15 Early Symptoms of Thyroid & What You Should Do Next

shutterstock_367357430 Lately, have you been feeling lethargic and irritable all throughout the day even after sleeping for 7-8 hours at night? Or, despite switching to a healthy and balanced diet, and exercising regularly, you are not able to lose weight?  Or, have you experienced both and presumed that the changes in your lifestyle have had adverse effect on your mood? Before drawing any further conclusions, pause for a moment. It could be a malfunctioning thyroid behind these symptoms. Thyroid is the endocrine gland in our neck region that resembles a butterfly. It secretes hormones that help maintain our metabolism, improves cardiovascular functions, aids brain development during fetal stage and adolescence, and sexual behaviour. An overactive thyroid secretes excess hormones which results in hyperthyroidism, associated with Graves’ disease, goitre and adenoma, with symptoms like weight loss, insomnia, increased appetite and mental health issues. Hypothyroidism is more common and the typical symptoms are body weight issues, sluggishness, heavy menstrual bleeding and mood swings. shutterstock_443358484 15 early signs of thyroid malfunction are:
  1. Fatigue – Despite adequate sleep, people suffering from hypothyroidism experience excessive fatigue and lethargy most of the time. You may be having a hard time getting up in the mornings and going about completing your chores. Pushing yourself out of the door to reach work on time, meetings, deadlines and even after-office get-togethers may be leaving you exhausted and energy-starved. Recreational activities are not making you feel charged up and you may be avoiding the outdoors, and instead lying on the couch or in bed.
  2. Weight gain/loss - Despite making smart choices in terms of food habits and regularly exercising, you may be feeling depressed as you are not losing weight. Or you may be losing weight drastically without having made any effort. The first situation is the most common symptom of hypothyroidism and the second of hyperthyroidism. Both these are generally seen to be the first cause of concern that drives people to seeking medical help.
  3. Mood swings – Apart from feeling physically sluggish, you may have slowed down mentally. Or you may be suffering from over anxiety and nervousness. Friends and family members may have noticed that you tend to snap at every little thing and not really being your usual self. Feeling irritable or feeling low are part of mood swings that a person suffering from hypothyroidism experiences. In contrast, a person suffering from hyperthyroidism will be more excitable. It is not that you can control the emotional upheavals, or keep yourself from feeling depressed or anxious most of the time.shutterstock_227448991
  4. Pre-menstrual symptoms and irregular periods – In many women, the first signs of a malfunctioning thyroid are irregular cycles, pre-menstrual symptoms like severe mood swings, stomach cramps and low back ache, and heavy menstrual bleeding.
  5. Body ache – Muscle pain, commonly, aches in the calf muscles, thighs, arms and back are also symptoms of hypothyroidism. You may also be feeling pain or tenderness, or noticing swelling in your joints regularly and not being able to arrive at a logical reason as to what may be causing them.
  6. Low body temperature – We all have office colleagues or family members who are always feeling cold. They are the ones who may want to switch off the AC even when the rest of the people are complaining of heat. Or they may be complaining of cold hands and feet without any apparent reason.
  7. Dry skin – Have you been slathering moisturizing lotions on your skin and yet it feels parched and dry every few hours? The lotion may provide temporary relief but in case there is an internal cause behind this, your skin will not turn supple and smooth until your thyroid gland is stimulated to function normally.
  8. Brittle nails – Look at your hands carefully. Does the skin around the cuticles appear jagged and coarse, or are there vertical white ridges on your nails? Hypothyroidism also leads to brittle nails that result in nails chipping and breaking.                            

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  9. Hair loss – Thinning of hair is again a very common symptom associated with hypothyroidism. Hair may also become coarse, and fall at an alarming rate.
  10. Constipation – Hypothyroidism leads to impaired metabolism which in turn affects the bowel movements. Though there are various causes of constipation, if you have been struggling with constipation despite increasing the fiber content in your diet, and experiencing other metabolic issues, it may be a good idea to consider the thyroid angle.
  11. Poor memory and concentration – Are you not being able to focus on your studies or at work? Has your ability to remember things taken a downward plunge recently? Do you find it difficult to concentrate on the task you are doing, and feel mentally drained after moderate exertion of mental faculties? Since the thyroid gland regulates the energy quotient of your body, a malfunction inevitably results in brain fatigue as your bodily functions slow down due to less energy being produced and the brain has to exert itself more and more to keep you going.
  12. Swelling in the neck – Commonly known as thyroid adenoma, it is a swelling in the form of a benign tumour in the neck region. Thyroid adenoma may be a cold tumour, with no functionality, or a hot tumour that results in excess secretion of hormones resulting in hyperthyroidism.shutterstock_332193650
  13. Snoring – Snoring can be a result of mental and physical fatigue, as well as the enlarged thyroid gland obstructing the airway.
  14. Developmental issues in children and adolescents – The thyroid hormones T3 and T4 target the development of the brain cells. Deficiency of adequate iodine in the diet of pregnant women or genetic defects can result in congenital hypothyroidism that results in a host of issues like cretinism, abnormal development of brain, impaired growth and permanent intellectual disability in infants. Adolescents may attain puberty earlier or later, depending on the degree of thyroid malfunction.
  15. Low libido and infertility – Are you noticing a loss in libido, or have you been failing to conceive despite consistent attempts? Chances are that it may be your thyroid gland that is playing truant. The less secretion of hormones from the thyroid gland results in low sex drive and fertility issues in both men and women.
If you find yourself suffering from one or more of the above, consult a physician at the earliest and get your thyroid secretions evaluated. Imbalance of thyroid hormones can create havoc in the regular functioning of a person and it is essential that you follow a two-pronged approach of medical treatment and holistic care to restore the hormonal balance of your body. Here are few tips to help you through –
  1. Switch to a gluten-free diet – Many people suffering from thyroid issues are gluten intolerant. Gluten is a mixture of proteins found in wheat, barley, oats etc. Even if you are not gluten intolerant, switching to a gluten-free diet by avoiding bread, pizza, pastries, etc, will help you ease out of the situation more effectively.
  2. Change the cooking oil – Vegetable oils extracted from sunflower, soyabean, canola, corn, etc are high in omega-6 fatty acids, are unsaturated oils that oxidize easily and obstruct the functioning of the thyroid gland. Instead, you can use coconut oil more regularly in your cooking. Coconut oil absolves the effects of unsaturated oils and supports the improvement of cognitive functions.
  3. Reduce stress – Stress produces the hormone cortisol that in turn prevents the proper functioning of your thyroid gland. The more stress you take on, the less efficiently your thyroid will function. So, cutting down on stress, and cortisol, is very important.
  4. Carbohydrates and calories are friendly – Moderate amount of good carbohydrate, found in carrots, yams, squash, potatoes, apples, bananas, etc are good for your thyroid. The thyroid hormones dip when the body does not receive enough carbohydrates and calories.
  5. Avoid dairy products - Milk that has not been pasteurized or dairy products made of unpasteurized milk should be avoided as it serves as an irritant for the thyroid gland.
  6. Optimize intake of vitamins and minerals – Iodine is extremely important for the proper functioning of the thyroid gland. Selenium is also an important mineral as it helps to regulate the iodine level in the body. Proteins rich in selenium improve T3 synthesis and metabolism. Zinc reduces stress, which in turn regulates the production of cortisol. Vitamin B12 and thiamine are important for improving hormonal balance and neurological functions.shutterstock_360639269
  7. Increase intake of Vitamins A and D – Vitamin A helps in thyroid hormone secretion and reduces oxidation stress. Vitamin D is required to transport the hormones to the cells of the body. Sunlight is a good source of Vitamin D. Organic ghee, butter, liver and eggs are good sources of Vitamin A. Cod liver oil is an excellent source of both Vitamins A and D, as well as omega – 3 fatty acids.
  8. Reduce usage of environmental pollutants – Restrict the use of plastic ware in your everyday life as low-grade plastic contains Bisphenol-A. Eat less of processed food as possible, and more of organic food products. Be careful of pesticide exposure.
  9. Eat whole – When consuming vegetables, try and eat as much of the vegetable as possible, roots to leaves. Increasing intake of foliage and dietary fiber helps regulate your bowel movements. Steam cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, kale (or karam ki saag) and soya for few minutes before cooking to discard goitrogen molecules that impair thyroid function. Herbs like ashwagandha, licorice, basil and ginseng lower cortisol and balance the T4 hormone level.  In case of meat-based diets, do not eat only the meaty parts. The tryptophan and cysteine found in animal meat suppresses the functioning of thyroid. The bones and other organs contain a treasure of amino acids that are beneficial for you.
  10. Sleep and Meditation – The importance of adequate sleep cannot be emphasized enough. It reduces stress, helps stabilise mood, improves cognitive functions and increases overall well-being. Meditation and yoga have also been found to be effective in regulating the secretion thyroid hormones. All of this together contribute to the improvised thyroid functioning.
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