Updated: Jul 6, 2020
Mornings are hard. Especially if you have to drag yourself out of a warm bed with cold hands and feet and nose. Especially if you need coffee to gain any energy at all. Or to poop. Especially if you know that your favorite jeans will still be a little tight this morning, even though you are eating super clean Paleo and working out hard.
And this is before all of the children get up.
Have you ever looked at a list of hypothyroid symptoms and checked off almost every single one, only to be told that your numbers are normal and to please come back in a year and to eat less calories and to work out more.
Here is a list of hypothyroid symptoms:
1) Fatigue after sleeping 8-10 hours a night, or needing to take a nap daily
2) Weight gain or the inability to lose weight
3) Mood issues such as mood swings, anxiety, or depression
4) Hormone imbalances such as PMS, irregular periods, infertility, and low libido
5) Muscle pain, joint pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, or tendonitis
6) Cold hands and feet, feeling cold when others are not, or having a body temperature consistently below 98.5 degrees
7) Dry or cracking skin, brittle nails, and excessive hair loss (up to 54% of patients with hypothyroidism report dry skin as a presenting symptom)
9) Mind issues such as brain fog, poor concentration, or poor memory
10) Neck swelling, snoring, or hoarse voice
This checklist comes directly from the fantastic Dr. Westin Childs at Restart Medicine. He does so much to educate the hypothyroid and suspected hypothyroid population and has many excellent free resources. If you struggle with thyroid issues, spend some time perusing his patient-friendly website.
This checklist is also pretty comprehensive. If you identify with 3-4 or more of these symptoms, your thyroid is probably compromised.
Note: as a practitioner, I would humbly add the symptom of gut issues.
There is a longer list of hypothyroid symptoms, and at the risk of boring you to death, I am going to share it with you because you need to know.
Sensation of Cold
Decreased Sweating (athletes, take note!)
Swelling of Face
Low Basal Activity Level
Low Basal Body Temperature (under 98.5)
Slow Resting Pulse Rate (under 85 BPM)
Swelling of Eyelids
Dry Mucous Membranes (including intimate body parts)
Unexplained Weight Gain
Shortness of Breath
Loss of Appetite
Prolonged or Heavy Menstrual Bleeding
Rapid Heart Rate
Pounding Heart Beat
Slow Pulse Rate
Wasting of Tongue
Faint Heart Tones
Dry, Thick, Scaling Skin
Dry, Coarse, Brittle Hair
Ridges Down Nails
Vague Aches and Pains (Fibromyalgia)
Numbness or Tingling
Protrusion of Eyeballs
Fluid Around Heart
Obviously, if you have more symptoms than not, you are most likely suffering from hypothyroidism.
It could be subclinical hypothyroidism, which means that your TSH will be relatively normal. You may have "enough" T3. And "enough" T4. Or maybe not, and you are on Synthroid. But you still have symptoms. And they have perhaps gotten even worse.
Well, for starters, our testing parameters are downright silly. Hypothyroidism used to be diagnosed with a test of the BMR, or Basal Metabolic Rate. This is a measure of how fast your metabolism is. It also, according to Dr. Broda Barnes, means that a low basal metabolic rate is indicative of the fact that "only a small amount of oxygen is needed to sustain life". That makes sense, right? Hypo means "under" and a hypothyroid is one that is underperforming, or slow. You are less alive when you are hypothyroid. Do you feel like that?
Up until 1940 or so, this is how doctors diagnosed a slow thyroid. And guess what? Forty percent of the population had a slow thyroid.
After World War Two, the gold standard of testing switched over to the protein bound iodine test. And the number of hypothyroid sufferers magically decreased by 35% to a scant 5% of the population.
In the 1960s, this test was determined to be ineffective for determining hypothyroidism but Medicine had gotten used to the idea that a mere 5% of the nation were hypothyroid sufferers.
When you look around to your mother, your sister, your best friend, and your mirror, do you agree with the idea that 5% of us are clinically hypothyroid? Or does the exhaustive list of symptoms listed above beg to differ with current standard of care?
I know what I think.
And I know what I see in my office, week after week. Exhausted, moody women who work their asses off and still have tummy troubles, weight troubles, and no libido. I'm sick of being that woman. Aren't you?
An aside: this world will never ever ever be perfect. Man sinned, the world fell into disarray, and we are all basically marching slowly toward death. If you doubt this, look around. We strive and grasp and plan and scheme and still, we suffer. This is what Christ came to redeem- our sin and our weakness. Think about this as you cultivate your health plan. Ask me questions if you would like, both spiritual and health-related. Maybe you don't believe this; that's ok. But if you want to know more, I'm here for you.
But back to the thyroid.
Listen. Your TSH levels mean very little. Why? TSH is a pituitary hormone. TSH problems? Pituitary problems! Which means you have stress problems!
If you are put on Synthroid (levothyroxine) because you have irregular TSH, it's likely that you still are experiencing a myriad of the problems listed above.
Levothyroxine is T4. T4 is inactive. Your liver has to convert it to T3 in order to boost thyroid activity.
If your liver is compromised or inefficient, you shall not convert.
And you will have continued or worsened symptoms.
And this is a big bummer.
Please ask your physician to test your Free T3 and reverse T3. Not just TSH.
Also ask for anti-TPO and anti-TG antibody numbers.
I can't tell if it is becoming more of a thing, or if I am just too far into the research currently, but it seems like physicians are becoming more savvy in regards to these tests. If your doctor won't run a full thyroid panel, contact me and we will get you set up.
You want actionable, inexpensive, and practical steps now. And I want to give them to you.
1) Record five days of your basal body temperature.
All thermometers are digital these days. To ensure accuracy, test 5 times in a row and take a rough average. Your BBT should be 98.5 or higher. If it is not, your thyroid has decreased in function. Test upon waking, before and after lunch, before and after dinner, and before bed. Journal these numbers out and look for patterns. If you want help interpreting them, let me know. If they are low, you are low (thyroid, that is).
2) Record five days of your resting heart rate.
If you work out a lot, your heart rate will be under 85. If it is under 85, you are likely hypothyroid. Most athletes have lower heart rates. But. You don't want a lower heart rate. You want a proper heart rate (~85). If it's lower, your metabolism is lower.
3) Take this data to someone who can do something with it.
Your doctor, your naturopath, some person you found online, I don't care. Just get some help and interpretation so you can start feeling better. (More info to come in future blog posts.)
4) Eat more fruit.
Our low carb diets are killing our metabolic and thyroid health. You can't argue with it. Brains need sugar. Muscles need glucose. Keto for women is dumb long term. I know I will get some pushback. I don't care. I am passionate about women's health and keto is doing you no favors. Eat fruit with 1-4 meals a day.
5) Eat more often.
Don't intermittent (starve) fast. It's fine for awhile. Meet your goals, use it therapeutically, and then stop. It's not good for women's hormones. You don't have to eat a ton in the morning. Use one of my smoothies. But eat. Please. Otherwise, you lose organ, bone, and muscle tissue.
If you are hypothyroid,
"Your liver is compromised. And your liver cannot store enough glycogen to keep your blood sugar stable." - Forefront Health This means you need more food, more fructose (fruit), and more often.
That's enough for today. I have an entire summer's worth of information to give you. But my kids are hungry for dinner and I have a laptop crick in my neck. But I still haven't even told you about the fact that your entire hormone cascade hinges upon proper levels of T3.
To your thyroid health,
Jennifer Woodward, FDN-P