Functional medicine physician Dr. Jill Carnahan shares the top 16 symptoms of hypothyroid and 10 tips to help. It’s a pleasure to include Jill at Hypothyroid Mom.
Written by Jill Carnahan, MD, Flatiron Functional Medicine
Your thyroid plays a part in nearly every metabolic process and when the thyroid isn’t working you won’t feel well! This small gland has an average weight of 16.4 grams in the adult. Shaped like a butterfly, it lies low on the front of the neck and below your Adam’s apple and in front of the windpipe. When the thyroid is its normal size, you can’t even feel it.
The thyroid secretes several hormones, collectively called thyroid hormones. The main hormone is thyroxine, also called T4, but there are others, including T3 and even lesser known T1 and T2. It requires adequate selenium, iodine, zinc, B vitamins and antioxidants for optimal function. Thyroid hormones act throughout the body, influencing metabolism, growth and development, and body temperature. During infancy and childhood, adequate thyroid hormone is crucial for brain development. Unfortunately, the thyroid gland is uniquely sensitive to drugs and environmental chemicals which may affect proper function.
More than 10 percent of the general population in the United States, and 20 percent of women over the age of 60, have subclinical hypothyroidism. But only a small percentage of these people are being treated. It is important to ask your doctor to check you thyroid function if you feel that you are having symptoms.
Often, at first, you barely notice the symptoms of hypothyroidism, such as fatigue and weight gain. You might simply attribute them to getting older. But as your metabolism continues to slow, you may develop more obvious signs and symptoms.
Top 16 symptoms of hypothyroid
- Increased sensitivity to cold
- Dry skin
- Unexplained weight gain
- Puffy face
- Muscle weakness
- Elevated blood cholesterol level
- Muscle aches and pain
- Pain, stiffness or swelling in your joints
- Heavier than normal or irregular menstrual periods
- Thinning hair
- Slower heart rate
- Depressed mood
- Impaired memory
Checklist of symptoms that may indicate you are hypothyroid
____ My facial skin looks or feels thinner
____ My muscles feel weak, particularly the upper arms and thighs
____ I am having difficulty getting to sleep or staying asleep
____ I feel fatigued, exhausted all the time
____ I frequently require more than 8 hours of sleep at night
____ I feel better if I am able to take an afternoon nap every day
____ I am unable to tolerate exercise
____ I have less stamina or energy than others
____ My hair is coarse and dry, breaking, brittle, falling out
____ My skin is coarse, dry, scaly, thin
____ My eyebrows are thinning, especially the outer 1/3
____ I frequently struggle with constipation or hard stools
____ I am always colder than others around me
____ I typically wear a sweater, even in the summer
____ I am having more breakouts or acne
____ I have pains, aches in joints, hands and feet
____ I experience numbness or tingling in my hands & fingers
____ I am having irregular periods (women)
____ I am having trouble maintaining erection (men)
____ I am having trouble conceiving a baby
____ I have had one or more miscarriages
____ I feel depressed most of the time
____ I feel restless, or anxious
____ I have puffiness and swelling around the eyes and face
____ My moods change easily
____ I have difficulty concentrating or focusing
____ I have more feelings of sadness
____ I seem to be losing interest in normal daily activities
____ I’m more forgetful lately
____ My hair is falling out
____ I can’t seem to remember things
____ I have no sex drive
____ I am getting more frequent infections, that last longer
____ My eyes feel gritty and dry
____ My eyes feel sensitive to light
____ I am having difficulty swallowing or feeling a lump in my throat
____ I have a hoarse or gravely voice
____ I have tinnitus (ringing in ears)
____ I feel some lightheadedness or dizziness
____ I have severe menstrual cramps
Other conditions that may be associated with thyroid dysfunction
- Infertility or frequent miscarriage
- High cholesterol
- Irregular periods
- Low libido
- Fluid retention
- Difficulty swallowing
- Respiratory difficulties
- Frequent headaches
Family history that suggests you could have a higher risk for hypothyroidism
- Celiac Disease or gluten intolerance
- Prematurely gray hair
- Type 1 Diabetes
- Autoimmune diseases (rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, sarcoidosis, Sjogren’s, etc.)
- Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis
- Multiple sclerosis (MS)
- Elevated cholesterol levels
10 tips to support a healthy thyroid
Always consult with your healthcare practitioner before using supplements included at Hypothyroid Mom.
- Eliminate gluten from your diet! One in three patient’s with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis are sensitive to gluten.
- Selenium is essential to a healthy thyroid and the first thing I recommend for those with autoimmune thyroiditis or Hashimoto’s. You can get 200mcg of selenium by eating 2-3 organic brazil nuts daily!
- Wild caught fish, like salmon, supply ample omega-3 fatty acids which are essential for optimal thyroid function. If you don’t eat fish frequently, you can supplement with a high quality Omega3 supplement, like Thorne Research Omega Plus 2-3 caps daily.
- Get plenty of sunlight to optimize your vitamin D levels and take 1000-2000IU daily of Vitamin D3, like Thorne Research D-1,000.
- Herbs that support thyroid function include ashwaganda, eleuthero and other adrenal adaptogens. One of my favorite formulas is Gaia Herbs Thyroid Support.
- Dandelion greens, carrots, spinach, kale, Swiss chard, collard greens, and sweet potatoes are all rich sources of essential Vitamin A. I feel that goitrogens in moderation or sauteed, cooked or steamed are not a problem. The only caution is those who are using raw greens in large quantities for smoothies or juices, which can be a problem. There are so many benefits to these foods that, even in the case of hypothyroid, I would not recommend avoiding them entirely.
- Use organic coconut oil in your cooking — it’s great for high heat cooking and sautéing many different meats and vegetables.
- Filter your drinking water from chlorine and other harmful chemicals which suppress the thyroid and block iodine.
- Find daily ways to detox, like using a sauna, taking epsom salt baths, adding chlorella, parsley, or cilantro to your daily smoothie to help your body detoxify from chemical exposures (petrochemicals, PCBs, pesticides, and mercury).
- Work on lowering stress levels through daily gratitude, prayer, meditation, yoga, deep breathing!
Environmental toxins may be poisoning your thyroid
Many environmental factors have the potential to impact thyroid function. Some of these factors include:
- Potassium perchlorate, which inhibits iodine uptake by the thyroid, is used in rocket propellant, fireworks, and automobile airbags. Potassium perchlorate is stable in the environment and contaminates water throughout the United States. Newborns and infants are most susceptible to this inhibitory effect on iodine transport. The thiocyanates in cigarette smoke can have effects similar to potassium perchlorate.
- Isoflavones (phytoestrogens), found in soy proteins, are thyroid peroxidase inhibitors.
- Pesticides induce glucuronidation of T4 and reduce T4 half-life.
- Polychlorinated biphenyls are industrial chemicals that were banned in 1975 but still are routinely detected in the environment. They have been shown to reduce T4 levels in animals and are neurotoxic. Their effect varies because of partial agonist effect at the thyroid hormone receptor and their varied chemical structure.
- Bisphenol A—used in plastics, as resins for coating food cans, and as dental sealants—antagonizes T3 activation of the thyroid hormone b-receptor in rats, causing a thyroid hormone resistance–like syndrome.
- Keep your home free from these and other toxic chemicals.
- And read the blog on MTHFR for how your genes can also make you more susceptible to thyroid dysfunction and poor detox!
A prescription for hypothyroid
If you are truly hypothyroid, no amount of nutritional supplementation will replace your abnormally low levels of thyroid hormone. Ask your doctor to do comprehensive thyroid lab testing including: TSH, free T4, free T3, total T4, total T3, reverse T3, thyroid peroxidase antibodies (TPOs), and thyroglobulin antibodies (TgAb). An ultrasound to evaluate the appearance of the thyroid is necessary if you are experiencing symptoms of enlarged thyroid or nodules.
Common drug options for thyroid replacement include:
T3 only preparations
About Jill Carnahan, MD
Dr. Jill Carnahan uses functional medicine to help you find answers to the cause of your illness and the nutritional and biochemical imbalances that may be making you feel ill. Functional medicine is personalized medicine that deals with root cause of disease instead of just treating symptoms. Dr Jill will search for underlying triggers that are contributing to your illness through cutting edge lab testing and tailor the intervention to your specific needs as an individual. Dr. Carnahan’s office Flatiron Functional Medicine is located in Boulder, Colorado.