A low thyroid affects every aspect of your life. You feel tired. You gain weight. You don’t enjoy yourself or the things you love as much as you used to. You might even find yourself lashing out at your loved ones because you’re so frustrated by how you feel. Your thyroid is a small gland at the base of your neck, just beneath your Adam’s apple. It’s only about the size of a walnut, but every cell, every tissue, every organ in your body needs the hormones it produces in order to function at their best. When you overwork yourself or put yourself into situations that are chronically stressful, it takes a toll on your thyroid’s ability to produce the hormones that your body desperately needs.
The physical and emotional toll differs from person to person when this happens. This is part of what makes low thyroid difficult to diagnose. One person might feel tired all the time, while another might become depressed, and a third person might catch every cold and flu bug that comes along.
Unless your thyroid is extremely low, your doctor may not realize what is really wrong. Borderline low thyroid doesn’t set off any alarms for your doctor, so you might go undiagnosed for years. You may be told that how you feel is just how your body works. Or you may be treated for other conditions with disappointing results. Begin by assessing yourself. If you have a set of symptoms that doesn’t seem to follow a normal pattern associated with other diseases—symptoms like fatigue, feeling too hot or too cold, weight gain, anxiety, aching muscles and joints, indigestion, a lack of mental clarity, dry skin, brittle nails and hair, high cholesterol or insomnia— or that doesn’t respond to treatments… consider that your thyroid may be at the root of your health problems. Essentially low thyroid is an autoimmune disorder. When your body becomes exhausted, tired, overworked and overstressed, it becomes desperate to stay healthy. And sometimes it becomes confused. When this happens your own immune system may begin attacking your thyroid; damaging it and disrupting its function.
Other risk factors for low thyroid disease include:
- A family history or personal history of thyroid problems
- Thyroid surgery or antithyroid drugs
- Pituitary tumors or pituitary disease
- Autoimmune or endocrine disorders
- Epstein Barr Virus or mononucleosis
- Being over 60 years of age
- Hormone imbalances
- Smoking or being a former smoker
- Neck trauma
- Exposure to environmental chemicals or radiation
One of the prevalent characteristics of low thyroid is low energy, but there are many other conditions that result in low energy, too. It isn’t unusual for you to suffer from a combination of conditions. It’s important to consider all the possibilities in order to rule out the ones that obviously aren’t part of your condition, and then to treat the conditions that you do have. This is part of how low thyroid worsens other existing illnesses—it can compound the symptoms that you are struggling with and the solutions you try might fall short. The following low energy diseases or conditions can mimic, mask, or compound low thyroid. When you work with your doctor to treat your condition, consider each of these possibilities along with hypothyroidism and see if you can’t determine which condition or combination of conditions matches your experience most closely.
- Lack of sleep or chronic insomnia
- Malnutrition (even if you are overweight)
- Toxicity from food additives and environmental contaminants
- Chronic infection or inflammation
- Lyme disease
- Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
- Lack of activity
As you can see, diagnosing low thyroid disease can be quite complicated. Fortunately, when you recognize it as a possibility, you can take the steps needed to confirm if low thyroid is sapping your energy and compromising your health… and then you can begin to set things right.