World Thyroid Day is May 25th, so this month we will focus on that butterfly-shaped gland that sits at the front of your neck. So what exactly is the job of the thyroid? The thyroid gland produces hormones that regulate the body’s metabolic rate-controlling heart, muscle, and digestive function, brain development, and bone maintenance. Two conditions, an overactive thyroid gland (hyperthyroidism) and an underactive thyroid gland (hypothyroidism) can result when the thyroid isn’t working properly.
Because thyroid hormones regulate your metabolism and affect almost every cell in your body, having either too much or too little can cause a wide array of symptoms. There are several early warning signs that may indicate that you have developed one of these thyroid issues.
- Feeling too cold or too hot– If your thyroid does not make enough hormones (hypothyroidism), you may frequently feel cold (even when those around you are warm) and experience cold hands and feet. When your thyroid gland is too active (hyperthyroidism), you might find yourself frequently getting hot, sweating, and experiencing hot flashes.
- Digestive problems– Constipation is more common in hypothyroidism and with hyperthyroidism diarrhea.
- Mood changes- If your thyroid makes excessive amounts of hormones (hyperthyroidism), you might have anxiety or become very angry or easily frustrated In hypothyroidism, you may notice that you feel down or depressed.
- Unexplained Weight Fluctuations- When thyroid levels are low (hypothyroidism), your basal metabolic rate decreases, which can cause weight gain, even if the number of calories eaten remains the same. Alternatively, hyperthyroidism could speed up your metabolism and cause you to lose weight.
- Memory Problems or “Brain Fog”- Hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism can both negatively affect your concentration and memory. You might have difficulty following instructions, remembering people’s names, and keeping track of your personal belongings.
- Skin Problems- In hypothyroidism, your skin may become dry. If you have hyperthyroidism, your skin may become oily.
- Hair Loss– Low thyroid hormone causes hair follicles to stop regenerating, resulting in hair loss. You may notice you’re losing large amounts of hair when you brush your hair or take a shower.
- Irregular or Heavy Problems- You may notice periods that are very light, very heavy, irregular, or that you have no period at all. These all can be signs of a thyroid condition.
- Vision changes (occur more often with hyperthyroidism) Thyroid problems can negatively affect your vision. You may notice your eyes becoming watery, dry, or red. In addition, you may have difficulty closing your eyelids or develop bulging eyes
- Low Libido- When your levels of thyroid hormone are low, many of your body processes can slow down which may lead to a loss of sex drive.
It is important to remember that these symptoms are very common and not unique to thyroid issues. However, if you are having several of these symptoms or they are new or worsening, they can be early warning signs that you have developed a thyroid problem and you may want to speak to your doctor. Although usually treated with medication, your diet can play an important role in supporting your thyroid health. If your regular diet doesn’t supply adequate nutrients, you may want to consider a personalized nutritional supplement form to ensure you are meeting your daily needs. Next week, our nutrition team will discuss nutrients and supplements which may help support healthy thyroid function and hormone levels.
eMedicineHealth. (2010, April 2). EMedicineHealth page not found. eMedicineHealth. Retrieved May 3, 2022, from https://www.emedicinehealth.com/what_are_early_warning_signs_of_thyroid_problems/ rticle_em.htm
Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2020, November 19). Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid). Mayo Clinic. Retrieved May 3, 2022, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hypothyroidism/symptoms-causes/syc-20350284
WebMD. (n.d.). Pictures of surprising signs of thyroid problems. WebMD. Retrieved May 3, 2022, from https://www.webmd.com/women/ss/slideshow-surprising-signs-of-thyroid-problems