Exhausted? Gaining weight? Feeling foggy? Thyroid symptoms can show up where you least expect them and are often confused as indicators for other conditions.
The thyroid is one of the most underestimated glands in the body. Every single cell in your body needs your thyroid to function properly, which means the symptoms of thyroid issues are wide and varied. Weight changes, dry skin, fatigue, and a general feeling of being unwell are just a few signs that could indicate a thyroid issue.
Thyroid conditions are extremely common – particular among women – but more than 60% of people are unaware that they have a thyroid issue. Could you be one of them? Keep reading for the most common key signs and symptoms of thyroid problems.
If you’re concerned about your thyroid, schedule a discovery call with our team today.
What Is the Thyroid and What Does It Do?
The thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped gland in your neck that regulates energy production and metabolism throughout your body. Thyroid hormones are involved with nearly every function of your body, including:
- Regulation of your heart rate and cardiac output
- Regulation of respiratory rate and oxygenation
- Regulation of body temperature
- Regulation of cholesterol levels
- Regulation of skin, hair, and nail growth
- Regulation of intestinal movement
- Muscle contraction
- Mood stabilization
- Food metabolism
- Ovulation and menses
- Energy production
Since the thyroid influences so many systems in your body, if it produces too much or too little hormones, it can have a major impact on your health and well-being.
There are two main disorders of the thyroid: hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism. If your thyroid becomes underactive, it produces too little of the thyroid hormone. This is called hypothyroidism and is the more common condition between the two. If your thyroid becomes overactive, it produces too much of the thyroid hormone. This is called hyperthyroidism.
Other common thyroid disorders are thyroid nodules, thyroiditis, and thyroid cancer.
Learn more about thyroid issues with our free webinar.
Key Signs and Symptoms of a Thyroid Disorder
There are several symptoms associated with thyroid problems. Below we discuss five key signs and symptoms to look out for to determine if you could have a thyroid condition.
- Changes in your weight
Hypothyroidism can slow your metabolism and create unexplained weight gain. Hyperthyroidism can lead to the opposite problem and induce unexplained weight loss because it increases your metabolism. If you haven’t changed your eating or exercise routine but lost or gained a significant amount of weight (15-30 pounds) in the past year, it could be time to talk to your doctor.
- Changes in your energy levels
Your body’s energy production requires a certain level of thyroid hormones to get you through the day. A drop in hormone production can lead to lower energy levels, causing you to feel weak and fatigued.
Hyperthyroidism can give you increased energy levels at first as your metabolism speeds up, but over time this increase can break your body down and cause you to feel tired.
- Changes in your mood
An underactive thyroid gland can lead to depression and lack of motivation.
Anxiety, irritability, mood swings, and nervousness are some symptoms of emotional overactivity you might experience due to an overactive thyroid gland.
- Irregular heart rhythms
Thyroid hormones affect your heart and circulatory system. An underactive thyroid is associated with slower heart rates. In contrast, an overactive thyroid is associated with increased heart rates or heart palpitations.
- Digestive Issues
Just like the thyroid can affect your heart and other organs, it can also affect your gut. Those with low thyroid function might experience constipation, while those with high function might get diarrhea.
As we’ve mentioned, several symptoms can indicate issues with your thyroid. More comprehensive lists of symptoms for hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism are below.
Symptoms of Hypothyroidism
Hypothyroidism – low hormone levels – is often misdiagnosed because its symptoms resemble those of other diseases or are mistaken as “normal” side effects of aging. Common symptoms of hypothyroidism include:
- Poor Concentration
- Mental Fogginess
- Dry Skin
- Weight Gain
- Increased Appetite
- Hair Loss
- Feeling Cold
- Fluid Retention
- High Cholesterol
- Low Libido
- Irregular Menstrual Cycle
- Muscle Aches
- Joint Pain
- High Blood Pressure
- Sensitivity to Cold
Symptoms of Hyperthyroidism
Hyperthyroidism often lacks obvious symptoms and can remain undiagnosed. The symptoms of an overactive thyroid include:
- Fast Heart Rate
- Heat Intolerance
- Increased Sweating
- Diarrhea/Increased Bowel Movements
- Weight Loss
- Irregular Menstrual Cycle
- Difficulty Sleeping
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms of hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism, you are not alone. Overactive or underactive thyroid disorders afflict as many as 20 million Americans, including a disproportionate number of women and the elderly.
How To Know If You Have a Thyroid Disorder
Any of the symptoms listed above could be related to a variety of conditions. The only way to know for certain if your symptoms are connected to a thyroid disorder is through the proper testing and evaluation. Proper lab testing should include TSH, Free T3, Free T4, Reverse T3, and thyroid antibodies. Other factors like environmental impacts and heavy metal toxicities that can cause thyroid dysfunction should also be considered when determining if you have a thyroid issue.
Functional Medicine Approach to Thyroid Disorders
In addition to ordering tests, a functional medicine doctor will assess all the factors that could be affecting your thyroid’s normal function. This includes asking questions like:
- Do you have any nutritional deficiencies?
- Could you have an autoimmune thyroid issue?
- Is there a nodule present on your thyroid?
- Did you have any prior infections or toxicities?
- Do you have any digestive issues or food sensitivities?
- What are your other hormones doing?
Functional medicine doesn’t just assess the whole picture when it comes to your thyroid disorder. It looks at why it isn’t functioning optimally and determines the root cause of the dysfunction. Common root causes of thyroid issues are adrenal dysfunction, poor gut health, nutrient deficiencies, inflammation, low activity levels, lack of sleep, and chronic stress.
Naturally Treating Your Thyroid Disorder
If you are diagnosed with a thyroid disorder, your functional medicine doctor can work with you to address the root cause and not just manage the symptoms. This will often involve natural treatments that address lifestyle and environmental factors that may impact thyroid hormone production. These treatments should be individualized to your lifestyle and the type of thyroid disorder you have. Natural treatment options may include:
Eating foods containing certain nutrients – such as iodine, selenium, and zinc – can help maintain healthy thyroid function. Avoiding certain foods can also be beneficial, such as foods that contain goitrogens, soy, or gluten as processed foods.
Some vitamins can support deficiencies commonly found in those who have thyroid problems. Vitamin B-12, zinc, selenium, and iodine are often recommended to those diagnosed with a disorder. Supplements may also be needed to correct other dysfunction in the body such as poor gut health which in turn will have a positive effect on the thyroid.
Meditation can be a surprisingly powerful tool for improving thyroid health. Studies have shown that it can boost levels of key hormones and neurotransmitters in your body. Meditation has also been shown to help your adrenal glands. Since stress can worsen or trigger thyroid disorders, meditation can help decrease stress levels and lower elevated cortisol levels.
If you have a thyroid disorder, exercising might be the last thing you want to do. But the truth is, exercise delivers numerous benefits that can positively impact your health
While these natural treatments might not replace medications for everyone, they will likely improve your thyroid function or reduce your symptoms.
Experiencing symptoms of a thyroid disorder? Schedule a discovery call to learn more.
Tri-Cities Functional Medicine is located in Johnson City, Tennessee, and serves patients throughout East Tennessee and into Virginia and North Carolina. These areas include but are not limited to: Washington County, TN, Sullivan County, TN, Carter County, TN, Greene County, TN, Knox County, TN, Bristol, TN, Holston Valley, TN, Tri-Cities, TN, Walnut Hill, TN, Elizabethton, TN, Greeneville, TN, Morristown, TN, Blountville, TN, Bluff City, TN, Kingsport, TN, Jonesborough, TN, Colonial Heights, TN, Limestone, TN, Knoxville, TN, Bristol, VA, and Abingdon, VA.