By Stacy Kennedy, MPH, RD, CSO, LDN; Reboot Nutritionist
With so many individuals being diagnosed with a thyroid condition*, how can you tell if you may be at risk? Your thyroid hormones act on just about every cell in the body and play a key role in metabolism, heart health, respiration or breathing, body temperature and nervous system, just to name a few.
Thyroid conditions are common with estimates showing 20 million Americans diagnosed and approximately 850,000 Australians. The prevalence is greater in women than men and age is also a risk factor. Many individuals have an autoimmune form of underactive thyroid known as Hashimoto’s disease or its counterpart, Graves Disease, an autoimmune form of overactive thyroid.
Symptoms of an underactive thyroid, also referred to as hypothyroid include:
Symptoms of an overactive thyroid, also referred to as hyperthyroid include:
Let’s break down some of the most common symptoms of underlying thyroid issues in more detail.
While certainly not everyone having trouble shedding those unwanted pounds has a thyroid issue, difficulty with weight loss is a hallmark of hypothyroid. Coupled with other risk factors or symptoms listed above, like feeling cold often, tired and achy, despite working to eat well, be active, practice good sleep habits and dress warmly.
If you do indeed wind up being diagnosed with an underactive thyroid, you can still lose weight, but it will likely take specific strategies, determination and persistence.
Thinning, brittle or loss of hair is another classic sign of potential thyroid issues. Nails and skin may also be affected. While many chalk these changes up to menopause and hormonal changes common in middle-aged women, don’t sit idly by if you find these symptoms concerning, increasing in severity or simply bothersome. Ignoring your body’s signs is a recipe for health disaster. Catching chronic illnesses early can help make treatment more effective.
If you’re freezing all the time, even when it’s warm out, or feel you have trouble regulating your temperature, thyroid hormone imbalance could be at the root of the problem. This one can be tricky and another reason to get confirmation from your doctor with blood tests.
If you’ve been making efforts to reduce your caloric intake in hopes of losing weight, this can also play into feeling cold. Studies show that caloric restriction is often accompanied by reduction in body temperature or feeling chilly, especially in your extremities (hands and feet). Caloric restriction can be healthy and may help to promote longevity; a good thing indeed. If you’re unsure whether your cold feet are from eating less or an undiagnosed thyroid condition, schedule an appointment with your doctor.
Early detection is key. Ask your primary care doctor for general screening blood tests at your annual well visits, especially if you are middle-aged, have a family history of over- or under-active thyroid, or are experiencing certain symptoms described above. Ask for a TSH level as well as Free T4 & T3 as well as any others your physician feels would be helpful. Often vitamin D levels may be low, risk for Celiac disease may be elevated, and further testing may be necessary to create an optimal plan.
Dealing with maintaining a healthy weight, immune system and overall energy level and mood while in the midst of a thyroid condition can be overwhelming and frankly daunting. Teaming up with peers and an expert coach to help guide you through a practical plan for getting your health and weight on track can make all the difference. Learn more about our Guided Reboot for Thyroid Conditions and consider joining our next 60 day group adventure.
*If you have a hypothyroid condition, including Hashimoto’s autoimmune disease, then consider signing up for our next 60-Day Guided Reboot for Thyroid on January 11th. This program will help you learn how to properly nourish and protect your thyroid, lose weight (if you have weight to lose), support a healthy immune system and jumpstart a healthy lifestyle. Register today.