The thyroid, a butterfly-shaped gland that sits on your neck, controls your metabolism, heart rate, temperature, hormones, and much more. Issues with the thyroid are more common than people realize, and according to the American Thyroid Association, one in eight women develop a thyroid disorder in their lifetime. In fact, women are much more likely to suffer from thyroid conditions than men, 5-8 times more, to be exact.
This blog will dig into the early warning signs of thyroid issues, as well as symptoms unique to men and women. We will also discuss treatment options and the real causes of hypothyroidism.
If you would like to consult with a leading thyroid doctor in Chandler, please get in touch. We help patients on a daily basis, and we would love to work with you to optimize your hormone levels.
What Are The Early Warning Signs of Thyroid Problems?
The following symptoms may present themselves in both men and women (gender-specific symptoms are listed below). Please note that the list is not exhaustive, and not all patients will experience every symptom.
Intolerance To The Cold
Are you cold when you shouldn’t be? Your temperature in the morning could indicate low thyroid performance. Some people “run hot,” and some “run cold” – that’s different. But if you take your temperature under your arm before you get up in the morning, and it’s consistently low, your thyroid is probably underperforming. Think of the thyroid as the body’s long term motor – your temperature will be regulated if the thyroid is humming along. This is in contrast with your adrenals, which produce short term energy bursts. You cannot sustain yourself on only adrenal production, you need the thyroid.
Loss of the Outer Part of Your Eyebrows
Thinning or loss of the outer part of the eyebrows, known as the “Madame Butterfly” sign, can be a symptom of hypothyroidism. A study published in the Journal of Clinical & Diagnostic Research found consistent eyebrow loss among hypothyroid patients.
Thinning and Dry Hair Can Indicate Hypothyroidism
Triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4), hormones produced by the thyroid, place a significant role in the formation and health of hair follicles. Therefore, thinning hair across the scalp could indicate one of two thyroid issues:
- Actual hypothyroidism, in which the thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough
- An autoimmune issue in your body that is limiting the conversion of T4 into T3
Weight Gain and Slow Metabolism
Your thyroid hormones regulate the entire body’s metabolic rate, which is what utilizes energy and regulates temperature. Insufficient thyroid production will prevent your body from burning calories at rest, and because you aren’t burning fuel, you will have less energy.
Are You Tired and Depressed?
If you have hypothyroidism, or if your body is failing to convert T4 into T3, all of your hormones are suppressed. This will lead to fatigue, a lack of motivation, malaise, and eventually depression. The thyroid plays a pivotal role in regulating neurotransmitters like serotonin and norepinephrine. Both are crucial for mood stability. An imbalance in thyroid hormones can disrupt the levels of these neurotransmitters, leading to depressive symptoms.
The hippocampus, the brain region associated with mood stability, has also been identified as an affected area in patients that suffer from hypothyroidism.
Early Signs of Thyroid Problems in Men
Men suffering from hypothyroidism may experience low sex drive, low testosterone levels, low sperm count, erectile dysfunction (ED), and more.
Low Sex Drive
When T4 and T3 production in the thyroid is limited, the body’s entire hormone system is suppressed. The corresponding decrease in testosterone levels and other sex hormones may result in a decreased libido, or “sex drive.”
Low Sperm Count
Thyroid hormones are essential for the maturation of germ cells, which develop into sperm. A deficiency in these hormones can hinder the sperm production process, known as spermatogenesis. Research has shown a direct correlation between thyroid hormone levels and sperm count and motility. It has been shown that hypothyroidism can lead to alterations in the seminal profile, including a reduced sperm count. This change is often reversible with proper thyroid hormone supplementation or natural approaches to improving thyroid function or the conversion of T4 to T3.
Erectile Dysfunction Due To Hypothyroidism
Hypothyroidism is associated with atherosclerosis and reduced blood vessel dilation, and when that is paired with a decrease in testosterone, patients may experience erectile dysfunction from underactive thyroid production. This can also be reversed by addressing the root cause of the thyroid’s performance.
If you are experiencing reproductive dysfunction, it would be well worth your while to consult with a physician about the possible relation to hypothyroidism.
Early Signs of Thyroid Problems in Women
Women may experience menstrual cycle irregularities, infertility, postpartum symptoms, and additional menopause symptoms because of thyroid fluctuation.
Menstrual Cycle Irregularities in Women
Thyroid hormones interact closely with sex hormones, including estrogen and progesterone, which regulate the menstrual cycle. Hypothyroidism can lead to anovulatory cycles (cycles where no ovulation occurs), which result in irregular menstrual periods or even amenorrhea, which is the absence of menstruation. On the other hand, excessive menstrual bleeding or longer menstrual cycles can also be a result of hypothyroidism, as the lowered levels of thyroid hormone can disrupt the usual hormonal balance required for a regular menstrual cycle.
As mentioned above, women dealing with hypothyroidism may fail to ovulate altogether. Furthermore, thyroid hormones influence the environment of the uterus, ensuring it’s conducive for a fertilized egg to implant. These factors can combine to make conception impossible or increase the risk of miscarriage.
Other Effects of Hypothyroidism on Women
There is a correlation between hypothyroidism and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) in women, and in certain cases, an underperforming thyroid can cause premature births, developmental issues with the fetus, and even miscarriage.
Thyroid Function Postpartum
Temporary postpartum hair loss, common among women, is related to thyroid fluctuations following a pregnancy. Women often experience both hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism after pregnancy, which can influence mood, the appearance of depression, and even the ability to breastfeed. Don’t try to fight through this alone – speak with your doctor about how to manage your hormone levels.
Thyroid Optimization in Menopausal Women
A naturopathic doctor in Chandler will often help women who are dealing with menopause. Influencing your thyroid’s behavior through natural means may help with the hot flashes, mood swings, fatigue, and other symptoms. A doctor can also help you distinguish between thyroid issues and natural menopause symptoms.
Some Background: What Causes Hypothyroidism?
Hypothyroidism may originate from autoimmune disease, deficiencies in iodine, zinc, or selenium, too much iodine, or certain hereditary traits. Surgery and radiation are obvious causes, but you would know if that is the case.
Hypothyroidism Related To Kidney and Liver Disease
The thyroid produces some very important things. T4 is the precursor, or pre-hormone if you will, that converts to the active hormone, T3. Interestingly, most of this conversion happens in the liver (roughly 80%) and kidney (20%). Therefore, if you have a fatty liver, inflamed liver, or otherwise underperforming liver, your thyroid will not be able to produce enough T4. Relatedly, if you have kidney-related problems like diabetes, pre-dabetes or other insulin resistance, the conversion of T4 to T3 will be sub-optimal.
90% of hypothyroidism is traced back to Hashimoto’s, which is a phenomenon in which the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks the thyroid. Gut permeability (leaky gut) is one reason why the immune system may attack thyroid cells. If certain proteins are leaking beyond the colon’s walls into your bloodstream and other tissue, your body will mount an immune response against them. Gluten is a common element that causes this kind of auto-immune inflammation (and thereby thwarts the thyroid), and many patients find relief from their hypothyroidism when they stop eating glutenous foods.
Cortisol, the Stress Hormone, Can Cause Hypothyroidism
Did you know that too much cortisol can basically paralyze your immune functions? So too much chronic stress (which leads to more cortisol production) directly hurts your thyroid’s ability to produce. If you are experiencing thyroid issues, your doctor may ask if your symptoms started after a major stress event in your life.
Deficiencies in Zinc, Selenium and Iodine
The body requires both zinc and selenium to convert T4 into T3. If your doctor analyzes your lab work and notes deficiencies in these trace minerals, that could have something to do with your lack of thyroid performance. Additionally, the thyroid requires iodine – this is rarely an issue in the developed world though. Before you start to supplement with iodine, consult your doctor, as too much iodine actually hurts your thyroid.
How To Improve Your Thyroid Function Naturally
By working with a naturopathic doctor, you can improve your symptoms and reach an optimal level of hormone production.
Don’t Become Dependent on Drugs If You Don’t Need Them
There is a time and place for pharmaceutical drugs, but they are not for everyone. Firstly, you will become dependent on a drug like Synthroid if you use it for the long term. You will train your thyroid to underperform, and you will need to keep taking the drug for years and years to maintain proper hormone levels.
Address The Root Cause
Many patients notice that after taking thyroid medication for many months, their symptoms are not improving. This doesn’t mean that the medication hasn’t regulated your thyroid production, but it does mean that the thyroid itself isn’t the problem (it rarely is!).
You probably have a trace mineral deficiency or autoimmune condition that is stopping the body from converting the T4 into T3. That is likely where the symptoms are coming from.
Improve Your Diet To Naturally Include Zinc and Selenium
You should be getting all of the zinc, selenium, and omega 3 fatty acids that you need through fruits, vegetables, meat, and other foods. If necessary, a naturopathic doctor can help you supplement safely.
Remove Gluten From Your Diet
Many patients see improvements in their symptoms simply by removing grain. Gluten is inflammatory to many people, and whether this is related to a fixable leaky gut issue or not, it is always worth a test.
Reduce Stress, Sleep, and Exercise
You need to naturally address your body’s overproduction of cortisol if you want to have a healthy thyroid. Sleep, stress management and exercise are necessary and holistic ways to do this.
Contact A Licensed Processional Today
If you are dealing with weight gain, low energy, depression, decreased libido, or other symptoms of hypothyroidism, contact a naturopathic doctor at your earliest convenience. At Essence Medical Center, we help patients with these issues daily. We also provide the best acupuncture in Chandler, massage therapists in Chandler, have an excellent esthetician, and more.