Whether your thyroid is overactive or underactive (sometimes referred to as too high or too low), your metabolism will be adversely impacted. If you are suffering from a dysfunctional metabolism, it can have a strong effect on your day to day life.
We all know how tricky metabolisms can be to manage. The thyroid, particularly, is a little butterfly-shaped gland in the front of your neck that is responsible for the regulation of metabolism-related hormones.
The hormones produced by your thyroid are primarily responsible for:
- Maintaining the rate at which your body uses fats and carbohydrates
- Helping control body temperature
- Influencing your heart rate
- Helping to regulate the production of protein
- Regulating the amount of calcium in your blood and helping to prevent bone loss
When the thyroid functions either too high or too low, it creates one of two thyroid disorders: hypothyroidism (low thyroid) or hyperthyroid (high thyroid). Hypothyroidism causes your body to use energy more slowly, whereas hyperthyroidism causes the body to use energy more quickly.
Hypothyroidism is a relatively common disorder. One study showed 40% of 25,000 subjects to have hypothyroidism, although many physicians even believe that 50% or above of the US population suffers from some type of under-functioning thyroid disorder. According to the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists, over 27 million Americans are impacted by an actual thyroid disorder. Women over 50 are the most likely to suffer from hypothyroidism, and around 80% of adult women are affected by hypothyroidism, a sluggish or underactive thyroid.
Some of the symptoms of hypothyroidism include:
- Weight gain
- Obstinate constipation
- Feeling cold (especially hands or feet), even on warm days
- Low basal temperature
- Fatigue, exhaustion and low energy (even with enough sleep)
- Slow reflexes
- Slow, weak pulse
- Slowness of thought processes, brain fog
- Poor memory and concentration
- Muscle weakness
- Pain and stiffness in muscles or joints
- Deepening, hoarse voice
- Mood swings
- Severe PMS
- Thick, dry, coarse skin
- Creviced, cracking skin on heels, elbows, and knee caps
- Enlarged thyroid gland
- Joint swelling
- Lump in throat
- High cholesterol
- Irregular menstrual cycle (prolonged and heavy)
- Brittle fingernails and hair
The opposite, less common thyroid disorder, hyperthyroidism, is an overactive thyroid. Symptoms of hyperthyroidism include:
- Heat intolerance
- Increased bowel movements
- Light/absent menstrual periods
- Increased heart rate
- Trembling hands
- Weight loss
- Muscle weakness
- Warm, moist skin
- Hair loss
Hypothyroidism is often the product of hormonal imbalances, which can be caused by stress or nutritional deficiencies. Because of this, it can often occur during times when the body is prone to hormonal imbalance, such as during perimenopause, menopause, and pregnancy.
The most common cause for hypothyroidism, however, is iodine deficiency. Conversely, if you notice any of the symptoms of hyperthyroidism while taking iodine supplements or medication, talk with your doctor right away about decreasing your dosage. Other causes for thyroid disorders include thyroid surgery, radiation therapy for cancer, or certain medications (like lithium).
If you notice any of these symptoms, come in for a nutritional consultation! We can help guide you towards the proper nutrition to support your thyroid with custom supplement regimens and nutritional programs. Also, watch for Part 2 next week, where we’ll discuss how foods impact your thyroid, which foods to avoid, and which ones are beneficial!