What is Hypothyroidism?
The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland located at the base of the neck that produces hormones which provide energy to the organs. Hypothyroidism, also known as “underactive thyroid,” is when the body does not produce enough thyroid hormones. Without enough thyroid hormones being sent to the organs and tissues, the body’s functions slow down, causing a variety of symptoms.
Hypothyroidism is quite common and is more prevalent in women than in men. 4.6 % of Americans age 12 and over experience hypothyroidism. 1
Common Symptoms of Hypothyroidism
Feeling chronically tired and worn out is a very common symptom of hypothyroidism. Low thyroid activity is actually what allows some animals to hibernate. 2 Patients encountering low thyroid levels often feel sluggish, unmotivated, and tend to sleep more but do not wake up feeling refreshed. 3 4
Because low thyroid levels slow the function of organs, hypothyroidism can cause the body to store more calories as opposed to burning them, which can result in unexpected weight gain. 5 One study found that people diagnosed with hypothyroidism gained an average of 15-30 pounds within a year of their diagnosis. 6 If you find that you are gaining weight unexpectedly despite no changes to a healthy diet and lifestyle, speak to your healthcare provider to determine whether hypothyroidism is the cause.
Joint & Muscles Aches
If you have unexplained muscle aches and joint pain, hypothyroidism may be to blame. When the body does not have enough thyroid hormones to provide sufficient energy, it will begin to break down muscle and other tissues as a source of energy. 7 This process, known as catabolism, can result in feelings of weakness or aches in joints and muscles. 8
Treatment of Hypothyroidism
Hypothyroidism is commonly treated with medication that increases your body’s level of thyroid hormones. Other treatments that can be used on their own or with medication include taking selenium or vitamin B supplements, limiting sugar intake, consuming probiotics, and trying a gluten-free diet. Autoimmunity can also cause hypothyroid and hormonal imbalances. To determine what is right for you, talk to a naturopathic doctor. They can help to identify the right lifestyle/diet/treatment plan for you.