Updated: Oct 7, 2020
Is it possible you have thyroid problems and not know? Are you taking thyroid hormone replacement medication and still do not feel well?
Signs of thyroid problems can be easily missed or may overlap with other health conditions such as depression, irritable bowel syndrome, menopause, chronic stress or sleep deprivation. These symptoms may be related to a common thyroid dysfunction known as hypothyroidism.
What is hypothyroidism?
Hypothyroidism is a condition in which the thyroid gland does not produce sufficient thyroid hormones to keep your body functioning normally. The thyroid is a small gland found at the base of the neck. This gland plays a major role in metabolism (how fast or slow your muscles, liver, brain and other parts of the body are working). It also produces hormones that regulate heart and digestive functions, mood, and many other bodily functions. As a result, unbalanced thyroid hormone levels may result in many different symptoms.
A very common form of hypothyroidism is known as Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, an autoimmune disease in which the body mistakenly attacks the tissues in the thyroid gland. This leads to inflammation and makes it very difficult for the body to create these much-needed thyroid hormones. Read more about Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis.
What are the symptoms?
This condition can produce various symptoms such as:
Difficulty concentrating or poor concentration
Weight gain or difficulty losing weight
Hair loss or thinning hair
Do genes play a role?
Research has shown that genetic variations in several genes are directly related to thyroid function and hormone levels. So, if you have variations in these genes, you have an increased risk of developing hypothyroidism. Scientists do not yet fully understand the complex interaction between our genes and hormones, but they do know that it involves the manner in which the cells control how genes are expressed, known as DNA methylation.
It’s important to remember that, although genes play an important role, wise lifestyle choices and taking proper care of your body can make a big difference.
What can I do about it?
Get regular thyroid hormone testing, especially if you have one or more of the symptoms listed above or you are taking thyroid hormone replacement medication. It is well known that thyroid hormone replacement medication can deplete valuable vitamins and minerals that your body needs to keep your hormone levels in balance leading to further stress and fatigue. When levels are off, you will continue to have symptoms.
But you can manage and optimize an underactive thyroid function with a few key lifestyle changes.
Here are some helpful tips:
1. Limit the consumption of raw vegetables such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, collard greens, mustard greens and arugula.
These vegetables contain a substance called goitrogens that interferes with the function of the thyroid gland. Goitrogens inhibit the incorporation of iodine into the thyroid hormone which can make the hypothyroid condition worse. Consuming the right amount of iodine is important because the body needs iodine for proper thyroid hormone production. Boiling or steaming these vegetables will significantly reduce the amount of goitrogens.
2. Take a good quality multivitamin supplement which contains B vitamins (B2, B6, and B12), vitamin D, magnesium, zinc, and selenium.
Although it is optimal to get these vitamins and minerals from the foods you eat, supplements may be needed because it is possible that your body is not absorbing all these nutrients. But before taking any supplement, always consult with your healthcare professional, especially if you are taking medications, or you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
3. Manage stress by identifying and practicing stress-reduction techniques, such as meditation, yoga or breathing exercises. Chronic stress impairs proper thyroid function at multiple different levels.
4. Do 30-60 minutes of physical activity daily. Physical exercise can stimulate thyroid hormone secretion. It also helps to counterbalance fatigue by increasing metabolic rate, which is effective in weight maintenance.
Keeping your thyroid hormone levels in balance is very important. Imbalance, over a long period of time may lead to heart disease, major depression, peripheral neuropathy and even infertility. Also, remember that it may take several months to find and obtain the right thyroid levels for you. The good news is that once you are diagnosed with hypothyroidism, most cases can be effectively managed with medications, diet and/or lifestyle changes.