When we notice subtle changes in how our body functions, we might not give it too much thought initially unless those changes become really bothersome. We might just chalk up our symptoms to increased responsibility, aging, or stress. And although issues like fatigue, weight gain, and brain fog can be related to these issues, they can also be caused by certain medical conditions that can sneak up on us at almost any age—one of the most common of which is low thyroid function, or hypothyroidism.
Hypothyroidism in a Nutshell
About 5% of people in the U.S. are known to have hypothyroidism, and experts have suggested that just as many undiagnosed people may be struggling with it too. In addition to the symptoms I mentioned above, other common ones include:
- Being sensitive to cold
- Voice becoming hoarser
- Memory problems
- Dry skin and hair—even hair falling out
- Feeling depressed and/or anxious
Because the symptoms seem pretty diverse and may emerge slowly, it can be hard to try to nail them down with a self-diagnosis—something I DO NOT recommend—and here’s why:
Your thyroid gland, located at the base of your neck, is part of the endocrine system which makes and distributes the hormones your body needs. The thyroid gland is what runs your metabolism. When the gland produces inadequate amounts of its hormones, certain bodily processes slow down, causing those symptoms.
The Consequences of an Overactive Thyroid
On the flip side, guess what happens when the thyroid gland makes too much of its hormones? Everything speeds up…and not in a good way. With hyperthyroid disease, which affects less than 1% of the U.S. population, symptoms like these will start to emerge:
- Unintended weight loss despite a bigger appetite
- Increased sweating and feeling overheated
- Racing heart and pulse
- Feeling jittery, nervous, shaky, and restless
- Fatigue and sleep problems
- Brittle nails and hair
- Thinning skin
In addition, nodules can develop on the gland in either type of thyroid disease. But regardless of whether symptoms are related to high or low function, they need to be taken seriously. I tell you this from personal experience.
I was 23 when I developed a slight tremor in my hands and was losing weight for no obvious reason. Eventually I went to the doctor, and he discovered a lump in my neck. Subsequent biopsies revealed I had thyroid cancer that had metastasized to lymph nodes in my chest and neck. Fortunately, surgery and radioactive iodine treatment put me in remission at that time. Although I’ve had several recurrences of this type of cancer since then, it’s currently under control.
Moral of the story: Take your thyroid health seriously!
Getting Your Thyroid Checked is Easy
While the vast majority of people who have thyroid issues have mild cases and won’t develop nodules or cancer, it’s still very important to get checked out by a physician if you’re having any symptoms. Some blood tests will provide the necessary information your doctor needs. However, because most docs only order the test for thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH), I encourage you to request a more comprehensive panel that adds these other tests along with the TSH:
- Free T4
- Free T3
- Thyroid antibodies
- Ferritin—it helps get the T3 into your cells
- Liver function—your liver activates most of the T4, so you want to make sure it’s working well.
The results of your blood work will let your doctor know whether or not you need medication or another treatment (such as radioactive iodine or surgery in some cases) to bring your thyroid function into a more normal range. And once it starts working, you’ll notice positive changes in how you feel.
To help optimize the way your body and brain work, I urge you to take the health of your thyroid function—and other hormones—seriously. They’re really important on so many levels, and you deserve to feel your best every day. Therefore, if you’re concerned, schedule an appointment right away to get checked out. Regardless of the outcome, knowledge is power and that will guide you in making the healthiest decisions for yourself.
For more inspiration, order my newest book, The Relentless Courage of a Scared Child: How Persistence, Grit, and Faith Created a Reluctant Healer.
If you’re struggling and need professional help, Amen Clinics is here for you. We offer in-clinic brain scanning and appointments, as well as mental telehealth, remote clinical evaluations, and video therapy for adults, children, and couples. Find out more by speaking to a specialist today at 888-288-9834 or visit our contact page here.