Could It Be Your Thyroid?
Are you always tired? Do you gain weight easily or have a hard time losing it? Do you wear socks to bed even in the summer to keep your feet warm? Are your hair and/or eye brows thinning? Do you have chronic constipation? Is your sex drive low? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, hypothyroidism may be an issue for you.
About the Thyroid
The thyroid gland is your metabolic powerhouse. It’s a walnut-size endocrine gland that sits just below the Adam’s apple and helps control every chemical reaction in the body. It produces, stores, and secretes thyroid hormones, mainly Triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). A healthy thyroid produces about 80% T4 and 20% T3, but T3 is the more “active” hormone, doing much of the work in moderating the body’s metabolic functions. Through producing and activating these hormones, the thyroid controls your body’s metabolism by helping individual cells convert calories and oxygen into energy.
So when the thyroid fails to produce and activate enough hormones (hypothyroidism, or low thyroid production), it often depresses their metabolic rate, since they can’t convert fuel and oxygen into energy. So you can see how this condition can have a huge impact on a person’s ability to feel good, have adequate energy to get through the day, and to lose, or even control, weight. Some experts estimate that as many as 20 million Americans are currently affected by undiagnosed hypothyroidism.
Symptoms of hypothyroidism
There are many symptoms of hypothyroidism. Below is a list of the most common indicators. (Or, if you think maybe you’re affected by the condition, click here for an online questionnaire.)
Skin and outer body:
- Dry and/or coarse skin
- Coarse, brittle hair
- Hair loss
- Thinning of the eyebrows
- Nail weakness/thinness
- Edema (swelling) of the eyelids
- Cold skin
- Severe fatigue
- Difficulty losing weight
Muscles and joints:
- Muscle weakness
- Muscle pain
- Carpal tunnel
- Swelling of the hands/feet
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Abdominal pain
- Diarrhea (especially near time of menstrual flow)
- Excessive menstruation
- Menopausal symptoms (hot flashes, etc.)
- Frequent miscarriage
- Loss of libido
- Brain fog
- Memory loss
- Panic attacks
- Change in personality- less outgoing, less joyful
- Seasonal affective disorder
- High blood pressure
- High total cholesterol
- High LDL
- High triglycerides.
- High homocysteine levels
- Low HDL
- A family history of thyroid disease: hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, Graves’ disease, thyroid nodules, goiter, thyroid cancer.
- A family history of autoimmune disease: anemia, diabetes (type I), endometriosis, multiple sclerosis, Raynaud’s syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, Sjögren’s syndrome, systemic lupus, vitiligo.
As you can see, there are many more symptoms besides weight gain. Laurie Devine was kind enough to share her experience with hypothyroidism on the “Is soy making you fat” post comments. She shared, “I discovered that the severe asthma, allergies and migraines I’d suffered with for most of my life pretty much disappeared as soon as thyroid treatment began.” This is a perfect example of the importance of a properly functioning thyroid. The bottom line is that our thyroid regulates our cellular energy and if it’s not working, many other bodily functions are affected. Thyroid health is one of the most important factors in determining our overall wellness.
There’s a lot to consider regarding thyroid. Later in this post, I will challenge you to do a test at home that will help determine how well your thyroid is working.
The At Home Test
The thyroid regulates body temperature. Therefore a low body temperature can help to determine if you have subclinical hypothyroidism (when the condition doesn’t show up in blood panels but the patient has symptoms). Blood chemistry thyroid panels only reveal overt pathology, not subclinical conditions. (I will discuss more in-depth in an upcoming blog post.) Back in the 1940’s Dr. Broda Barnes, M.D., developed the axillary (under arm) temperature test to determine subclinical hypothyroidism (click heref or more information on the Broda Barnes Foundation and Dr. Barnes’ work). He studied thousands of patients and dedicated his life to thyroid research. Although Barnes recommended axillary temperatures, Dr. Ray Peat, a present day thyroid expert, believes that an oral temperature reading is more accurate than the axillary one, so I recommend using oral temps.
Your optimum oral temperature should be 98.0°F in the morning (before rising, so take your temperature before getting out of bed). Your oral temperature should increase during day light hours to between 98.4°F and 99°F. It is important to take your temperature at least twice during the day because some people have a low morning temperature and a normal one during the day, or vice versa. You should always use the lowest temperature as a deciding factor. Click here for a chart to track your temperatures.
Women should take special care to measure their temperatures when they are menstruating and ovulating, because temperatures rise and fall more than normal during these times. For best results on daily measurements, I recommend taking your temperature before getting out of bed in the morning, again 20 minutes after breakfast and between 11 am and 3 pm. At the same time check your pulse, your optimum resting pulse (sitting down) should be 75-85 and not over 90-100.
Wrapping It Up
Okay, this is enough information for now. I would again challenge you to take your basal temps and track your findings. In future posts, I will:
- Discuss why hypothyroidism is becoming such as issue in today’s society
- Provide a few nutritional pointers to support your thyroid
- Discuss blood tests to request from your doctor, and treatment options
Tracie Hittman Nutrition, LLC
Please share this with everyone in your life who might have low thyroid! Have you experienced low thyroid? Please share your story with us and let us know what you’ve learned!
Barnes, Broda and Lawrence Galton. Hypo-thyroidism: The Unsuspected Illness. NY: Harpers & Row Publishers, 1976.
Blanchard, Ken and Marietta Brill. What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About
Hypothyroidism. NY: Warner Wellness, 2004.
Peat, Ray. “TSH, Temperature, Pulse Rate, and Other Indicators in Hypothyroidism.” Ray Peat.com2007. 9 Sept. 2009. <http://raypeat.com/articles/articles /hypothyroidism.shtm>.
Shomon, Mary. Living Well with Hypothyroidism. NY: HarperCollins, 2000.
Starr, Mark. Hypothyroidism Type 2. Columbia, MO: Mark Starr Trust, 2009.