If you’re a woman over 35 the chances of having a thyroid disorder are high. The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland in the neck and has many bodily functions.
According to The American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists, 30 million Americans have a thyroid disorder and half are undiagnosed. Integrative medicine specialist Robin Miller, MD says women are as much as 10 times as likely as men to have a thyroid problem.
The thyroid hormone (TH), produced by the thyroid, regulates your body’s temperature, metabolism and heartbeat. It may underwork or overwork. When it underworks it produces too little TH, when it overworks it produces too much. Genetics, an autoimmune attack, pregnancy, stress, nutritional deficiencies, or toxins in the environment may cause all of this. Thyroid hormones reach our brain and bowels so it’s difficult to diagnose it.
Hypothyroidism is the disorder that’s the result of too little thyroid hormone and it results in feeling tired and having no energy. “Fatigue is the number one symptom I see,” says Dr. Miller. “It’s the kind of fatigue where you’re still tired in the morning after a full night’s sleep—that’s a clue that you’re not simply sleep deprived; your thyroid may be underactive.”
You’re feeling down
This is a symptom of hypothyroidism, the production of too little thyroid hormone causes levels of “feel good” serotonin in the brain to drop down.
You feel jittery and anxious
This is associated to hyperthyroidism- there’s too much TH. If you feel unrelaxed your thyroid is hyper.
Your appetite or taste buds are altered
Too much TH makes you feel hungry all the time. There is no weight gain thanks to the hyper thyroid. You may notice smell and taste difference if the thyroid is underworking.
Your brain feels fuzzy
When your thyroid is out of whack the cognitive functioning can take a hit. You will experience difficulty concentrating due to too much TH and cause forgetfulness and general brain fog when it’s too low. “When we treat patients for hypothyroidism, they are often surprised at how fast their brain fog goes away and how much sharper they feel,” Dr. Miller says. “Many women think it’s just something that comes along with menopause when it really is a sign of a thyroid problem.”
You’ve lost your interest in sex
Too little TH can cause lowered libido, weight gain, low energy, and body aches and pains.
You’re feeling all fluttery
Too many thyroid hormones flooding your system (hyperthyroidism) may cause heart palpitations, your heart is actually fluttering or skipping a beat or two, or beating too hard or too quickly, feelings in your chest or pulse points in your throat or neck.
Your skin is dry
Slowed metabolism (caused by too little thyroid hormone production) may cause dry itchy skin.
Your bowels are unpredictable
The thyroid controls digestion, so you may experience constipation if it’s not working well. “There’s just no motility in your gut,” Dr. Miller says. “This is one of the top three most common symptoms of hypothyroidism I see.”You may also experience diarrhea if it’s overworking.
Your periods have changed
This suggests thyroid hormones are in short supply. They may be shorter, farther apart and may be very light.” I always ask my patients about their cycles and if they’re regular,” says Dr. Miller.
You have painful extremities or muscles
Producing too little thyroid hormone can damage the nerves that send signals from your brain and spinal cord throughout your body. If you get unexplained pain it is like caused by hypothyroidism.
You have high blood pressure
Pumping strength and blood vessel wall flexibility may be affected by low amounts of thyroid hormone and can slow heart beat.
Your thermostat is on the fritz
Underactive thyroid means less energy is being burned by cells causing you to feel cold. An overactive thyroid puts energy-producing cells into overdrive that’s why you are warm or sweat profusely.
You’re hoarse or your neck feels funny
The American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists suggests using a hand mirror, watch your throat as you swallow a drink of water. You’re looking for any bulges or protrusions in the thyroid area, which is below your Adam’s apple but above your collarbones. You may want to try this several times to get a hang of where your thyroid really is. If you see anything that’s lumpy or suspicious, see your doctor.
Your sleep schedule is messed up
If you sleep too much or too little it may be due to hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism.
You’ve gained weight
If you have gained or lost weight it’s due to hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism.
“They’ll tell me that they aren’t eating any more than usual, but they’re gaining weight,” she says. “They are exercising, but they are getting nowhere. They can’t lose it.” It’s almost always due to an underactive thyroid, she says.
Your hair is thinning or falling out
Thinning or falling out may be due to hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism.
“Lots of my patients come in and tell me that their hairdresser sent them,” says Dr. Miller. “They’ll say, ‘My hair stylist said I’m losing my hair and I needed to go ask my doctor about my thyroid.’ The hair salons are more aware of thyroid problems than some doctors!”
You have trouble getting pregnant
Problematic thyroid affects ovulating and getting pregnant.
You have high cholesterol
Hypothyroidism affects high levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL)-when cholesterol doesn’t change with diet, exercise, or medication. Underactive thyroid mat trigger levels of the “bad” cholesterol and cause to heart problems, including an enlarged heart and heart failure.