.
Thinning hair, dry nails, and dry skin.
A big problem in thyroid disease especially in hypothyroidism is thinning hair, dry hair, dry brittle nails and even thinning eyebrows.
When you start finding more and more strands of hair when you brush or lustreless hair, patchy hair, and nails breaking and chipping, it is important to see your doctor for a thyroid panel.
Weight gain and inability to lose weight
Weight gain that happens with no changes in habits of diet or activity is very likely due to a thyroid problem, mainly hypothyroidism.
As the thyroid pretty much controls the metabolic rate, when there is a dysfunction and a slowing in the production of thyroid hormones, the metabolic rate slows down.
And that slows down how energy is used produced and used in the body and one finds that they may not feel hungry but are still gaining weight.
Weight loss that is too fast and cannot gain weight
As mentioned, because the thyroid is the driver of metabolic processes, including digestion, when there is excess in thyroid function, the metabolic rate goes way up.
And that causes nutrients to pass right through the gastrointestinal tract without much absorption.
So when nutrients down reach the cells, there is a deficit in energy, and weight loss occurs.
Depression and or anxiety
Because the thyroid has important actions in the brain, any thyroid dysfunction can lead to psychiatric problems.
And studies have found that both increases and decreases in thyroid hormones can cause mental health issues and anxiety and depression do exist in both hypo and hyperthyroidism.
In fact, the initial symptoms in hypothyroidism are psychiatrist in nature including forgetfulness, anxiety, with progressive mental slowing and can lead to speech deficits (source).
According to research cited above, thyroid hormone affects 5HT activity and in hypothyroidism, the 5HTA receptor becomes desensitized affecting serotonin your mood neurotransmitter.
Digestive and stomach problems
Digestive problems can happen when you have a thyroid problem.
These include indigestion or symptoms such as low stomach acid, gall stones, constipation, and diarrhea.
These are serious problems that can lead to complications and therefore it is important to follow up with your doctor to find out if the problem is a thyroid problem or something eles.
A thyroid problem can cause excessive and debilitating fatigue.
In hypothyroidism, this total exhaustion is one of the early signs of an underactive thyroid.
So if you find you have so much fatigue that you can’t complete your daily activities without taking a nap or have real trouble getting out of bed, you may have a thyroid issue, likely hypothyroidism.
But fatigue also occurs in hyperthyroidism or Graves disease.
When you have hyperthyroidism, your metabolic rate is high and you may also have anxiety, trouble sleeping, and are restless a lot.
Also, when you have this high metabolism all your organs and systems are greatly taxed and stressed and you have no energy because the accelerated metabolism doesn’t allow your cells to absorb nutrients.
All these problems leave you bone-weary, affecting your ability to function and quality of life.
Sleeping too much
Due to the fatigue in both hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism, you may find that you are sleeping a lot more and finding it hard to wake up.
You lack energy. The anxiety and restlessness of hyperthyroidism can make one feel too tired and when they sleep they have no energy to want to get up.
But this is more common in hypothyroidism because this condition causes you to slow down.
The brain slows down, and the processes are much slower so you simply feel extremely fatigued.
Unable to sleep
In cases of hyperthyroidism, sleeplessness can occur due to being overstimulated.
With excess in the thyroid hormones, the activity in the brain is accelerated making you feel wound up and unable to slow down mentally to go to sleep.
When you suffer from hypothyroidism, you may not want to eat much because the transit of food is slowed down.
But in Hyperthyroidism, you may find you have an increased appetite because food is passing through too fast and leaving you hungry.
Your cells are not getting enough nutrients and energy so they demand more and therefore you feel hungry a lot.
Muscle and joint pain
Per Mayo Clinic muscle and joint pain can occur when you have thyroid disease, but it is more common in hypothyroidism.
The pain is mainly in the shoulders and the hips. Joint pain and stiffness can occur.
And there is pain and swelling in the small joints of the hands and feet and even carpal tunnel syndrome can happen.
Mayo Clinic advises treating pain and swelling with antiinflammatory drugs such as Ibuprofen and other pain killers like Tylenol and having your doctor see if you need to adjust your thyroid medications or follow up for other treatment. For Carpal tunnel syndrome, surgery may be done.
Sweating too much
If little activity leaves you drenched in sweat, this may indicate thyroid problems especially hyperthyroidism.
Remember that if you have a fast thyroid or too much thyroid hormone, your metabolism is very fast and that speeds up everything.
Do you know what happens when you run? Well with hyperthyroidism, it is like running all the time.
The cells are working too much your metabolic rate is very high, your heart is working faster too so you sweat a lot.
A hoarse voice
The voice may sound horse likely due to swelling or fluid overload in cases of hypothyroidism.
A hoarse voice requires seeing a doctor immediately because it can lead to problems swallowing or breathing.
Also, there are other serious causes of voice hoarseness that need to be ruled out.
Hyperthyroidism can cause the eyes to bulge out. This is due to Thyroid eye disease.
The cause of the condition is the swelling of the small muscles and soft fatty tissues of the eye socket to become inflamed and swell pushing the eye out.
This needs to be treated by your doctor. protecting the eye is critical as well as using lubricating eye drops as the eye gets dry.
An of course treating thyroid disease is key.
In Graves disease hyperthyroidism, your eyes can protrude
Period irregularities, and pregnancy problems
Are your periods all over the place-irregular?
This too can be a symptom of a thyroid problem.
Thyroid hormones also regulate the reproductive hormones and so if you are irregular you should see your doctor diagnose the problem.
A woman with undiagnosed hypothyroidism or inadequately treated is more likely to miscarry, severe developmental problems, or preterm delivery( source).
How to take care of your thyroid:
There are a few things you can do to improve your thyroid health and even reverse thyroid disease.
You must commit to live a holistic healthy lifestyle by doing the following:
Eat for your thyroid
What are the best foods to eat to nourish your thyroid?
- Eat foods high in iron.
- You may take a supplement but check with your doctor first. Too much iron can be toxic.
- Eat foods high in selenium such as brazil nuts ( just about 3 a day ).
- Include high-quality protein in your meals.
Also, avoid goitrogens such as eggplants and others.
Some goitrogens though are okay if cooked first.
See a certified dietician for a diet guide and help.
Eating healthy can be tough and you may need the help of a dietician who can recommend meals, and check to see the level of iodine in your food plus offer guidance on foods to avoid such as which foods are goitrogens and more.
See your doctor
Above all don’t ignore any changes in your body and ask your doctor for the complete thyroid panel.
Avoid toxins were possible
Some things such as foods you buy, containers, and personal care products contain toxins that cause hormonal imbalances. Try to use natural beauty products and items you use in your home.
Supplements may be needed
Vitamin A, C, B, E, zinc, and copper are essential in thyroid health and function in the production of thyroid health and function.
If you feel you are likely not getting enough vitamins and minerals from your diet, consult a doctor about supplementation.
Please don’t use supplements with the guidance of your doctor as some can lead to toxicity( vitamin A, E, D, and iron can be toxic if in excess).
Stress is bad for all health and it can affect your thyroid health. Learn tips to create lesser stress or even stress-free life if possible. Incorporate planning so you are not stressing with work and activities.
Use routines to streamline things you do every day, and cut back on unnecessary activities so in other words, don’t take on too much and learn to use boundaries effetively.
Also, activities like prayer, yoga, meditation, and even exercise are great at lowering stress.
Check this post and see more tips on reducing stress naturally.
Thyroid disease is common, and often not diagnosed or treated. If you have the above symptoms please see your doctor.
Do also take care of yourself by adjusting your lifestyle.
And as always, if you enjoyed this post please share it.