Time after time I have seen women in my office with clear signs of trouble with their thyroid. They come to me with weight gain and unrelenting fatigue – both associated with thyroid dysfunction. These thyroid symptoms in women are the body’s ‘in your face’ – “I will not let you ignore me” – cry for help that finally bring women to my practice.
But what about all the signs they missed? Could they have found relief sooner, if they knew what other symptoms to look for? If they truly understood how the thyroid works, and what can happen when things go awry? I believe the answer is yes – and I want to help women learn the subtle signs of thyroid issues so they can address the problem before it gets out of hand.
According to the American Thyroid Association, approximately 20 million Americans have some form of thyroid disease. Up to 60% of these cases are undiagnosed. And women are far more at risk of thyroid problems: one in eight women will develop a thyroid issue at some point in her lifetime. What’s going on here? Why are so many people failing to get the diagnosis they need?
Before we dive too deep into how thyroid issues can sneak by your practitioner, it’s important to know why the thyroid gland is so important. We’ll go over the types of thyroid imbalances that can occur, what causes fluctuations in optimal levels of thyroid hormones and thyroid symptoms in women.
How Does the Thyroid Gland Impact Your Body?
The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland located in the front of your neck that produces hormones with a number of functions, including regulating both body temperature and metabolism. They also impact bowel functioning, energy levels, and mood. When your thyroid gland is producing too much or too little of its hormones, the levels become imbalanced, which can trigger a wide range of thyroid symptoms in women. That’s why it’s so important to know where your thyroid hormone levels stand.
Hyperthyroidism vs. Hypothyroidism
Thyroid hormones can be skewed in two directions. Your thyroid gland might not produce enough thyroid hormones, or it might pump out too much. Imbalances in either direction will have a significant impact on the symptoms you notice, and the way you feel. We categorize these thyroid imbalances into two different conditions: hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism.
Hypothyroidism occurs when your thyroid just can’t keep up with demand. Your metabolism will be less efficient, and you’ll probably feel exhausted much of the time.
Hyperthyroidism, on the other hand, means you have too much of the hormones at work. This could make you feel jumpy and on “high speed”. You could find yourself with trembling hands, a racing heart, and the inability to sleep at night.
Thyroid Imbalance Causes
An imbalance of thyroid hormones can cause thyroid symptoms in women, but really it’s a symptom itself. There is something that caused your thyroid levels to become skewed, and to really heal your body long term, it’s important to examine what that might be. By the time your symptoms are severe enough to prompt you to seek help, whatever caused the imbalance has probably been at play for a long time. If you don’t discover what the cause is, it’s likely that those thyroid symptoms will return again and again.
Some common causes of hyperthyroidism are:
- Grave’s disease, which causes the thyroid glands to become enlarged and increase secretion of hormones into the body.
- Growth of nodules in the thyroid gland
- Medications. Anything containing high levels of iodine can cause hyperthyroidism.
- Inflammation of the thyroid gland causing the release of stored hormones
- Problems with the pituitary gland, causing increased secretion of TSH
Some common causes of hypothyroidism are:
- Iodine and/or selenium deficiency
- Hashimoto’s disease, a hereditary autoimmune disorder that attacks the thyroid gland.
- Surgical removal of the thyroid
- Some prescription drugs, such as lithium
- Food intolerances to gluten and A1 casein
- Hormonal imbalances caused by stress or poor diet
- Adrenal dysfunction
Why Thyroid Testing is Important
Although the thyroid imbalance may not be the root of your issues, it’s still important to know that your levels aren’t ideal. This gives you a place to start digging into what’s really going on with your health – and helps you determine how to begin the healing process. The only way to really know what your levels are is through testing.
One of the reasons so many women have undetected thyroid disorders is that testing isn’t standard procedure for many conventional practitioners. To make matters worse, the range considered “normal” is frequently way too broad, so even with testing, you might hear that everything is fine – even when you can feel that it isn’t!
The truth is, even the slightest imbalance can cause some women great distress. And that’s totally unnecessary! And testing for – and discovering – imbalanced thyroid hormones doesn’t automatically mean another prescription. Paying close attention to diet and lifestyle and making sure you are getting all the vitamins and minerals your body needs, can make a huge difference in how you feel.
A TSH test alone often isn’t enough to give the full picture. If you suspect a thyroid imbalance, talk to your practitioner about doing a full workup. We recommend you include the following tests:
- Free T3 and Free T4
- Reverse T3
- Total T3
- Micronutrient analysis (intracellular)
- Basal Body Temperature
Thyroid Symptoms in Women – The Signs of Thyroid Imbalance
Why are the subtle signs of thyroid imbalance so easy to miss? Part of the reason is that these thyroid symptoms in women can also indicate so many other conditions – including aging. But I don’t think that a woman should have to put up with things like excess hair loss, always feeling too hot or too cold, or dry, flaky skin, simply because of how many years she’s been alive. And neither should you! Sure, things will change with age, but there’s often something you can do about unwanted symptoms. The first step is recognizing the issues at play.
Thyroid symptoms in women will be varied, depending on which type of imbalance your body is dealing with; having too much of a hormone can look very different than having too little. And because we are all unique individuals, symptoms that you experience will vary too. Your “normal” level isn’t the same as another woman’s, so despite what your levels are, the most important test is how you feel.
While the most common signs of a thyroid imbalance include low energy and unexplained weight gain, there are a number of other symptoms to watch for. Let’s take a look at some of the troubling thyroid symptoms in women:
Trouble with Digestion
Feeling bloated, constipated or walking around with a heavy rock-like feeling in your stomach can all be signs of hypothyroidism. Excessive diarrhea could indicate an overactive thyroid. Of course it can also be a sign of digestive issues as well, but remember the thyroid as a possible culprit as well.
Changes to Skin and Hair
Some hair loss is normal, but more severe hair loss, along with brittle or dry hair that breaks easily, can indicate a thyroid impairment. Dry, scaly skin or very thin and fragile skin can also be signs that something is amiss. An even more subtle indication that your thyroid isn’t performing up to par is hair loss just at the outer edge of the eyebrow.
Difference in Mood
We all go through ups and downs, but severe mood swings are a sign that your thyroid – which regulates mood – may be dysfunctional. Increased depression, anxiety or sudden panic attacks are common indicators of thyroid issues, especially if they aren’t easily controlled by traditional treatments.
Reproductive Issues or Changes to Menstrual
All of the hormones in your body have an impact on other hormones. If one is out of balance, quite often others are as well. Changes to menstruation, therefore, can go along with both hyper and hypothyroidism. If your thyroid is underactive, you may experience heavier, more painful periods; hyperthyroidism could bring shorter, lighter, and less frequent periods. Infertility and miscarriages can also be signs of impaired thyroid function.
Thyroid problems can cause problems such as fuzzy thinking, memory loss, trouble concentrating, which can become more severe and disruptive to your life over time.
Dysregulated Body Temperature
Your thyroid should act as an internal thermostat, keeping your body at a comfortable temperature. If you find yourself constantly chilled, or sweating even after removing most of your layers, you may have a thyroid dysfunction at play.
These are just a few of the ways your body may be sending out a message that your thyroid isn’t functioning the way it should. Once you know what to watch out for, you can request testing, and take steps to rebalance those hormones naturally.
Natural Treatment for Thyroid Symptoms in Women
There are many ways you can turn the tables and bring your hormones back to a natural balanced state without having to rely on a prescription. Here are some tried and true suggestions to balance thyroid symptoms in women:
Pay Close Attention to Nourishment
Great nutrition and ensuring your body has all the essential nutrients and minerals it needs is one of the best ways I know to get the process started. Good hormonal health relies heavily on your body getting all of the nutrients and minerals it needs. Iodine is key in the production of thyroid hormones, so if you have a deficiency of this mineral, your body simply won’t be able to produce sufficient T3 and T4. Selenium is another essential mineral for the conversion of T4 to T3.
In today’s world it can be increasingly difficult to get the nutrients you need from food alone. Adding a pharmaceutical-grade multivitamin and mineral complex can support your thyroid for optimal health. The thyroid supplement that I offer on my online store contains both iodine and selenium – which, as we learned, is essential in maintaining your thyroid health. Try my formula which promotes hormonal balance and support the thyroid; get the right nourishment for your body.
Eat Fresh, Whole Foods
Nutrients in food are hard enough to come by – don’t sabotage your efforts by eating processed and packaged foods. Cooking from scratch is often far easier than you think it will be. The internet has a wealth of resources for making quick and healthy meals using real ingredients. Buy organic produce whenever you can and try shopping at a farmer’s market instead of the supermarket from time to time. Avoid gluten, dairy, and sugar as much as possible.
Give Adaptogenic Herbs a Try
Plants and minerals are amazing healers. Many can adapt to provide the exact support your body needs – even if you aren’t quite sure what that is. Some help balance your sex hormones, which in turn aids healthy functioning of your whole endocrine system. Other herbs – such as hops and sage – help support healthy cell metabolism in the thyroid gland and anywhere else thyroid hormone receptors and thyroid hormone conversion activity occurs.
Alleviate Daily Stress
Chronic stress impacts your entire body, especially your endocrine system. Stress hormones, released as part of your stress response, impact the production and processing of thyroid hormones. You may not be able to get rid of the sources of your stress, but you can choose how to react to it. Take small steps – like making self-care a priority, getting better sleep, and finding activities that relax and/or energize you rather than deplete you.
Focus on Your Thyroid Health and Feel Fantastic!
If you’ve come away from this and noticed some of these symptoms in yourself, it may be time to delve a little deeper. You could be one of the millions of women in America suffering from undiagnosed thyroid disorder. Whether you can attribute your symptoms to menopause or aging, it’s time to focus on your thyroid health. With the right tests and some natural support, you can take charge of your health. Bringing your thyroid back into balance may not be easy, but it’s not as hard as you might think. And a little effort is so worth it when it leaves you feeling your very best!