There’s so much buzz about thyroid health these days yet the reality is most of us have no idea what our thyroids even do! So let’s get into the small but mighty, butterfly-shaped gland that sits at the base of your throat. It’s responsible for making three main hormones: thyroxine (T3), triiodothyronine (T4), and calcitonin. These hormones regulate energy production and metabolism throughout your body and are therefore hugely important to your overall health. When something is off with your thyroid – either it’s underactive (hypothyroidism) or overactive (hyperthyroidism) – you’re likely going to feel out of whack.

While thyroid disorders can affect people of all ages and genders, they are becoming increasingly more common in women. A whopping 1 in 8 women will get diagnosed with a thyroid condition in her lifetime and the chances of developing one is 10x higher than for men. This is because the thyroid gland is extremely connected to the rest of a woman’s reproductive system, which means it can be impacted by fluctuating hormones during your menstrual cycle or during/around menopause. Additionally, women are up to 4x more likely to have an autoimmune condition than men and thyroid conditions are often triggered by autoimmunity. Needless to say, it’s paramount that women keep an eye on their thyroid health, yet routine blood work from your primary care doctor often fails to detect thyroid issues. Not to mention symptoms can vary from woman to woman, making it quite hard to diagnose. That’s why we’ve detailed 5 common symptoms of thyroid conditions in the hopes that you can use them as a check in with your own body.

You’re constantly exhausted

It’s certainly normal to feel depleted every now and then, but when you start experiencing daily exhaustion that impacts your quality of life, you may be dealing with an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism). The autoimmune manifestation of this condition is called Hashimoto’s Disease and it affects 14 million Americans. In either case, when your thyroid isn’t pumping out adequate hormones, your metabolism slows way down and you wind up with less energy and more fatigue. It’s also possible that an underactive thyroid can lead to depression which we know is often associated with fatigue and physical symptoms. So if you frequently wake up feeling unrested or can’t stay awake during the day, there’s a chance your thyroid might be sluggish.

You keep gaining weight for no reason

This is perhaps the most common symptom of hypothyroidism and it can be incredibly difficult emotionally. Building off of the exhaustion piece we just talked about, a slowed metabolism typically translates to a lower basal metabolic rate (BMR) which is essentially the number of calories your body needs to sustain its most basic functions. Therefore, you can actually gain weight eating and exercising the exact same way you always do. Super frustrating! 

You’re always too hot or too cold

When your thyroid is over or underactive, your body has trouble regulating its temperature. So if you’re the one who’s always at a wildly different temperature than the rest of your friend group or family, your thyroid could possibly be off. When your thyroid is functioning optimally its cells produce 65% energy and 35% heat. Yet if you have a thyroid condition, you’ll either generate too much or not enough thyroid hormones thus confusing your body into making too much heat and not enough energy, or vice versa (4). When you aren’t producing enough thyroid hormones (hypothyroidism), your body temperature tends to drop because less energy being burned by your cells in conjunction with a slower metabolism means less heat generated overall. This often shows up as cold hands and feet. On the other hand, if you have an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism), your body temperature is higher than it should be due to a faster metabolism and more heat being generated. 

Your hair is brittle and/or falling out

50% of people with hyperthyroidism and 33% with hypothyroidism experience hair shedding although the exact mechanism is still fairly unknown (5). In the case of hypothyroidism, research suggests that insufficient thyroid hormone production impacts the division of epidermal and skin appendage cells which leads to the catagen (transition) phase of the hair growth cycle and delays the anagen phase (growth) after the usual telogen (rest) phase. Another theory is that as your metabolism slows down, your body invests more energy in vital bodily functions and less in hair health and growth. Also, since thyroid hormones play a major role in skin health, it makes sense that they impact scalp health. People with hypothyroidism have a thin epidermis and frequently develop alopecia which suggests that thyroid hormone can regulate both skin proliferation and hair growth (1, 2). 

So how can you tell if your hair loss is from a thyroid issue or something else? Hair loss due to a thyroid condition often presents as thinning across your scalp or the outer 3rd of your eyebrows (closest to your temples). This may look like a slow, general thinning as opposed to certain patches or bald spots. 

You’re chronically constipated

By now you can probably sense a theme here: hypothyroidism = slowed bodily functions. So it’s no surprise that low thyroid levels also slow down digestion, often causing constipation. The main reason for this is slowed/reduced peristalsis – the involuntary muscular contraction of the muscles of the intestines, causing a wave-like motion that pushes waste through your colon (1). Up to 15% of people with hypothyroidism report having less than 3 bowel movements a week (2). Now, if you’re having the opposite issue and are constantly running to the bathroom, this could be from the opposite condition, hyperthyroidism. 

A holistic approach

While we touched on both an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) and overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism) in this piece, hypothyroidism is 5 times more common. It’s such a shared experience in our community that we get asked about frequently, so Olivia did a whole podcast episode on it! This one is JUICY and really gets into Olivia’s thyroid diagnosis, how to nourish your thyroid through diet, lifestyle and herbs, what labs to ask your doctor for and more.

And if you’ve already listened or you know you have a thyroid condition and need some herbal support, start with our thyroid formula. ThyroPro is a holistic blend of warming adaptogenic herbs and thyroid-specific vitamins and minerals that address thyroid health at the tissue level – from improving circulation to strengthening your HPAT axis.

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