Thyroid problems are widespread and if you are a woman your chances are significantly higher to develop a thyroid disorder. An estimated 20 million Americans live with some form of thyroid disease such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism or Grave’s disease.
By the Numbers
One out of eight women will develop a thyroid condition at some point during their life. There are numerous root causes or triggers including but not limited to, nutritional deficiencies, toxins in your environment, pregnancy, and autoimmune disease. But one theme rings true, the fatigue is overwhelming for everyone who has a thyroid condition.
Symptoms of Hypothyroid Disease
One of the main problems with hypothyroidism is that the symptoms are often vague or mimic another problem. You may go to the doctor with an array of signs only to be told to “chill out” or to, “Try yoga and see if that helps.” Maybe you even left the doctor’s office with a prescription for an antidepressant. Both of these scenarios happened to me even though I knew in my gut that something was wrong.
No two people are alike, and with thyroid disease, there are individual symptoms unique to you. Some symptoms may include:
- Anxiety/Panic attacks
- Weight gain
- Hair loss
- Stomach issues
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Dry skin
- Muscle cramps
- Heart palpitations
- Enlarged thyroid
- Joint pain
As a wellness professional and a woman with Hashimoto’s I experienced many of these symptoms. The unwavering fatigue, gobs of hair loss and weight gain was difficult at best. I knew something was terribly wrong, but it was extremely difficult to get heard.
Fact vs. Fiction
I suffered for five years before I finally got the diagnoses I desperately needed. I realize now that many myths are being perpetuated by well-meaning people and the health profession in general. It’s vitally important to visit with a doctor who is up to date on the latest battery of tests and current research on test result norms.
Myth 1- If you have hypothyroidism or Hashimoto’s you will definitely know it
Fact: The symptoms that occur with this disease can be present in a lot of other conditions. You will know something is wrong, but it might not be evident at first. Ask to be tested. Ask for a full panel including thyroid antibodies. Dr. Isabella Wentz, states, “That even if your current doctor says you have “normal” TSH levels and no thyroid issue, know that there is a reason you don’t feel well. There is a reason for the symptoms you have, even if they feel random and overwhelming.” Getting the appropriate thyroid function tests is essential to a correct diagnosis. Don’t settle for a basic TSH test. Request a full thyroid panel that includes thyroid antibodies, T3 and T4
Myth 2- Taking extra iodine is a magic bullet and will improve your thyroid health.
Fact: Most Americans who eat a well- balanced diet get enough iodine without needing to supplement to get more. In fact, taking supplements or eating foods high in iodine can actually harm your thyroid if you don’t need it. It’s imperative to know if you are truly low in iodine before supplementing because too much can create a risk factor for developing Hashimoto’s or autoimmune thyroid disease.
Myth 3- Eliminate gluten, and you will cure your thyroid disorder
Fact: Reducing gluten from your diet will undoubtedly reduce inflammation, and help a leaky gut. But this will not cure your thyroid disorder or put your Hashimoto’s in remission although it may help. Intestinal permeability or leaky gut is an indicator in all autoimmune disorders. Celiac disease is common in people with autoimmune diseases like Hashimoto’s or Grave’s disease. Basically, If you have a gluten sensitivity, it makes perfect sense to eliminate gluten from your diet. Try a gluten-free diet for a few weeks and see how you feel. Many people report immediate weight loss and an increase in energy by eliminating gluten and wheat.
Myth 4 – Only older women get thyroid problems
FACT: Both women and men can get a thyroid problem, and at any age. It is interesting that women do have a higher incidence than men. Genetics and environment both play a role, but it will cross any age or sex. Thyroid problems do not discriminate but hypothyroidism is certainly more common in older adults than in younger adults.
Myth 5- Thyroid disease is not complicated to treat
Fact: It is hard to treat and manage your thyroid disorder for many reasons. 90% of people who have hypothyroidism, actually have Hashimoto’s and are making antibodies that are destroying their thyroid. Conventional medicine is still at a loss on how to treat any autoimmune disease and Hashimoto’s is no different. This fact coupled with the problem that lab ranges used to identify a thyroid problem are based on sick people and consequently skewed high.
Finally, thyroid hormone replacement isn’t always the answer for your symptoms. Often when you don’t feel well your doctor will increase your medicine when difficulties aren’t always related to a lack of thyroid hormone but something altogether different. It’s a complicated disease to manage.
Ways to Combat Thyroid Fatigue
Overloading your system can cause your thyroid to become overworked. Not providing your body with the necessary nutrients to support healthy thyroid function can throw things out of sync as well. Consider the following assessments when working to help formulate your approach towards combatting thyroid fatigue.
Know what foods affect you. Food sensitivities are different than food allergies, and many can cause extreme fatigue. People with Hashimoto’s are particularly sensitive to some common food sensitivities including dairy, nuts, egg, soy, corn, and gluten. The two most common food irritations are dairy and gluten. Truthfully, a nutritional overhaul is often necessary, and positive changes are almost immediate. A diet full of veggies, low carb, nutrient dense, low sugar, no processed foods, and lean protein will make a positive impact on your fatigue.
Balance Your Blood Sugar
Balancing blood sugar levels is a goal for anyone who wants to overcome fatigue. Imbalances in your blood sugar level can create havoc on your anxiety and energy levels. Eating high carbohydrate food can cause blood sugar swings and stress your adrenals. Eating a protein and good fat with every meal is essential. When you do eat a carbohydrate, combine it with a fat or protein. Never skip breakfast! Avoid grains, fruit juice and limit your caffeine intake.
Check Out The Possibility of Anemia
Three types of nutrient deficiencies can cause anemia in people with a thyroid disorder – low B12, ferritin, and iron. A simple blood test can test for all three. B12 can be supplemented best with an injection or as a drop under your tongue. Ferritin is your body’s iron reserve protein. Low ferritin will also cause hair loss, shortness of breath, restless leg syndrome, insomnia, and mood swings. Ferritin/iron supplements should improve your energy levels quickly.
Let the Sun Shine In
Sunshine is powerful, and a lack of it can lead to fatigue. Low levels of vitamin D are typical in people with Hashimoto’s and hypothyroidism. We can get vitamin D from food and supplements as well as getting outside every day! It’s interesting, but vitamin D deficiency is widespread. The best food source is cod liver oil and wild salmon. Often, it’s easiest to take a daily oral supplement especially if you can’t get outside every day or don’t live in a sunny climate.
Hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis are complex diseases. Symptoms are vast and often mimic other problems. It’s important to advocate for your health and request more information as needed. There’s a lot of misinformation to be aware, but awareness is critical. Speak to your doctor and discuss your symptoms, request blood work, and obtain your results and keep them for your records. At the very least you will have a baseline of information to track your results in the upcoming years.