Are you struggling with these top 5 thyroid symptoms?Apr 05, 2021
Suffering from fatigue, weight issues & hair loss? Those could be signs of Thyroid disease. Read this blog to learn to overcome these symptoms fully.
If you're a fitness coach, health practitioner or health seeker, understanding the thyroid is essential.
Have you wondered that maybe an under-functioning thyroid could be the root of many issues?
Could it be the reason why you or your client is not having the energy they need to carry out your recommended behavioral changes?
For one, they could be struggling with weight loss despite your best advice.
Let's get real: the symptoms are always rather vague.
From my point of view, the causes may be a result of other systems' issues (adrenal, gut, inflammation, nutrient deficits). That is why it's always useful to have a solid foundation in the principles of functional medicine.
Here is some focused info on the thyroid to help you piece things together!
Why your Thyroid is so important.
The thyroid gland is a small butterfly-shaped gland that sits in your neck. It releases hormones – Triiodothyronine (T3) and Thyroxin (T4).
Both hormones control the growth and metabolism of every single cell in your body.
In addition, these hormones play an important role in regulating your weight, energy levels, body temperature, skin, hair, nail growth, and more.
The pituitary is a gland found in the middle of your head. It monitors your physiology and releases thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). TSH signals the thyroid gland to release hormones.
When your body makes too much hormones and becomes overactive, this condition is called Hyperthyroidism.
When your body makes too little hormones and becomes underactive, it’s called hypothyroidism.
How common is a poorly functioning thyroid?
In the United States, an hypothyroidism is more common than hyperthyroidism.
Hypothyroidism affects up to 5% of the general population with a further estimated 5% being undiagnosed.
On the other hand, Hyperthyroidism affects 1 in 100 persons.
These conditions, which can occur at any age, are more common in women. They are about five to eight times more likely than men to develop issues with this gland.
In this post, let's focus on Hypothyroidism. In this situation, the thyroid is underactive.
Top 5 Thyroid Symptoms
The symptoms of hypothyroidism tend to develop slowly over many years. Sometimes, symptoms like fatigue and weight gain can be misinterpreted as other conditions.
Here are the Top 5 symptoms to look out for:
Feeling tired and worn out all the time is the most common symptom of Hypothyroidism. Because of this, low-thyroid individuals feel sleepy and unrested, even though they may be sleeping more.
This also causes low motivation and feeling mentally tired constantly.
2) Weight gain
Unexplained weight gain is another common symptom of Hypothyroidism.
The body's cells can't get enough hormones if thyroid levels are low. This causes metabolism to slow down. Of course, this can lead to weight gain.
About 40% of low-thyroid individuals feel more sensitive to cold. With hypothyroidism, your basal metabolic rate decreases resulting in lesser heat generated in the body.
This results in you feeling colder than others around you.
It's underactivity lowers basal metabolic rate. This means that less heat is generated by the body. This results in feeling a colder that those around you.
4) Hair Loss
Thyroid hormones regulate hair follicles. Hence, disrupted thyroid function affects hair development at the root.
Hair follicles have stem cells which have a short lifespan. This means that when hair falls out, it may take long for new growth.
5) Sore Muscles and Joints
The body’s carnitine levels can decrease with low thyroid function. Carnitine, a natural compound in the body, burns fat for energy. It's a vital component of the mitochondria's role of producing energy.
Malfunctioning mitochondria will cause muscle and joint weakness.
When this bodily process slows down, it can cause fluid to collect in tissues and joints. This can cause stiffness and discomfort for the muscles.
In addition, Calcium absorption becomes difficult. After that, prolonged muscle contraction can occur.
Causes of low-functioning Thyroid
This low-function situation can be caused by the following:
- Autoimmune diseases – most commonly caused by Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis where your immune system attacks the glands.
- Surgical removal of part/all of thyroid gland - due to thyroid nodules, cancer or Graves’ disease, which affects the gland's functions.
- Radiation treatment - due to certain health conditions like Graves’ disease, cancer and lymphoma. Radiation treatments can impair its function.
- Thyroiditis - an inflammation of the glands
- Others - Medication, Iodine deficiency, congenital hypothyroidism or damage to the pituitary gland.
When further upstream causes are examined, low thyroid function is commonly the result of:
The thyroid works in tandem with the Adrenal glands. Under chronic stress, it produces the stress hormone cortisol. This can affect its function.
Studies show that significant reductions in tissue T4 and T3 levels with excessive stress cause hypothyroidism.
- Nutrient Deficiencies
Certain key nutrients drives thyroid hormone production. Because of this, deficiencies with these nutrients will often lead to hypothyroidism.
These nutrients are: Vitamin B12, Vitamin A, Magnesium, Zinc, Iodine and Selenium.
This gland is highly dependent on nutrients. Therefore, a poor nutrition can cause thyroid dysfunction.
- Other factors like Sleep, Toxin load, Endocrine disruptors, and lack of exercise can also affect its many functions.
Diagnosis and Treatment
There are various methods to measure thyroid hormone levels.
This can include assessment of medical history, identifying symptoms, physical exams and even blood tests.
There are also tests to evaluate how it is functioning. For instance, there is TSH, Free T4, Free T3, and Thyroid Antibodies such as TPO and TG antibodies.
Reading test results
- An elevated TSH, alongside low T4/Free T4 indicates primary hypothyroidism due to disease.
- A low TSH and low FT4 indicate hypothyroidism due to a problem in the pituitary gland.
- A holistic approach will be to also test for the necessary nutrients (Ferritin, Zinc, Copper) and have a diagnostic eye for all the other nutrients for which tests are currently unexamined, inaccessible or too expensive.
There are also methods other than blood exams.
Imaging tests like thyroid ultrasounds or radioactive iodine uptake may be needed to investigate deeper issues.
When it comes to treatment, there are also various modes.
One conventional method is via medication. Medications that boosts hormone production administered to address hypothyroidism. The most common one is levothyroxine. It's a synthetic T4 hormone.
Adopting a holistic approach in supporting your thyroid is, however, key. It is often useful and may result in the avoidance of using synthetic medication altogether.
But I believe that a holistic approach to treatment is vital.
Always take lifestyle changes into consideration. Look into stress management. Have a plan for diet sleep and exercise. Monitor your nutrient intake. Learn how to reduce your toxin load.
All these steps will play a part in sustainably supporting your thyroid. After all of that, your recovery can begin.
If you enjoyed this article and would like to learn more about the thyroid and its interconnectedness with the whole body system, you may be interested in my thyroid deep dive course coming up!
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Co-written by Yen Lim Piper and Dr Cheryl Kam