Thyroid problems are not only a women’s issue. Though women do experience thyroid abnormalities more often than men, they can affect anyone and everyone. Your thyroid is a gland responsible for releasing essential hormones — meaning that no matter who you are or what your lifestyle is like, an under- or overactive thyroid can throw your hormones out of whack.
Thyroid disorders are often overlooked and misdiagnosed. This is because hormonal changes result in symptoms that are really common and often mean something else. Your thyroid can effect your metabolism, for instance — but so can your diet, genetics, and other lifestyle factors.
The key to knowing what signs to look for is in understanding the basics of how your thyroid works. Your thyroid releases two main hormones: thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). Both T4 and T3 are messengers that slow or speed up your body’s usual processes. Too little of these hormones causes your body to slow down — that’s called hypothyroidism. Too much of these hormones causes things to speed up — that’s hyperthyroidism. You can remember which is which by remembering that hyperthyroidism can make you feel hyper — quick, jumpy, with a racing heartbeat.
Even though every human being on the planet has a thyroid, few people really know how to take care of it when something is wrong. There are certain lifestyle changes, eating habits, and remedies used to keep hormone levels balanced and stave off those awkward and distressing symptoms. But to treat a thyroid issue, you first have to catch it — here are 12 symptoms you should get yours checked.
Whether you’ve got too many thyroid hormones or too little, brain fog is a common symptom of some abnormality. Too much thyroid hormone — hyperthyroidism — can cause difficulty concentrating, making you feel scatterbrained. Too few thyroid hormones — hypothyroidism — can hinder brain responses and trigger forgetfulness and feeling spacy. A dose of one of these mind-clearing nutrients could help you manage it, but the only real solution is to treat the thyroid abnormality with the help of your doctor.
Either you’re coming down with a fever or your thyroid is throwing off your body temperature. (Feed your cold and starve your fever… Or is it starve a cold and feed a fever?) But if it’s the thyroid that’s to blame, you need more thyroid hormones in your bloodstream, stat. Fewer hormones means slower activity — and less heat production. On the other hand, if you’re inexplicably sweaty and warm, your thyroid might be overactive and producing too much heat.
Thyroid hormones are closely intertwined with your metabolism — so even if you’re eating the same amount of food, your hormones could be throwing off your energy balance. (Is that why you're always tired?) With a hyperactive thyroid and a revved metabolism, you may feel hungry more often and crave random types of food. If your weird cravings aren’t coming from one of these other probable sources, your thyroid might be the culprit.
Before assuming it’s your thyroid at risk, do a thorough assessment of your diet first. Are you eating enough? If so, are you eating enough dietary fiber? Eating too much protein or too many healthy fats can also slow things down.
However, if your diet isn’t to blame, your hormones could be causing your digestive processes to stall. Hypothyroidism results in fewer signals sent to your digestive tract to keep things moving, essentially resulting in your natural bodily functions moving at a sluggish pace.
Down in the dumps? Feeling more depressed than usual is a sign that your thyroid is underactive. Too little of the thyroid hormone could cause you to have too little serotonin, the body’s “feel good” hormone, as well. To try to lift your spirits, you could try one of these depression-fighting foods — but taking a trip to your doctor is probably a good call.
Dry skin is one of your body’s cries for help. In some cases, it’s just an indication you need to hydrate more effectively. Try loading up on hydrating beverages or sipping on electrolytes with your water. However, dry skin is also a common symptom of thyroid troubles — if your skin doesn’t return to its usual flushed state after trying a soothing remedy for dry skin, something else might be going on. A slowing metabolism can cause skin to dry out. The reduced energy usage means that you’ll sweat less, resulting in a fluid imbalance on your skin. Your hair and nails might become flaky and brittle, as well.
After sleeping a ton, you might still feel lethargic and slow. Over time, this can build into full-blown fatigue — a common sign of a thyroid disorder. Hypothyroidism, which occurs when you have too little of the thyroid hormones, causes the signals that tell your muscles to get up and get going to stall. But a little fatigue doesn’t always mean your thyroid is having issues — it may be due to one of these surprising reasons you’re always tired.
There’s a very strong link between irregularities in your menstrual cycle and a disrupted thyroid, for both hyper- and hypothyroidism. With hyperthyroidism, periods tend to be shorter, lighter, and farther apart. With hypothyroidism, the opposite reaction occurs: Periods are longer, more frequent, and more painful. You can probably guess which symptom prompts more women to splurge for the doctor’s visit — but both cases are cause for concern.
People experiencing hyperthyroidism, or overproduction of thyroid hormones, often report feeling jittery and wired. Your body is flooded with hormones telling it to go go go, hyping up your adrenaline and other anxious responses. Some people describe the symptom as feeling like they just can’t relax. Either you need to cut back on coffee or you have a hormonal problem. Having an overactive thyroid could make any existing anxiety you have feel intolerably worse. One of these 20 habits could be to blame for your anxiety, as well.
If you’re constantly craving sleep to the point where any soft surface starts to look cozy for a mid-day nap, something might be wrong. Sleep-deprived people understand why they feel this way — lack of sleep can seriously mess with your body. But if you are getting enough shut-eye and somehow still feel like you need time to rest, your thyroid could be the cause. A sluggish thyroid can make you sluggish, too.
On the other hand, if you can’t sleep and keep waking up numerous times throughout the night, you’re either eating the wrong bedtime snacks or your thyroid might be your unwanted alarm clock. An overactive thyroid can cause an overactive heart rate, jolting you awake when you really wanted to be asleep.
Your thyroid and your adrenal glands are good friends — together, they regulate your hormones and balance your emotions. But since they’re so in sync, when one of them is thrown off, the other is shoved off the rails, as well. Stress actually affects your thyroid more than your thyroid affects your stress. But an imbalance of either is bad news. Keeping your stress levels in check can help prevent further damage to your thyroid’s regular functioning.
If you hadn’t gleaned this by now, there’s nothing painless about a thyroid disorder — the symptoms are often awkward and uncomfortable. But this symptom might be the worst part. Your thyroid can actually cause you physical pain. Over time, hypothyroidism can cause irreparable damage to the nerves responsible for sending brain signals to your extremities. The result? Inexplicable twinges and pains in your limbs and joints. Unexplained pain is actually a really common symptom for many medical problems — read more about its probable causes and the things your body is trying to tell you with these 20 other common symptoms.
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