Feeling tired? Can’t lose those extra pounds no matter what you do? It might be poor lifestyle choices – or it could be one of the most common diseases in the U.S.: hypothyroidism.
According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, 4.6% of American adults are suffering from hypothyroidism. It’s estimated that millions more also have it without knowing.
Although weight gain is the most significant symptom of this condition, there are many other hidden signs you may experience. Staying informed on hypothyroidism can help you link the symptoms and acknowledge when you need help from a specialist.
Firstly, though, let’s have a brief look at how the thyroid gland is working and why it can affect our body in so many ways.
How the thyroid gland works
The thyroid gland is located at the base of your neck. It secretes hormones that control the most important functions in our body, from regulating the body temperature, digesting foods and consuming energy. This gland also helps the most important organs of the body to work properly, including the heart, brain, liver, skin and kidneys.
When hypothyroidism occurs, your body runs low on thyroxine hormone levels while getting too much thyroid-stimulating hormones (TSH). When TSH levels are too high, it’s because the pituitary gland is trying to elevate hormone levels in a thyroid that no longer works properly.
There are many risk factors when it comes to this disorder. Some people may be genetically predisposed to it, while others may have been secretly suffering from an autoimmune disorder called Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, named after the Japanese physician Hakaru Hashimoto (1881−1934) of the medical school at Kyushu University who first to recognize and described this autoimmune disorder. More than 80% of people diagnosed with hypothyroidism also suffer from this autoimmune condition which makes the immune system mistakenly attack the healthy thyroid.
Thankfully, though, specialists can check the thyroid gland through simple blood tests and most health issues can be controlled with medical treatment.
However, the first step to fixing a problem is knowing that you have one. With that in mind, let’s have a look at 9 of the most common signs of hypothyroidism.
You’re tired all the time
Blaming tiredness on a busy schedule is easy, but too much of it may signal a real health issue. Feeling tired and sleepy can be associated with many conditions, but they’re especially common in people with hypothyroidism.
When the thyroid hormone levels are low, it’s very difficult for your cells to get the signal that it’s time to get moving. This leads to that sluggish feeling you’ve been having.
Difficult as it may seem, doing exercise and staying active can actually help you to increase energy levels and counter the constant fatigue.
Muscle soreness is definitely normal after a workout, but if you’re experiencing it all the time for no apparent reason, it may be a problem. As I explained earlier on, the thyroid gland secrets hormones that help your body to break down foods and turn them into energy.
When the thyroid doesn’t work properly, your metabolism slows down, therefore your body gets less energy. This, in turn, affects the ability of your muscles to recover.
To ease this symptom, you can opt for low-impact exercises such as swimming or elliptical-stepping. Fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids like salmon are also very beneficial to help your body reduce inflammation and soreness.
Once again, we’re often blaming our lack of memory on a busy schedule, stress, insomnia or the aging process. While these things can indeed make you forget about daily tasks, a dysfunctional thyroid gland can also play its part.
Low thyroid hormone levels can also slow down neurological functions, which might also lead to a foggy memory.
High cholesterol levels
Your doctor may not analyze the thyroid gland during a regular checkup. However, he will measure your cholesterol levels, which is often a good indicator that something wrong is going on.
Dr. Reshmi Srinath, assistant professor of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Bone Diseases at Mount Sinai, says that ‘Hypothyroidism causes reduced clearance of cholesterol particles, so LDL and triglycerides may be elevated in a patient suffering from this disorder.’
A small habit that can lower your LDL levels is to simply eat overnight oats frequently. These cereal grains are rich in beta-glucan, a fiber which can reduce LDL cholesterol levels by up to 10 percent.
If you’re really taking good care of your skin by applying all the right creams and lotions and still nothing works, it might be time to dig deeper.
A low thyroid function can reduce blood circulation. Due to this fact, your skin cells may only get one-fourth of the usual blood supply. Therefore, your skin texture changes and may become dry, itchy, cracked or wrinkled.
Slow metabolism caused by this disorder can also reduce sweating which, again, changes your skin texture for the worse.
No matter how embarrassed you may feel about this topic, if you’re suffering from constipation, you might want to let a specialist know about it.
Severe lack of the thyroid hormone that controls your metabolism causes the digestive tract to work improperly. Furthermore, this disorder can also weaken normal contractions of the muscles around the digestive tract, which makes the stool move too slowly through the intestine.
A quick solution? Eating ripe bananas. This fruit contains plenty of healthy fiber that aids in digestion along with potassium, which is known for reducing bloating and cramping.
Wearing a winter coat while everyone else is still wearing T-shirts? It may be just the weather, or it may be hypothyroidism.
When thyroid hormones are too low, your body becomes unable to regulate its own temperature properly. Another reason for feeling cold is that all body functions are slowed down, and believe it or not, even digesting foods can help to regulate your internal temperature.
This symptom can usually go away by following the specialists’ recommended treatment for your condition along with adopting a healthy diet.
This is definitely not the most decisive symptom on our list, but feeling down for no apparent reason could also be caused by this disorder.
As Dr. Srinath explains, unusually low levels of the thyroid hormones can cause lethargy, lack of concentration and a general feeling of weakness. Since all of your body functions are slowing down, it’s no wonder your mood is affected too, right?
Many people are scared when being diagnosed with a thyroid problem. However, simple lifestyle changes can make a huge and positive difference in managing this illness. Here are a few simple steps you can take to feel better:
- Stay physically active by performing at least 30 minutes of exercise daily;
- Adopt a balanced diet rich in fiber and antioxidants;
- Contact your doctor before taking any supplement, as they can alter thyroid functions;
- Reduce stress levels by taking yoga classes or meditation;
- Create a healthy sleep schedule.
Are you or a loved one suffering from this disorder? Share your stories in the comment section and let’s help each other to live a healthier, happier life!
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