How to tell if your thyroid is struggling
Thyroid conditions are absolutely real and becoming much more common, especially in women. And if you have low levels of thyroid hormone it is extremely difficult to lose any weight .
You see, our thyroid hormones are a bit like a thermostat for our cells. So they either turn us up (increase our metabolism, energy, temperature, alertness) or they turn us down (slow down our metabolism, conserve energy, decrease temperature, shut down non-essential functions), depending on how much hormone we have available.
Hypothyroidism is a lot more common than hyperthyroidism, and mainly affects women over 35, due to genetic inheritance, the demands of pregnancy and the hormone imbalances we go through during our perimenopause years.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?
As thyroid hormones deal with every cell in our bodies, symptoms of low thyroid can be wide-ranging. The most common ones are:
Fatigue, weight gain, brain fog, memory loss, depression, hair loss, cold hands/feet, dry skin, brittle nails, PMS, anxiety, mood swings, puffy face, aching joints, sex drive, constipation.
As we age our thyroid gets less efficient, and is also affected by other stuff going on in the body (eg illness, stress, digestive health organ reserve, toxins , menopause), and because this is a gradual process, symptoms can slowly get worse and if left untreated can increase the risk of more serious conditions such as obesity, heart disease and diabetes.
CAUSES OF HYPOTHYROIDISM
1. Hashimoto’s disease
The most common cause of hypothyroidism is an autoimmune condition called Hashimoto’s Disease. This is where your immune system produces antibodies to your own thyroid gland, preventing it from functioning properly. Presence of a variety of antibodies will confirm this, however testing is not 100% reliable.
2. Nutrient deficiency (including low calorie diets)
Production of thyroid hormones depends on many nutrients. If our diets are lacking in them, we may not be able to produce enough hormones. These include iodine, tyrosine, selenium, copper, zinc, iron, essential fatty acids, Vitamin A and Vitamin D.
3. Stress and Insulin
Cortisol can be helpful or harmful. Too much or too little cortisol can interfere with the T4 to T3 conversion. Cortisol can increase insulin which has also been linked to low thyroid, so the circle is indeed vicious!
4. Low progesterone/high oestrogen
High levels of oestrogen can increase thyroid binding proteins which decreases the levels of free thyroid hormone. Progesterone is needed for the conversion of T4 to T3.
5. Food intolerances
One of the causes of Hashimoto’s disease can be food intolerances. The most common foods to cause an autoimmune reaction are wheat (gluten) and dairy (casein). Gluten sensitivity or full blown Celiac disease has been linked to Hashimoto’s. If you are sensitive to gluten or casein you can develop a leaky gut or intestinal permeability where the lining of the gut lets in undigested food particles, bacteria or toxins that travel in our blood causing damage to organs and tissues. The thyroid gland is particularly vulnerable to attack as it closely resembles the gluten molecule that the immune system is attacking.
A wide range of environmental agents have been found to interfere with thyroid hormone (and hormones in general). Plastics, pollutants, pesticides, heavy metals and many other chemicals can block the uptake of iodine, and increase the risk of autoimmune attack.
Some women develop hypothyroidism during or after pregnancy. The demand for thyroid hormones from the growing baby increases throughout pregnancy. Antibodies can also be produced and impair thyroid function.
As we age, our hormone production and function decreases. Our metabolism slows as we lose muscle mass which burns more energy than fat.
Genetic factors can have a big impact.