The thyroid is responsible for body temperature regulation, metabolism and affects every organ in your body. When it is not functioning properly your body suffers. If you have been experiencing any of these symptoms below, you may have an a low functioning thyroid.
Your thyroid can be normal, overactive (hyperthyroid) or underactive (hypothyroid). Both Hyper and Hypo thyroidism have huge influences on female health and have a range of symptoms. You do not have to have ALL of the symptoms to have a thyroid issue±
Most common Symptoms of Hypo/Underactive:
- Brain Fog
- Dry Skin
- Thinning hair or loss of outer portion of eyebrows
- Unexplained weight gain
- Joint pain or stiffness
- Mood swings
- Sensitivity to cold
- Heavy/Irregular Periods
- Memory trouble
Most common Symptoms of Hyper/Overactive:
OverActive/Hyperthyroidism can mimic other health problems, which may make it difficult for your doctor to diagnose. It can also cause a wide variety of signs and symptoms, including:
- Sudden weight loss, even when your appetite and the amount and type of food you eat remain the same or even increase
- Rapid heartbeat (tachycardia) — commonly more than 100 beats a minute — irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia) or pounding of your heart (palpitations)
- Increased appetite
- Nervousness, anxiety and irritability
- Tremor — usually a fine trembling in your hands and fingers
- Changes in menstrual patterns
- Increased sensitivity to heat
- Changes in bowel patterns, especially more frequent bowel movements
- An enlarged thyroid gland (goiter), which may appear as a swelling at the base of your neck
- Fatigue, muscle weakness
- Difficulty sleeping
- Skin thinning
- Fine, brittle hair
Older adults are more likely to have either no signs or symptoms or subtle ones, such as an increased heart rate, heat intolerance and a tendency to become tired during ordinary activities. Medications called beta blockers, which are used to treat high blood pressure and other conditions, can mask many of the signs of hyperthyroidism.
“Abnormalities in thyroid function can have an adverse effect on reproductive health and result in reduced rates of conception, increased miscarriage risk and adverse pregnancy and neonatal outcomes,” said study co-author Amanda Jefferys in a journal news release. She is a researcher from the Bristol Center for Reproductive Medicine at Southmead Hospital in Bristol, England.
“For over two decades now, we have noticed a strong link between hypo- and hyperthyroidism and infertility as well as adverse pregnancy and neonatal outcomes,” said Dr. Tomer Singer, a reproductive endocrinologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.
“I support routine screening of the general population for thyroid dysfunction at the start of pregnancy and especially when seeking fertility treatment or struggling with miscarries,” he added.
The thyroid produces hormones that play key roles in growth and development. According to the British researchers, changes in thyroid function can have a major effect on reproductive function before, during and after conception.
Thyroid Stimulating Hormone or TSH is a pretty standard blood test to run to assess overall thyroid health. In fact, running TSH on its own is pretty normal in many conventional doctor’s offices.
Of course, an out of range TSH is a clear indication that something is going on with your thyroid, but unfortunately, it’s not the whole picture. In fact, your TSH can read as “normal” and all the while, hypothyroidism or even autoimmunity can still be lurking underneath.
The “normal” range for TSH has actually been widened to reflect an already sick population and there have been several studies calling for a more narrow range. This means that while a “functional” or optimal TSH range is about 1-2, with upper limits being about 2.5, the conventional range goes all the way up to 5.0 (which is pretty high, indicating hypothyroidism).
But there’s another problem with testing TSH by itself. TSH as a pituitary measurement alone does not indicate the response of the thyroid to the pituitary signal or the ability of the body to convert T4 to the active T3 hormone.
It’s important to test for Antibodies as they are predictive of the disease, meaning they can show up years before enough thyroid tissue has been destroyed to render you hypothyroid, aka presenting with symptoms. Furthermore, Hashimoto’s (autoimmune hypothyroid disease) is associated with upwards of a 14% increased risk of developing other autoimmune conditions.
So, confirming that you do or do not have Hashimoto’s as opposed to hypothyroid alone is important because: a) those two conditions are treated differently and b) an actual autoimmune diagnosis is an indicator that you may need to test for other autoimmune antibodies.
Getting a full thyroid panel done ensures that we do not miss a disease in its early stages. If your main issue is fatigue, depression, and anxiety— all of these symptoms warrant a full examination of the thyroid. It is well established that these symptoms can be a manifestation of thyroid disease. You will see a list of the thyroid testing below. If your practitioner will not order these labs for you then you need to consider finding a new one. Or, refer yourself to an endocrinologist to explore deeper testing. If you have issues with tests, feel free to get in touch and I will help guide you to a clinic that will test you!
Postpartum Thyroiditis — The Most Common Thyroid Disease After Pregnancy
Postpartum thyroiditis is the most common thyroid condition affecting new mothers. It is an autoimmune thyroid disease that occurs when the immune system flags the thyroid tissue as “non-self” and begins signaling for destruction of the thyroid tissue. This usually develops within the first year after the birth of your baby. But it can also occur after a miscarriage or an abortion, something I’ve observed in many of my patients.
The condition can present differently among women and it is important to note that women do not always start off feeling fatigued. The most classic presentation of postpartum thyroiditis is as follows:
About 20-30% of women with postpartum thyroiditis experience hyperthyroid symptoms — weight loss, palpitations, heat intolerance, anxiety, irritability, tachycardia (faster than normal heart rate), and tremors, about one to four months after delivery.
The duration of hyperthyroid symptoms vary from two to eight weeks on average.
Following the hyperthyroid period, hypothyroidism (too little thyroid hormone) symptoms begin to arise and this is when mothers really take note of just how tired they are. However, upwards of 50% of mothers experience hypothyroid exclusively — lack of energy, cold intolerance, constipation, sluggishness, joint pain, depression, diminished milk supply and dry skin. Often, it is only after the hypothyroid symptoms occur that women and doctors recognize that hyperthyroid symptoms were ever present.
The onset of hypothyroidism is generally experienced between two to six months after delivery and symptoms may resolve six to 10 months later. But an estimated 20% of mothers will remain hypothyroid and will be diagnosed with Hashimoto’s autoimmune thyroid.
Although 80% of mothers are likely to recover from their hypothyroidism within a year, these women have a 20-40% increased risk for developing permanent hypothyroidism in the future. This means that although your thyroid function may fall back into the “normal range” by conventional medicine standards, the autoimmunity has not been addressed and, therefore, will continue to cause destruction of the thyroid.
What Causes Postpartum Thyroiditis?
So, how does thyroid disease after pregnancy happen? Genetics play a substantial role in the incidence of thyroid disease with approximately 50% of all postpartum thyroiditis patients reporting a family history of autoimmune thyroid disease. That said, genetic markers do not equal a diagnosis. Instead they are just one ingredient in the recipe for developing autoimmunity; in fact, many times the development of this disease is multifactorial.
Other risk factors include:
- Having a pre-existing autoimmune condition such as celiac disease, type I diabetes or pernicious anemia.
- Women who have a history of postpartum thyroiditis have a 42% increased risk in developing postpartum thyroiditis with subsequent pregnancies.
- Elevated Anti-TPO and anti-thyroglobulin antibodies prior to conception or during the first trimester of pregnancy. 40-60% of all women who test positive for Anti-TPO in the first trimester will likely develop postpartum thyroiditis.
- Nutrient depletions can triggers thyroid inflammation and decrease thyroid hormone production. Nutrient requirements are higher overall during pregnancy and many women enter pregnancy already low in the nutrients important to thyroid health.
- Family history of autoimmunity or autoimmune thyroid
- Personal history of autoimmunity
- Toxin exposure
- Gut infection
- Food intolerances
- Leaky Gut
Clearly, there are some complex systems at play. Let’s dive into a little more detail about why and how new mothers are particularly at risk for thyroid diseases.
Thyroid: Antibodies are highest, on average, between 3-4 months postpartum, and this is the best time for testing, unless you are already having symptoms.
Getting The Proper Blood Tests To Rule Out/Diagnose Thyroid Problems.
Having the correct testing is crucial to ensuring proper treatment. While many physicians will test TSH alone, this is not enough to give a complete picture of what is taking place in your body. And while testing is important, test results should be interpreted with the person’s symptoms in mind.
- Total T4.
- Total T3,
- Free T4,
- Free T3,
- Thyroid antibodies
- Reverse T3,
- T3 uptake,
Are all labs that your doctor should consider testing if you have the above symptoms.
Thyroid Foods and Nutrients
There are several different types of thyroid conditions, and the most common is hypothyroidism, or having an underactive thyroid. In most cases, the root cause of hypothyroidism is an autoimmune disease called Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. While dietary guidelines for treating hypothyroidism versus an autoimmune disease vary slightly, the foundational nutrients your thyroid needs to function at its best remains the same.
8 Nutrients for Thyroid Health by Dr J Brighten.
The thyroid is sensitive to selenium deficiency. Selenium is a crucial component of the enzyme that converts T4 (inactive hormone) to T3 (active hormone) in the body. A deficiency in selenium can result in less active thyroid hormone available which will result in symptoms of hypothyroidism. Some studies have shown that a selenium deficiency can have a negative impact on thyroid health. The richest food sources of selenium include organ meats and seafood, followed by muscle meats. The selenium content of plants and grains will vary as it depends on the selenium content of the soil in which it was grown. For instance, one ounce of Brazil nuts grown in selenium-rich soil contains around 554 micrograms of selenium. Brazil nuts grown in selenium depleted soil can have about ten times less.
The thyroid gland synthesizes iodine and the amino acid tyrosine to create thyroid hormone, so it is essential for thyroid health. The recommended daily allowance is quite low at 150 micrograms and it’s easy to get this mineral naturally by eating seafood and seaweeds. A three-ounce serving of cod offers 99 mcg of iodine, and three ounces of shrimp contains around 35 mcg.
Too much iodine, however, can inhibit thyroid synthesis. Since table salt and other foods are fortified with iodine, many people in industrialized nations are not iodine deficient. Since the primary function of iodine in the body is for thyroid synthesis, supplementation of this mineral is usually unnecessary if your diet includes ample sources of iodine.
Furthermore, high levels of iodine are used for thyroid suppression therapy, therefore high dose iodine supplementation would never be recommended for hypothyroidism or Hashimoto’s. In addition, iodine supplementation in the presence of a selenium deficiency can make autoimmune thyroid disease worse.
If you’re thinking about starting iodine supplementation, please meet with a doctor first to determine if this is the best treatment for your specific needs.
A deficiency in vitamin D is associated with several autoimmune diseases and specifically with thyroid disease. Sufficient amounts of vitamin D support immune cells in making sure they are attacking outside invaders and not ourselves. In the case of autoimmunity, the receptor sites for vitamin D are diminished due to polymorphisms, and thus its biological effects on immunity are reduced.The skin is able to synthesize vitamin D so one of the easiest ways to get this vitamin is through exposure to natural sunlight. Vitamins D is found in few foods, including mackerel, salmon, and sardines, or fish liver oils. For this reason, many foods are fortified with vitamin D. However, I always encourage getting nutrients in naturally occurring, whole food form to ensure quality and bioavailability.
For info on supplements for Vit D get in touch.
Essential Fatty Acids.
Essential fatty acids establish and maintain cell membrane integrity and fluidity in the thyroid gland. Additionally, inflammation can decrease thyroid receptor function and decrease conversion of T4 to T3. EFA’s play an important role in preventing and reducing inflammation. Sufficient amounts of EFA’s promote proper hormonal balance, mental clarity, and steady energy levels throughout the day. Excellent food sources of EFA’s include cold-water fatty fish such as herring, salmon, sardines, and oyster. Get in touch for the Omega 3 brand I use. It has an amazing ratio of EPA/DHA and is free from pesticides unlike many other brands.
Magnesium participates in at least three hundred enzymatic reactions in the body. In cases of severe thyroid hormone deficiency, blood pressure rises as a result of a loss of plasticity of blood vessels. It plays a role in regulating blood pressure by preventing excessive contraction of the vessels. Magnesium is an important component of chlorophyll and is found in large amounts in green vegetables. A ½ cup serving of cooked spinach include 78 mg of magnesium. Other good sources include unrefined grains and nuts. One cup of brown rice has 86 mg, and an ounce of almonds has 77 mg of magnesium.
Zinc works together with vitamin A and E to manufacture thyroid hormone, and is also a necessary cofactor along with copper and selenium in converting T4 to T3. Further, zinc also assists in many other hormone activities, including growth hormones and insulin, and is critical for immune function. The most bioavailable forms of zinc can be found in shellfish, beef, and other red meat. Oysters are one of the most well-known sources of zinc; six medium-sized cooked oysters offer 27-50 mg of zinc. Zinc present in other foods like whole grains, legumes, and nuts is mostly unavailable to the body for absorption, due to its binding with phytic acid.
Iron contributes to the proper production of thyroid hormones, and studies have shown that a deficiency in iron can have a negative impact on thyroid function. Without iron, individuals especially with underactive thyroid can struggle with the ability to heal the thyroid and raise T3 without having hyperthyroid-like symptoms. Iron also aids in maintaining proper immune function, which is important in the case of underlying autoimmunity. Iron deficiency is common in those with hypothyroid. Too little thyroid hormone makes it near impossible to liberate and absorb your nutrients. The most absorbable form of iron is found in animal sources and is called heme iron. One ounce of chicken liver delivers 3.6 mg, and three ounces of beef has 1.3 mg of iron. Non-heme iron is found in plants, and its absorption is influenced by other dietary factors. Vitamin C, for instance, can enhance the absorption of nonheme iron, while phytic acid can inhibit it.
This vitamin is often deficient in people with any type of autoimmune disease, with Hashimoto’s being no exception.Vitamin A is an antioxidant and important for immune function. Dendritic cells that communicate to the immune system need vitamin A to prevent excessive immune reactions. For the thyroid, vitamin A works together with zinc and vitamin E to convert T4 to T3 in appropriate amounts. Vitamin A that is preformed and ready to use by the body is called retinol and can be found animal products such as liver, egg yolks, and grass-fed butter. One teaspoon of cod liver oil has 1,350 micrograms of retinol. One egg contains 80 micrograms of retinol. Other forms of vitamin A are carotenoids, and these are precursors to vitamin A. Carotenoids can be found in yellow and orange coloured vegetables such as sweet potatoes and carrots, as well as other green vegetables.
There is no doubt that all of this info is seriously overwhelming, but I have so many clients who have been wrongly diagnosed on many occasions and have not been given the correct medical support to get to the bottom of their symptoms.
You dont have to feel like shit. You dont have to suffer from bad periods every month. You dont have to feel “alone” with you are left with no answers from your healthcare provider.
I am not a doctor so you have to get medical advice from your GP/Consultant at all time. But you are your own best health advocate and you know your body better than anyone. You now have some clear info on symptoms and testing that should be done.
I hope that helps point you in the right direction and gives you some support/guidance on how you can make sure you are getting one step closer to finding the Root Cause of your symptoms.
Resources/Info – Dr J Brighten Female Health Expert.
The information on this website has not been evaluated by the FDA and is not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. This information is not intended as a substitute for the advice or medical care of a qualified health care professional and you should seek the advice of your health care professional before undertaking any dietary or lifestyle changes. The material provided on this site or any documents/material is for educational purposes only.