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9 Signs of an Underactive Thyroid and How to Correct Them
Do you suffer from one or more of the following symptoms? You might have an underactive thyroid. Learn the signs and symptoms below along with easy ways to correct them.
An underactive thyroid can cause many problems, ranging from a sluggish metabolism to more worrisome symptoms, like high blood pressure and heart failure, according to a report from The New York Times. Many people suffer from thyroid issues, but unless you have been tested recently for your T3 and T4 hormone levels, you may not even be aware that you have a thyroid issue.
However, there are many physical symptoms that hypothyroidism has that can help you determine if you are suffering from an underactive thyroid. If you haven’t had your thyroid tested in a while (or ever), and you are suffering from any of these symptoms (or more than one), then you might want to make an appointment with your doctor to get tested right away. According to Women’s Health Research, women over the age of 35 should get tested every few years even if they show no signs of thyroid problems.
The thyroid is a small gland located at the base of the neck. It produces two hormones, T3 and T4. T3 and T4 are responsible for regulating many processes in the body, including metabolism function, how fast your heart beats, how much oxygen is in your blood, regulating the amount of calcium in your body, and much more. The thyroid is an extremely vital part of the body. When the thyroid is malfunctioning, it can lead to a wide array of dangerous health effects in the body.
Typically, dangers of an underactive thyroid can include a slow metabolism (leading to weight gain), a reduction in physical energy levels, a slowing of mental functioning, increased blood pressure, high small particle LDL cholesterol levels, increase risk for heart disease, and increase risk for heart failure. Thyroid disorders can also lead to infertility and an increased risk for osteoporosis. Thyroid problems during pregnancy can also lead to complications for both mother and baby.
According to Harvard Health, there is no precise way to identify how many people suffer from thyroid issues. Many people have thyroid problems but do not know it. Not all doctors test for thyroid function at well visits. This can make determining how many people have the problem difficult. Harvard Health estimates that between 10 million and 30 million people suffer from thyroid malfunctions in the United States. Women are five to ten times more likely to have thyroid problems than men.
According to Women’s Health Research, this usually has to do with pregnancy. When a woman becomes pregnant, her immune system is naturally lowered to prevent her body from attacking her baby. This affects thyroid function, which can account for some of the weight gain and fatigue associated with pregnancy. After delivery, the thyroid and immune system are supposed to return to normal functioning, but in some cases, this does not happen. About 10 percent of women suffer from postpartum thyroiditis, which is thyroid disease that starts after pregnancy. A woman will start to create antibodies that will attack the thyroid. Some women recover from this condition, while others do not. Researchers believe that genetics may play a role in which women have difficulty returning to normal thyroid functioning after childbirth.
Not all doctors test for thyroid function, which means you might have an underactive thyroid and not know it. If you suffer from one or more of the following conditions, you may have thyroid issues:
Your hair is a window into the health of your entire body. A healthy body will produce healthy hair. An unhealthy body will produce unhealthy hair. If you have thyroid problems, your hair will show it. Typically, hypothyroidism causes your hair to thin and turn brittle, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Your nails may also show signs of illness, and turn brittle, have excessive ridges, and flake or crack easily. Prematurely grey hair can also be a sign of thyroid problems.
Skin problems can be caused by a variety of issues, but one of the main causes is an underactive thyroid. Since the thyroid is responsible for proper metabolic function, if your metabolism is slowed, your body produces less moisture. This will lead to issues like dry skin, pale, waxy skin, puffy skin, and slow-healing wounds.
For women, thyroid problems can lead to heavier-than-normal periods. This can lead to excessive bleeding, a longer period length, and increased PMS symptoms. If your periods are unusually heavy, but have no explained reason, speak with your doctor about getting tested for thyroid malfunctions.
Thyroid function is responsible, to some degree, for regulating mood in both men and women. A malfunctioning thyroid can lead to a host of problems, including rapid mood swings, greater highs and lows, extended irritability, and an inability to react normally to everyday situations and stress. Mood swings along, however, are not the best indication of thyroid problems, as they can be caused by so many different things.
According to the Thyroid Foundation of Canada, constipation can be a sign of hypothyroidism in individuals also suffering from other thyroid symptoms. Since the thyroid is responsible for metabolism, an improperly functioning thyroid can lead to a slow digestive system. Slow digestion leads to constipation issues. Chronic constipation could be a symptom- fewer than three bowel movements a week, hard stools more than 25 percent of the time, straining more than 25 percent of the time, and partial elimination more than 25 percent of the time.
Since the thyroid is located in the throat, a malfunctioning thyroid can cause your voice to sound hoarse. This is particularly true if you have an enlarged thyroid (sometimes called a goiter). However, even if you do not have a visible goiter, you may still have a hoarse voice due to a malfunctioning thyroid.
When your cell production and function is lowered (as it is when you have a slow metabolism), then your body does not respond well to heat. Your cells are burning less energy, which means you feel cold much easier and have a harder time warming up naturally.
An obvious side effect of an underactive thyroid is sudden weight gain. The less energy you use, the more weight your body collects. When your metabolism is sluggish, your body converts fewer calories into energy, which also contributes to weight gain. You may have reduced calorie needs as well, which if you ignore and eat normally, will lead to additional weight gain. The thyroid itselt can cause about a 20 pound weight gain, while additional weight gain can come from lack of activity or overeating.
When your body has no energy, you feel tired. This is a natural result of a sluggish thyroid. You will have less energy throughout the day and require more sleep to feel normal. You may also feel constantly tired even after getting the recommended amount of sleep (more than 7 hours per night). You may also feel physically tired, with muscle aches or bone aches.
These methods are scientifically proven to help restore normal thyroid function and stop dangerous thyroid side effects, like heart disease and weight gain.
You can’t go wrong with taking iodine for the thyroid. Iodine is necessary to create thyroid hormones. T3 and T4, produced by the thyroid, both contain iodine (3 and 4 molecules, respectively). Iodine is an essential nutrient for the body, which is why many food manufacturers fortify foods with iodine. Where can you find iodine? Kelp and other seaweeds are an important source of iodine. You can also find iodine in dairy products, meat, and fish.
Of course you know that vitamins are important sources of health, which is why many people take a daily multivitamin. The best vitamins for the thyroid include E, C, and A. These vitamins are considered the “antioxidant” vitamins, and can help reduce oxidation in the body. This reduces stress on the thyroid and makes it easier for the body to produce T3 and T4.
Fatty acids are essential in proper thyroid function. Omega-3 and Omega-6 are both important for the body. According to a 2002 study from The Center for Genetics, the ideal ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 acids is somewhere between 2/1 and 4/1 (6 to 3 ratio). Other doctors have recommended that individuals eat 4 times greater the number of omega-3 acids as omega-6. According to the study, most Americans have a ratio somewhere in the 17/1 range, which is highly dangerous. The study found that ratios over 5/1 contributed to a greater risk for health problems. Sources of omega-3 oils include fish, nuts, flax seeds, dairy products, and leafy greens.
Selenium is an ingredient that is used by the thyroid to synthesize hormones and create enzymes necessary for the body to engage in a variety of biochemical reactions. Selenium works together with iodine to promote healthy thyroid function. Selenium is found naturally in many foods like meat, nuts, milk, leafy greens, eggs, cheese, and oats. It is also available as a supplement. The National Institute of Health recommends that healthy adults take 55 mcg of selenium per day (60 to 70 if pregnant or nursing).
Proper zinc and copper levels are also necessary for a healthy thyroid. Zin helps product T3 and T4, while copper provides antioxidant protection. Zinc also uses copper when producing T3 and T4, which means you will need a steady supply of copper to allow the zinc to work effectively.
Exercise can help encourage healthy thyroid function. Regular, moderate exercise of at least 30 minutes a day can help promote overall health. According to thyroid expert Dr. J. E. Williams of Renegade Health, there is one exercise that will help promote healthy thyroid function. This exercise should be done twice a day to help regulate effective thyroid function.
Did you know that getting enough sunlight is also an important part of healthy thyroid function? That is because vitamin D is one of the most important vitamins for effective thyroid health. Vitamin D helps protect the thyroid from autoimmune destruction (attacking the thyroid with antibodies created in your own body). In fact, one of the leading causes of thyroid disease are autoimmune-related. If your immune system destroys your thyroid cells, the levels of T3 and T4 that your body produces permanently drop. You can get vitamin D from the sun, by spending at least 30 minutes a day in sunlight. You can also get vitamin D through animal foods, like milk, other dairy products, and meat.
Just as dangerous, and more underdiagnosed, is hyperthyroidism. This is a condition where the thyroid is over-efficient, leading to problems like rapid weight loss, fatigue, goiters, irregular periods, heat intolerance, restlessness, and sleep problems. If you take steps to correct a sluggish thyroid but you actually have an overactive thyroid, this could make the problem even worse (for example, too much iodine can lead to hyperthyroidism and Grave’s disease). Before taking any steps to correct your thyroid hormone levels, have your levels tested by a doctor to find out if your thyroid is overactive or underactive. Other contributing factors to hyperthyroidism include inflammation and taking too much thyroid hormone, according to the National Library of Medicine.
Basically, your thyroid is like a barometer for the health of your entire body. If you have poor health, your thyroid will show it. The healthier nutrients that you place into your body, and the more active lifestyle you life, the fewer thyroid problems you will see. Of course, there are some notable exceptions to this rule, but for most people, simply cleaning up the diet, exercising, and supplementing with thyroid-promoting supplements can help you restore efficient thyroid function in both men and women.
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