Fatigue, sleeping problems, weight gain, mood swings… these are just a few of the symptoms of thyroid dysfunction but they are also everyday struggles for some. How do you know if there is cause for concern? If you are having symptoms that disrupt your life on a regular basis, and you’re not sure of the root cause, a poorly functioning thyroid could be to blame.
It’s important to understand first why these kinds of symptoms can stem from an under- or overactive thyroid. This specialized gland works to regulate all the metabolic processes in the body.
Low energy is perhaps the most classic sign of an underactive thyroid. This is not just occasional low energy but more of a persistent drain on your resources. If your thyroid is not producing, you just will not have the energy to keep up.
On the other hand if you have too much energy and can’t ever seem to slow down, you may have an overactive thyroid.
This can go both ways. If you’re already counting calories and eating clean, but still unable to lose weight, you may have an underactive thyroid. If you have trouble keeping weight on you may have an overactive thyroid. Both situations warrant testing.
If your thyroid function is low, you may find yourself sleeping much more than usual. You may also wake up feeling like you’ve had disrupted sleep and have an overall feeling of unrest.
If you feel like you’re overly energetic, that could indicate hyperactive thyroid or adrenal overdrive and testing is definitely indicated.
Does it feel like you have gray clouds hovering over you at all times? Hypothyroidism can make you feel depressed or down.
But what if you’re irritable and angry? This could mean your thyroid is hyperactive. It’s as if your body is fired up and overheated, due to overproduction of hormones in your thyroid.
Since the thyroid is metabolic in nature, appetite is sure to be affected. Levels too low? Your body may try to compensate for the lack of energy with carbs and sugar. Too high and you may burn through calories too fast, resulting in feeling overly hungry all the time.
If you suffer hypothyroidism, everything slows down including digestion. As a result, constipation is a common symptom of low thyroid function, along with gas and bloating. But with hyperthyroidism you may need to go to the bathroom too often, and you may experience loose stools. Either way a poorly functioning thyroid often wreaks havoc on digestion.
Having trouble getting pregnant, experiencing hormonal issues or irregular periods, think you aren’t ovulating, or have had a miscarriage? Get your thyroid function checked as your thyroid plays an integral role in fertility form all angles.
You may not associate joint pain with thyroid dysfunction, but it’s often a clear indicator of thyroid issues as it’s autoimmune adjacent. So beware of taking too much ibuprofen and have your doctor do a workup of your thyroid labs, especially TSH, FreeT3 and FreeT4, and thyroid autoantibodies which all indicate autoimmunity problems.
If a slower, hypothyroid metabolism can’t burn through fat at a normal rate, you may end up with cholesterol issues. This is another symptom that may not initially point to hypothyroidism, but is a factor nonetheless.
Since the thyroid acts as your body’s thermostat, you might feel cold if it’s under-functioning. You may have cold hands or a chilled nose.
However, if it’s over-functioning, you might feel overheated in a normal temperature room. No matter if you’re too hot or too cold — extreme reactions like this mean it’s time to get your thyroid function checked.
With this long list of symptoms, it’s easy to get discouraged but the good news is thyroid problems can be repaired. You may have to advocate for yourself to get the full range of testing you need. But luckily there is a large range of available thyroid tests, including TSH, FreeT3, FreeT4, total T3, total T4, Reverse T3, and thyroid autoantibodies including thyroperoxidase antibodies and thyroglobulin antibodies.
Traditional medicine can often help thyroid dysfunction but sometimes thyroid function can be recovered and restored with lifestyle changes like stress reduction, diet, herbs, and supplements. For the best possible results, seek out a doctor who specializes in functional or integrative medicine.