The thyroid is a gland that creates and releases hormones into the body. This gland wraps around the trachea and forms a butterfly shape. When the thyroid gland is not functioning properly, you can experience a number of health issues. Thyroid issues affect more women than men. On average, one in eight women will develop a thyroid issue during their lifetime. Because it is so prevalent among women, its helpful to know about the symptoms of thyroid problems in females and how to nourish your thyroid for optimal health.
What Does Your Thyroid Do?
The thyroid gland produces hormones that control your metabolism. Your metabolism affects how the body converts food into energy. This energy is used to fuel the body to help maintain good health. If your thyroid is not functioning properly, you can experience fatigue and a host of health problems.
What Impacts Your Thyroid Health?
There are several different things that can affect your thyroid health. Holistic healthcare uses a whole person approach and will look at the following areas:
- Nutrition – Nutritional deficiencies, especially an iodine deficiency can prevent the thyroid from functioning properly.
- Autoimmune Disorders – Autoimmune disorders like Hashimoto’s thyroiditis as well as other types of thyroid diseases occur when the immune system attacks healthy tissues like the thyroid gland.
- Thyroid Nodules – Thyroid nodules, also known as goiters, occur when the thyroid gland cannot produce enough thyroid hormones.
- Infections and Toxicities – Exposure to radiation, heavy metals, and infections can lead to poor thyroid function.
- Food Sensitivities – Food sensitivities, food allergies, and digestive issues have been linked to decreased thyroid function.
- Hormones – Holistic doctors will also look at the rest of the hormones in your body and determine if you have any hormone imbalances.
- Symptoms of Thyroid problems in Women
The following five conditions can be problematic in women with thyroid disorders.
Did you know that your thyroid can impact your heart and circulatory health? An underactive thyroid can cause you to store more fat, which can lead to high cholesterol levels. When your cholesterol levels increase, your arteries can narrow and harden. This can lead to a slower heart rate. If you experience a sudden increase in your cholesterol readings, it may be time to have your thyroid levels checked.
An overactive thyroid can increase your heart rate. When this occurs, you can experience several cardiovascular issues, including high blood pressure and atrial fibrillation (an irregular heartbeat). If your blood pressure readings increase or your heart feels like it is pounding quickly, contact your doctor or emergency services immediately. Your doctor will check your heart. If your heart checks out, you may need to get your thyroid hormone levels tested.
Changes in Weight and Energy Levels
When you have thyroid dysfunction, it can impact your energy levels and even your weight. Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormones. Conversely, hyperthyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland produces too many thyroid hormones.
Hypothyroidism slows down your metabolism, which can cause fatigue and unexplained weight gain. The weight gain is usually gradual. On average, hypothyroid women will gain between 15 and 30 pounds during the first year if they do not change their diet or increase their physical activity levels. Hypothyroidism causes significant fatigue. The body tries to counteract low energy levels by storing more fat. Unfortunately, the body uses less of the fat for energy production, which causes further weight gain. Because the body stores the nutrients found in food rather than using them, they will begin to experience higher fatigue levels than normal.
Hyperthyroidism increases your metabolism, resulting in unexpected weight loss, anxiety, and an increased heart rate. Hyperthyroid causes the body to use more energy, which causes more calories to be burnt. Women with hyperthyroidism often lose around 15 pounds during the first year if an effective hyperthyroidism treatment is not begun. Because the body is in overdrive, it uses more energy and can become extremely fatigued. Furthermore, because of the increased heart rate and anxiety, hyperthyroid women may have difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep, resulting in lower energy levels.
A goiter occurs when the thyroid gland becomes inflamed. When this occurs, the lower part of the neck appears swollen. Goiters can occur when the thyroid gland produces too much or too little of the thyroid hormone. In the beginning, you may not experience any symptoms; however, as the goiter continues to enlarge, it can interfere with your ability to swallow or breathe. You may also experience hoarseness and coughing as the goiter presses on the trachea.
Hypothyroidism causes fatigue, low energy levels and mood disorders. Changes in your appearance like thinning hair and weight gain along with a decreased heart rate can lead to low motivation and depression. If you are feeling blue, it could be caused by low thyroid levels in the blood.
Hyperthyroidism causes anxiety and jitteriness due to an increased heart rate and high blood pressure. If you are feeling anxious, talk with your doctor to see if you have hyperthyroidism.
A thyroid condition can cause hair loss if it is left untreated. When your thyroid hormones and your thyroid-stimulating hormone are low, your hair may thin, and you may lose the outer third of your eyebrows. Thyroid hormones send signals to your hair follicles to stimulate hair growth. If your thyroid hormones become imbalanced, your hair may fall out and thin. Both thyroid medications and thyroid conditions can lead to hair loss.
Causes of Thyroid Disorders
Thyroid disorders occur when the thyroid gland isn’t functioning properly.
Hypothyroidism has been linked to a number of conditions including:
- Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis – Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is a genetic autoimmune disease. This condition occurs when cells in the body begin attacking and damaging the thyroid gland.
- Iodine Deficiency – The thyroid needs iodine to produce thyroid hormones. If you have an iodine deficiency, it can lead to hypothyroidism.
- Non-Functioning Thyroid Gland – If your thyroid gland does not function properly, it can lead to a plethora of problems, including thyroid disease.
- Postpartum Thyroiditis – This thyroid condition affects between 5 and 10 percent of women right after childbirth. Luckily, postpartum thyroiditis is typically a short-term condition.
- Thyroiditis – Inflammation of the thyroid gland can lower the production of thyroid hormones, resulting in hypothyroidism.
If the thyroid gland produces too much thyroid hormone, it is called hyperthyroidism. Hyperthyroidism causes a plethora of symptoms. The following conditions can cause hyperthyroidism, including:
- Excess Iodine Consumption – Consuming too much iodine can cause your body to produce more thyroid hormones than your body needs.
- Graves’ Disease – Graves’ disease causes the thyroid to become enlarged and overactive, resulting in the production of too much thyroid hormone.
- Nodules – When the thyroid gland becomes overactive, a thyroid nodule can form. These nodules are typically benign; however, they can grow quite large if your thyroid disease is left untreated.
- Thyroiditis – Thyroiditis is a condition where the entire thyroid gland becomes enlarged. Thyroiditis causes the thyroid gland to release all the hormones stored there. This condition can be short-term lasting for a few weeks, or it can last for several months.
Thyroid Disease Treatment
The treatment for thyroid disease is to help normalize thyroid hormone levels. If you are suffering from hyperthyroidism, eating low iodine can help regulate thyroid symptoms. Additionally, you should avoid eating processed foods, seafood, soy products, beef, poultry, egg yolks, and dairy products as they can interfere with your thyroid functions.
Thyroid problems often begin due to high-stress levels, a poor diet, and malnutrition. Taking a vitamin and mineral supplement, eating a well-balanced diet, and practicing stress relief techniques can improve the functioning of your thyroid. In addition to this, eat a gluten-free diet, take probiotics, and ensure you are getting enough B vitamins.
Thyroid disease can affect both men and women. Here we specifically highlight the symptoms of thyroid problems in females and along with some ways to improve your overall thyroid health through proven thyroid protocols. Nourish your body, lower your stress levels, and get plenty of sleep to help improve your thyroid function.