by Dr. Will Cole
The thyroid is something that is often the source of many health problems. Low thyroid function, or hypothyroidism, affects around 20 million Americans, and 1 in 8 women will experience a thyroid issue in her lifetime.
Unfortunately, hypothyroidism is so common that it can often be disregarded. “Here’s your prescription. And there’s the door.” The reality, though, is that if your thyroid isn’t working well, nothing in your body will. This master gland that is located in your neck controls many, far-reaching facets of your health, and every cell in your body contains a thyroid hormone receptor.
Think you might be affected? Here are 13 signs indicating something might be wrong with your thyroid function:
1. Your bones are weak
If you have weak bones, have your thyroid checked. Abnormal thyroid function can decrease bone mineral density. Serum calcium will typically be in the “normal” reference range with hypothyroidism, but outside of the functional, optional range. Over time, this decreasing bone density can lead to fractures.
2. You have gut problems
Among many of the other processes controlled by thyroid hormones is digestion, and low thyroid function can reduce the movement of your intestines, which is of course an essential part of healthy digestion. Poor thyroid function also compromises your body’s ability to absorb nutrients. Healthy thyroid function dampens gut inflammation, so low thyroid function can furthermore be linked with gastric ulcers and leaky gut syndrome.
3. You are experiencing a low sex drive
Although many people think a reduced sex drive is just due to aging, in fact it may be a symptom of abnormal hormone function. Thyroid hormones affect the metabolism of estrogen and testosterone in the body and thyroid hormone problems can cause low libido in both men and women. Also, hypothyroidism in men is linked with erectile dysfunction.
4. You are having trouble with your weight
When your thyroid hormones are low, your body will be less able to break down fat, which can quickly add pounds or make you resistant to weight loss despite your efforts at dieting or working out. These efforts don’t address the underlying problem because weight gain isn’t the cause of your problems, but a symptom of something else that is not being addressed. Weight loss happens when you get healthy to lose weight, not the other way around. When you restore thyroid function, weight loss will be the natural byproduct.
5. Your energy is lacking
In addition to slowing your ability to burn fat, hypothyroidism will also decrease your energy, causing debilitating fatigue.
6. You develop blood sugar problems
When your body is in a low thyroid state, it decreases your body’s ability to absorb glucose or blood sugar. Glucose needs to get into your cells in order to create ATP, your cellular energy source. Despite sluggish glucose metabolism, many people struggling with low thyroid hormones can feel hypoglycemic, like they have low blood sugar. Because the cells are not getting the glucose they need, you can feel like you are hypoglycemic even with normal looking blood sugar labs. This vicious cycle of hormonal dysfunction can lead to metabolic syndrome or insulin resistance.
7. You tested positive for high cholesterol and triglycerides
Sluggish thyroid hormone levels decrease the breakdown of cholesterol, which can lead to elevated total cholesterol and triglycerides. While high cholesterol alone is a poor predictor for heart attack and stroke risk, elevated triglycerides is an accurate marker for these life-threatening health emergencies.
8. You suspect you have adrenal fatigue
When you have hypothyroidism, it puts stress on your hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. Because of the lack of glucose and energy getting to the cells, the brain signals the adrenals to produce more cortisol in an attempt to get more energy into the cells. This further complicates your hormonal health picture and can lead to HPA axis dysfunction and eventually, adrenal fatigue.
9. You are overloaded with toxins
Your liver and your gallbladder do the heavy lifting when it come to the removal of toxins you ingest or that are the by-products of metabolism. Poor thyroid health can inhibit optimal function of your liver and gallbladder, which can significantly decrease your body’s ability to rid itself of toxins. This may also cause nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. Impaired detoxification pathways are common in patients dealing with thyroid problems.
10. You have estrogen dominance or deficiency
Estrogen comes in the form of three metabolites: Estrone (E1), estradiol (E2), and estriol (E3). You need just the right amount of each of these for optimal health, but when your thyroid isn’t working well, it can unbalance your estrogen metabolite ratio.
11. You experience brain problems
Poor neurotransmitter expression and an increased risk of mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder can be linked to hypothyroidism, due to the fact that the brain contains a predominance of thyroid receptor sites. Also, people with depression had higher rates of thyroid conversion impairments, or low T3 syndrome, according to one 2014 study.
12. You get hot flashes or cold spells
When your thyroid hormone levels are low, it affects your body’s temperature control. This can cause you to feel cold all the time, or have night sweats and hot flashes.
13. You are losing hair
Since thyroid hormones are one determining factor of metabolic rate and nutrient absorption, thyroid dysfunction can lead to hair loss. Regaining hair health means optimizing thyroid hormone levels.
What To Do Next
I find that many of my patients instinctively know they have a thyroid problem, despite conventional lab results that are “normal.” If this is you, educate yourself on the thyroid problems that won’t show up on standard labs, since the labs that are typically run by conventional doctors offer an incomplete look at your full thyroid scenario. I recommend getting a complete functional thyroid panel run and interpreted properly.
Also, if you are already on a thyroid hormone replacement drug but still have low thyroid symptoms, be sure to look at the reasons your medication may not be helping. Because your body is a complex and intricately interconnected system, it’s important to get a comprehensive hormonal work-up to uncover the complete picture of your health.
If you want to learn more about your own health case please check out our free health evaluation. We offer in person as well as phone and webcam consultations for people across the country and around the world.
The information on this website has not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration or any other medical body. We do not aim to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any illness or disease. Information is shared for educational purposes only. You must consult your doctor before acting on any content on this website, especially if you are pregnant, nursing, taking medication, or have a medical condition.