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Hypothyroidism Symptoms, Causes and Treatments



By Dr. Josh Axe, DC, DNM, CN

April 29, 2019

Original article and page source found here.


Hypothyroidism is a condition in which the thyroid gland is underactive and doesn’t properly make or release thyroid hormones. The thyroid gland normally releases many crucial hormones that travel through the bloodstream to reach receptors found throughout the whole body. So a disturbance in thyroid function can cause widespread, noticeable health problems.

The thyroid is a small gland located on the base of your neck, sometimes described as butterfly-shaped. Meanwhile, at the base of the brain sits the pituitary gland, which secretes the thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). TSH makes the thyroid produce and release thyroxine, the main thyroid hormone.

Almost 5 percent of the U.S. population over the age of 12 has some form of hypothyroidism. Some estimates suggest up to 40 percent of the population suffers from at least some level of underactive thyroid. Women — especially older women — are the most susceptible group for developing hypothyroidism. People who are elderly or who have other existing autoimmune diseases — like type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and celiac disease, for example — are also at a higher risk.

What are some of the most common symptoms of hypothyroidism? Changes to your metabolism, heart function, digestion, energy, appetite, sleep or mood … even the growth of your hair, skin and nails can all be caused by hypothyroidism.

However, a hypothyroidism diagnosis is not a death sentence! There are many ways to treat hypothyroidism naturally through a hypothyroidism diet plan and other natural remedies. Find out how to start your journey below.

9 Potential Causes of Hypothyroidism

1. Inflammatory disorders of the thyroid

The most common cause of hypothyroidism in developed nations is a condition called Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. This is an autoimmune endocrine disorder that occurs when the thyroid becomes inflamed. When someone has Hashimoto’s, their own body essentially begins to attack itself by producing antibodies that try to destroy the thyroid gland.

Why does this happen? The immune system mistakenly thinks that the thyroid cells are not a part of the body, so it tries to remove them before they can cause damage and illness. The problem is that this causes widespread inflammation, which can result in many different problems. According to Dr. Datis Kharrazian, 90 percent of people with hypothyroidism have Hashimoto’s that inflames the thyroid gland over time, but this isn’t the only cause of hypothyroidism.

2. Poor diet (especially one lacking in iodine and selenium)

A diet low in nutrient-rich foods, especially in iodine and selenium (which are trace minerals crucial for thyroid function), increases the risk for hypothyroid disorders. The thyroid gland needs both selenium and iodine to produce adequate levels of thyroid hormones. These nutrients also play other protective roles in the body. For example: severe selenium deficiency increases the incidence of thyroiditis because it stops activity of a very powerful antioxidant known as glutathione, which normally controls inflammation and fights oxidative stress. Getting on track with a hypothyroidism diet ensures that you get the appropriate amounts of selenium and iodine in your diet.

3. Hormone imbalances

In some rare cases, because the pituitary gland makes a hormone called thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) — which controls the levels of hormones being pumped out of the thyroid — a problem with the pituitary gland can cause changes to thyroid function.

4. Gut inflammation (Leaky Gut Syndrome)

An unhealthy gut environment can contribute to nutrient deficiencies and raise autoimmune activity in the body. Food sensitivities or allergies, including those to gluten and dairy, can trigger gut inflammation. Other causes of a damaged gut are high stress levels, toxin overload from diet and the environment and bacterial imbalances. When leaky gut occurs, small particles that are normally trapped inside the gut start to leak out into the bloodstream through tiny openings in the gut lining, which creates an autoimmune cascade and a series of negative symptoms.

5. Genetics

Although it’s not very common, newborns are sometimes born with a dysfunction of the thyroid gland, a genetic condition called congenital hypothyroidism. Some evidence shows that people are more likely to develop hypothyroidism if they have a close family member with an autoimmune disease. But according to the National Institute of Health (NIH), the likelihood of congenital hypothyroidism is very low and only about 1 out of every 4,000 newborns is born with a thyroid disorder.

6. Pregnancy

During or following pregnancy, although it’s not exactly known why, some women begin to produce very high levels of thyroid hormones, followed by a very rapid decline. This condition is known as postpartum thyroiditis. The symptoms often disappear within 12–18 months but can also lead to permanent hypothyroidism.

7. Interactions of certain medications

Specific medications seem to lead frequently to the development of underactive thyroid. The most common of these include drugs to treat cancer, heart problems and certain psychiatric conditions.

8. High levels of emotional stress

Stress impacts hormones and is known to worsen inflammation. Stress can raise levels of cortisol and adrenaline, which disturbs neurotransmitter function and worsens symptoms of thyroid disease. These include low energy levels, poor mood, low concentration, disturbed appetite and weight gain and the inability to get restful sleep.

9. Inactivity and lack of exercise

Exercise and a healthy diet are important for controlling chronic stress and managing hormone-related neurological function. Research shows that people who regularly exercise usually get better sleep, deal with stress better and more often maintain a healthier weight, all of which reduce some of the biggest risk factors and symptoms associated with hypothyroidism.

Hypothyroidism Symptoms

The thyroid is considered a “master gland.” In addition to producing crucial hormones, it helps control the process of turning nutrients from food into usable energy on which the body runs. Because the thyroid plays such a major part in your metabolism, dysfunction can affect almost every part of the body, including your energy levels and ability to burn calories.

Key hormones produced by the thyroid also help the liver break down cholesterol that circulates through the bloodstream. The thyroid can also stimulate enzymes that are needed to control triglyceride fat levels; this is why changes in thyroid function cause lead to heart problems.

Other noticeable effects of hypothyroidism include moodiness and a sluggish metabolism. Essentially, when your thyroid is underactive, your metabolism will slow down, which might mean you always feel tired or struggle to keep off weight.

Your mood is especially susceptible to changes in hormone levels, so some people with hypothyroidism deal with depression, anxiety, trouble getting good sleep and low immunity. The thyroid gland helps regulate chemical messengers called neurotransmitters, which control your emotions and nerve signaling. This is the reason an out-of-balance thyroid can mean drastic emotional changes at times.

Some of the most common warning signs of hypothyroidism include: