Located in the front of the neck the thyroid gland produces the thyroid hormone, an important hormone for almost all of your body’s functions. When the thyroid is not performing optimally, it does not produce enough thyroid hormone, resulting in a condition known as hypothyroidism.
While hypothyroidism can happen to both genders, women are five times more likely to have thyroid problems than men. And for women, the chance of a missed, or delayed, diagnosis is possible due to the fact that many of the symptoms for hypothyroidism are the same as those for menopause.
These symptoms include weight gain, insomnia, tiredness and fatigue, moodiness, depression, skin changes, constipation, cold intolerance, sweats. When women grow up seeing older women experience these things, the perspective becomes that it is normal and just part of getting older, or just part of menopause. And often, women are told by their physicians that is part of menopause, and will pass.
Not realizing that these symptoms could be signs of hypothyroidism, many women may not even mention these things to their physician, delaying a diagnosis even further. And then it may even be possible that a physician can wait until a wider hormonal imbalance occurs before checking anything. (On the other hand, more physicians are acknowledging that the “normal” range is too high, which is encouraging!)
One contributing factor to a hypothyroid problem is nutrition. Women are more likely to follow restrictive diets, with a focus on calories and their weight instead of on nourishment for their body. Unless done properly, calorie restriction can result in damaging nutrient deficiency, depriving the thyroid (and other bodily functions) of its requirements for proper functioning.
One result of this is a decreased metabolism, with some studies showing results of 20% lower than pre-dieting for women. This means that when the calorie restriction ends, eating normally again would result in weight gain. And then this is exacerbated by the other symptoms that a hypothyroid may cause, that would also contribute to weight gain, such as tiredness, insomnia, depression.
Another nutritional factor that may be contributing to thyroid problems is excessive consumption of soy, as there is evidence that excessive isoflavones may cause hypothyroidism, goiter or nodules.
Stress is also a contributing factor, as it can cause excessive cortisol, a hormone that directly interferes with thyroid hormones. It also causes fatigue which can result in snacking on sweets and simples, contributing to weight gain.
Thyroid hormones are intimately linked with the levels of estrogen and progesterone, and together form a delicate interconnection.
Aside from weight gain and the discomfort and effect of these apparent symptoms, there are serious health dangers to hypothyroidism. In women, these can include fertility issues, heart problems, high cholesterol, fibromyalgia, carpal tunnel and tendinitis, decreased sex drive and mitral valve prolapse.
So what should a woman do is she suspects her thyroid is low, or has any of the symptoms?
– consult your physician, share any symptoms and ask for full thyroid blood testing.
– reduce stress in whatever way works, such as exercise, yoga, laughing, meditation
– adopt an eating or food plan that provides thyroid support (and avoid crazy diets!)
– avoid excessive soy, drink bottled water
– check your iodine intake
– stop smoking.
These things should be done regardless of what your physician says. If you are diagnosed as hypothyroid, all of these things will only help. And if your thyroid is deemed “normal,” take these actions to support your thyroid and balance your body. If so, you are guaranteed to just feel better!