We often hear people talk about their underactive or overactive thyroid and that they take some sort of medication to treat the condition. But do you actually know what the thyroid is or what it does? Most folks don’t.
Simply put, your thyroid is a small two-inch gland. Yet, the thyroid affects every cell in the body, causing a variety of troubling symptoms. Some symptoms you may recognize, while others may completely surprise you.
The thyroid produces a key hormone that is carried though the blood to all parts of the body. This hormone is essential to regulating metabolism and thus effects everything from body temperature, heart rate and brain function. If there is too much of these essential hormones, the result is a condition known as hyperthyroidism. Too little hormone production leads to hypothyroidism. Hence, when thyroid hormone levels are not in balance, a myriad of different symptoms may appear.
Here are some symptoms and conditions to look out for:
1. Congestion and sniffling
This is a far less recognized symptom of the thyroid and often is blamed on seasonal allergies. Thyroid hormones help boost and regulate the body’s immunity. Hashimotos’ disease is an autoimmune disease of the thyroid, which like all auto immune illnesses, interrupts the body’s normal immunity. The sinuses are very sensitive to immunity problems and can become infected or have excessive mucus. Low thyroid conditions can also cause excessive fluid to accumulate throughout the body, including the sinuses. This may cause chronic nasal and sinus congestion.
2. Fatigued or Overly Alert
Because the thyroid directly impacts the body’s energy production, it has a direct correlation on how tired or energized you feel. Hypothyroidism (under production of essential hormones) leads to a decreased level of energy in the body, causing you to feel weak, tired or even depressed. Conversely, if you have hyperthyroidism (over production) it may cause you to feel excessively alert and unable to get a good night’s sleep.
3. Fuzzy Headedness/Brain Fog
Brain fog and memory issues can be directly impacted by a depletion of iron levels in your body. The thyroid can influence iron levels in a number of ways. However, the most common reason is that it influences the production of stomach acid, which leads to a malabsorption of iron as well as calcium, magnesium and zinc.
4. Weight Gain
The relationship between the thyroid and weight gain can often be quite complex. However, one simple explanation is that the thyroid has a direct influence on your metabolism because the hormones it creates help regulate calorie consumption. As a result, many people suffering from hypothyroidism often have an extremely low basal metabolic rate (the estimate of calories one would burn in 24 hours without any activity), thus making it very difficult for them to lose weight. To make matters worse, as those effected by hypothyroidism constrict their calorie intake, it causes the metabolic burn rate to slow down even more, causing an inability to lose pounds even on highly restricted diets. Conversely, with hyperthyroidism, a person might experience excessive weight loss, even without any dietary changes.
5. Cold Hands
Hypothyroidism can be linked with too much homocysteine, the amino acid that is responsible for heart disease, stiff vasculature and poor blood flow. Specifically, the lack of blood flow can hinder the key nutrients carried in the blood from reaching the body’s extremities. Consequently, this can lead to both cold hands and feet.
6. Dry Skin
In addition to all the other symptoms we’ve mentioned, hypothyroidism can cause premature aging by producing dry skin, brittle nails, dry hair, hair loss and fine lines/wrinkles. The skin is our largest elimination organ and canvas upon which nutrient deficiencies, hormone imbalances and internal toxicities reveal themselves. As previously mentioned, the thyroid directly impacts how we absorb nutrients and vitamins. With hypothyroidism, our body often has problems absorbing and metabolizing nutrients and vitamins, which directly impacts the health of our skin and hair.
A common symptom of hyperthyroidism is tremors and uncontrollable shaking of the hands. This results because excessive thyroid hormone emission causes an increase in synaptic transmission, which directly impacts the muscles.
8. Excessive Sweating
While those with hypothyroidism often experience dry skin, hyperthyroidism can cause individuals to sweat profusely. The increased levels of thyroid hormone lead to a corresponding increase in metabolic rate, which stimulates a lot of processes in the body to go into overdrive, causing people to sweat significantly more than normal.
This is a symptom characterized by a swelling of the neck. During hyperthyroidism, there is an excessive output of thyroid hormone, which causes the thyroid gland to become enlarged. The bloated thyroid gland can often times be perceived easily from the outside as well.
10. Changes in Menstrual Cycle
One of the most common indicators of hyperthyroidism in women is characterized by changes in the menstrual cycle. It is not uncommon for, women with hyperthyroidism to have very light bleeding and experience large gaps between periods. Conversely, hypothyroidism suffers may have longer, heavier periods.
In my practice, I listen very carefully to my patients’ symptoms as oftentimes they will make me suspect that the thyroid is imbalanced. Before treatment, I make certain that I have done in-depth testing to determine exactly what is off balance and to what extent. Rather than prescribing medication, I design a customized treatment plan that includes several natural supplements, bioidentical hormones, dietary recommendations and small lifestyle changes that help to bring the thyroid back to optimal functioning.
In any case, if you are experiencing any of these symptoms, please visit your doctor and ask them to run tests to check your thyroid function. You may be settling on living with symptoms that can be treated and corrected. Take action to optimize your health and live your life to its fullest.
About the author:
Dr. Prudence Hall is a physician with a vision. A traditional practitioner turned pioneer of regenerative and integrated medicine, Dr. Hall foresees a future where “average” and “normal” are no longer acceptable standards of health. Instead, she strives to help clients achieve optimal health and actively prevent disease without the use of pharmaceutical drugs when appropriate. She established The Hall Center in Santa Monica, California, as a practice focused exclusively on regenerative medicine. A firm believer in probing deeper into the root causes of conditions and diseases rather than simply treating their symptoms, Dr. Hall is dedicated to helping her clients achieve an unprecedented state of vitality at any age. She is also the author of the forthcoming book Radiant Again & Forever, available in September 2017.