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5 Surprising Signs of a Sluggish Thyroid

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Think your thyroid is functioning fine? If you suffer from any of these conditions, you may have a sluggish thyroid.

Your thyroid is responsible for controlling your body weight and metabolism, but it also has an influence on other functions in the body as well. According to data from the Thyroid Foundation of Canada, about one in every 10 people suffer from some form of thyroid disorder. 50 percent of those people are likely undiagnosed with the problems. This makes it challenging to heal these disorders if you don’t even know you have a problem.

Many people do not show the “typical” signs of a thyroid disorder, which means they may suffer for years without a reason for their issues. However, a thyroid disorder can manifest in many different ways- some far from typical! 

You might be surprised to see these unknown symptoms of a sluggish thyroid in your own body.

What does the thyroid do?

Doctors and health professionals talk about the thyroid all the time, but many people are unsure exactly what the thyroid actually does in the body. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, the thyroid is located in the neck below the voice box. The thyroid is typically about two inches in size and has two lobes on either side of the windpipe. The thyroid produces the hormones thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3), which are necessary for hormone and metabolism balance. T4 and T3 also increase the amount of oxygen used by the body’s cells.

Surprising Signs of a sluggish thyroid

It is obvious to see how the thyroid helps with weight management and hormone regulation, but recent studies have shown that the gland is responsible for more functions in the body than thought in the past. If you suffer from heart disease, depression, irritable bowel syndrome, high cholesterol, and a host of other symptoms outlined below, you might have a thyroid that is not functioning correctly. These symptoms may be a sign that your thyroid is not functioning properly.

Psychiatric trouble

Psychiatrist Dr. Russell Joffe, from the North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System, concluded in 2011 that thyroid hormone supplements can improve psychiatric issues such as anxiety and mood swings. His findings also showed that a healthy thyroid can improve memory, help with concentration, and slow cognitive decline.

Several studies have indicated that a sluggish thyroid may result in depressive symptoms. A 2004 study from the Consorci Sanitari de Terrassa in Spain, showed that  38 percent of elderly persons showing signs of depression also tested positive for hypothyroidism. A 1993 study from the University of North Carolina School of Medicine indicated that individuals who suffer from subclinical hypothyroidism had a 56 percent chance of developing depressive symptoms.

Low libido

A 1997 study conducted by the Hospital Universitario de Los Andes in Venezuela showed that 60 percent of men who have hypothyroidism report a reduction in libido. Women’s Health Center reports a similar effect in women with sluggish thyroids.

Gum disease and poor oral health

Research has shown that thyroid function plays a role in oral health. A 2011 study published in the Indian Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism showed that hypothyroidism can lead to issues including delayed eruption in teeth in children, altered tooth morphology, and poor periodontal health altogether. Hypothyroidism can also come with oral health side effects, including accelerated tooth eruption in children, dry mouth, a burning tongue, and a propensity for gum disease.


Your thyroid may also help keep your skin clear. If you suffer from adult acne and are female, there is a chance your skin problems may stem from thyroid malfunction. A 2012 study conducted by the Athens University School of Medicine concluded, “It is likely that thyroid autoimmunity might be more frequent in the adult acne patients…” The study advised dermatology doctors to investigate thyroid problems when treating adult acne.

Heart Disease

A 2007 report from the North Shore University Hospital in New York reported that the thyroid can control heart functions including high blood pressure, cardiac contractility, cardiac output, heart rhythm disturbances, and vascular resistance. The report stated that “restoration of normal thyroid function most often reverses the abnormal cardiovascular hemodynamics.”


Can thyroid problems cause fibromyalgia? Although there have been few studies that actually tie low thyroid as a cause of fibromyalgia, a 1997 study published in the Clinical Bulletin of Myofascial Therapy indicated that fibromyalgia patients who showed normal thyroid function in tests showed reduced fibromyalgia symptoms after taking anywhere from 93.75-to-150 µg of T3 supplements.

Why can’t doctors detect all thyroid issues?

The problem with thyroid problems is that you don’t have to have significant thyroid changes to suffer from side effects. Doctors estimate that many people who suffer from subclinical hypothyroidism show a few of the obvious symptoms and may show only slight variations in traditional lab tests.

The main problem with the current thyroid tests is that they are not sensitive enough to detect most thyroid issues. The tests look for abnormalities in TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone) using a blood test. Today, the normal range determined by the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists for TSH is between 0.3 and 3.04. In the past, anything under 5.0 was considered “normal,” although many people had issues long before they reached a 5 on the scale.

In fact, a 1995 study published in the Annals of Epidemiology showed that thyroid levels over 1.5 in most women show cause for concern. Many health professionals now consider supplementation for TSH levels above 1.5.

To truly get an idea about your thyroid function levels, one test is not enough. A complete test of all TSH, free T4, free T3, T3 uptake, and T4 uptake levels will give you a better picture of your thyroid function, according to Dr. Christiane Northrup, an expert in women’s health and wellness. Normal free T4 levels are between 0.9 and 1.8 nanograms per deciliter. Normal T3 levels are around 240 to 450 picograms per deciliter. Given the prevalence of subclinical thyroid issues, even if your test comes back within normal ranges, you may still have thyroid problems if you suffer from more than one of the above symptoms or have a family history of thyroid issues.

How to Naturally Improve Thyroid Function

If you do not want to take synthetic medication for thyroid problems, there are ways you can improve thyroid function without medication. In fact, insufficient nutrients are responsible for many of the thyroid problems seen today, according to the studies outlined below. Make sure your diet is full of foods with these ingredients, and if you need to, add these ingredients to your diet through supplement form as well. Most doctors recommend patients take a vitamin D supplement, particularly during the winter months.


Supplements that improve thyroid function
Vitamin D
Vitamin B12

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is responsible for many functions in the body. New research is uncovering the benefits of vitamin D each day. The absence of Vitamin D has been linked to a variety of autoimmune disorders, according to a study by the Laboratory of Experimental Medicine and Endocrinology in 2010. A 2000 study from the University of Michigan showed that giving vitamin D3 supplements to mice improved thyroid dysfunction related to autoimmune disorders.


Iodine has long been linked to thyroid issues. One study published in the Thyroid Research Journal from 2011 stated that “iodine, as a trace element, is required for thyroid hormone synthesis,” and showed that increasing iodine intake can improve a sluggish thyroid. However, too much iodine can lead to hyperthyroidism in some people.

Vitamin B12

B vitamins have a host of benefits, one of which is helping thyroid function. A 2008 study from Aga Khan University, showed that nearly 40 percent of individuals with primary hypothyroidism in the study indicated low B12 levels. When the participants were given B12 supplements, their hypothyroid levels decreased.

What you can do about a sluggish thyroid

If you feel you might have thyroid issues, it is helpful to get tested by your doctor as soon as possible. Even slight variations above normal thyroid levels can lead to a range of problems that can have lasting effects. Supplementing with healthy vitamins and minerals including B12, iodine (if you are deficient in iodine), and vitamin D can help regulate your thyroid naturally.





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