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Hypothyroidism - How Your Thyroid Can Make You Sick, Tired and Overweight?

Posted Sep 16 2008 11:57pm 40 Comments

Are you one of the 30 million women and 15 million men who have a chronic medical problem that is both under-diagnosed and under-treated?

Are you suffering from vague symptoms that you think are normal parts of life, such as fatigue, feeling sluggish in the morning, and having trouble with your memory, concentration, or focus?

Do you have dry skin or fluid retention?

Is your sex drive not what it used to be?

Are your hands and feet cold all the time?

Is your hair thinning, your voice a little hoarse, your fingernails a little thick?

Is your cholesterol high?

Do you have trouble losing weight or have you gained weight recently?

Are you suffering from depression or anxiety?

Do you have really bad PMS or trouble getting pregnant?

Do you have muscle cramps and muscle pain or weakness?

Most of these symptoms aren’t severe enough to send you to the emergency room, but they do significantly affect your quality of life.

And most of us accept them as a normal part of our lives without really questioning them.

If you do go to see your doctor, he or she probably shrugs it off.

Yes, doctors are experts in acute illness. But they often fail miserably when it comes to addressing subtle changes in your body that affect the quality of your life.

According to conventional medicine, low sex drive is not necessarily a disease. Neither is a little dry skin or constipation or being tired most of the day.

But for you, those problems are significant.

So what causes them?

Often, they’re caused by a condition that goes undiagnosed in half of the 45 million people who have it.

==> It’s called hypothyroidism.

When you have hypothyroidism your overall metabolic gas pedal slows down because the master gland that controls it, your thyroid gland, is not functioning at full speed.

If your thyroid slows down, every other organ and system in your body slows down, including your brain, heart, gut, and muscles.

The thyroid hormone is like a master switch that turns on the genes that keep every cell running.

This is one of those gray areas in medicine, but doctors tend to think in black and white -- you have it or you don’t, sort of like being pregnant.

Well, you can’t just be a little bit pregnant, but you can be just a little bit hypothyroid.

And it can have a dramatic effect on the quality of your life.

Yet most doctors don’t view it that way.

This problem is further compounded by the conventional belief that you can diagnose hypothyroidism only through one blood test, called TSH, and that you only qualify for treatment if your blood level is over 5.0.

Unfortunately, this view ignores a whole group of people who have what we call subclinical hypothyroidism. It is called that because doctors have a hard time diagnosing it.

Subclinical hypothyroidism may trigger many low-grade symptoms, such as fatigue, trouble losing weight, mild depression, constipation, and more. Yet it causes just slight changes in your blood tests.

In fact, it often only shows up in tests that most doctors never perform.

==> Low Thyroid function may seem subtle, but it can have serious consequences.

You see, it doesn’t just make you a little tired -- it can lead to more serious problems, including heart attacks and diabetes.

I see this all the time in my medical practice: Patients come in with vague complaints that alone may not seem too significant.

But when you put them all together, they tell an important story.

I remember the story of one patient who was 73 years old. This woman came to see me because she had been to her doctor with complaints of fatigue, sluggishness, poor memory, slight depression, dry skin, constipation, and mild fluid retention.

Her doctor’s response?

“Well, what do you expect? You’re 73, and this is what 73 is supposed to feel like.”

But I just don’t believe that is true.

I believe that most of the symptoms of aging that we see are really symptoms of abnormal aging or dysfunction that is related to imbalances in our core body systems.

I have to be a medical detective to find clues where no one else is looking and put together a story about why a person is suffering. This gets them the answers and tools they need to get well.

In this case, we tested my patient for a number of things and found that she had a sluggish thyroid. She did not quite meet all the criteria of conventional medicine for hypothyroidism, but she had an autoimmune reaction that caused her thyroid to function poorly.

By simply replacing her missing thyroid hormone, supporting her nutrition, and implementing some simple lifestyle changes, she went from feeling old to feeling alert, energetic, and youthful -- and all of her other symptoms cleared up.

I had another patient who was a 28-year-old woman who was chronically constipated. She thought it was normal to go to the bathroom every three or four days.

She also felt quite tired in the mornings and had trouble getting going. She needed coffee every morning. And at night she had trouble staying up and being with her friends and being an active 28-year-old woman.

She thought that this was just sort of a constitutional problem and that she was stuck living like that. No one had diagnosed her sluggish thyroid.

But as soon as we supported her nutrition and eliminated her food allergens (particularly gluten), which create inflammation and interfere with thyroid function, she felt better.

Her constipation resolved, she was energetic in the morning, did not need her coffee, and was able to stay up until 11:00 or 12:00 at night without any fatigue or limitations.

This problem affects men and women of all ages.

And it is very common because of all the stressors in our environment, including toxins such as heavy metals and pesticides, nutritional deficiencies, and chronic stress, all of which interfere with our thyroid function.

It’s critical to understand that your thyroid is not just linked to energy and other symptoms that I described here.

It is the master metabolism hormone that controls the function and activity of almost every organ and cell in your body -- so when it is sluggish or slow, everything slows down.

==> There is good news.

There are clear ways to diagnose the problem as well as to treat it, with a comprehensive functional medicine approach that uses the concepts of UltraWellness.

The first step is to find out if you have any of the chronic symptoms of hypothyroidism or any of the diseases associated with hypothyroidism. Ask yourself if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • sluggishness in the morning
  • poor concentration and memory
  • low-grade depression
  • dry skin
  • hoarse voice
  • thinning hair
  • coarse hair
  • being very sensitive to cold and having cold hands and feet
  • low body temperature
  • muscle pain
  • weakness or cramps
  • low sex drive
  • fluid retention
  • high cholesterol

After I have asked my patients about all these symptoms, I do a physical examination for clues to a low-functioning thyroid.

I check for a low body temperature. Anything lower than 97.6 degrees F may be a sign of hypothyroidism.

I might also find fluid retention, a thick tongue, swollen feet, swollen eyelids, an enlarged thyroid gland, excessive earwax, a dry mouth, coarse skin, low blood pressure, or decreased ankle reflexes. I might even find that the outer third of the eyebrows is gone.

These are all physical signs that can be put together along with other symptoms to form a story of what is causing the problem.

Once I have done that, I perform specific blood tests that give me a full picture of thyroid problems.

Then I design a nutritional, lifestyle, and supplement regimen and hormone replacement plan as needed to help people regain their health.

That’s all for today.

In my next blog, I will discuss the major preventable -- and mostly hidden -- factors that slow your thyroid down. And I’ll tell you more about the special tests I use to diagnose thyroid problems, as well as how to specifically treat low thyroid function.

Now I’d like to hear from you…

Do you suffer from any of the signs and symptoms mentioned here?

Have you been told you have low thyroid function?

How has your doctor responded to your concerns?

Please let me know your thoughts by leaving a comment.

To your good health,
Mark Hyman, M.D.

Comments (40)
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Hi all, I'm back with an update. I finally found a low cost clinic with a doctor who actually cared & listened to me about my need to increase my Synthroid medication & now I've gone from 75 to 100mgs a day. I started about a month ago & have lost 8 pounds already but no more energy yet. My skin itches too & I had no idea it was thyroid related. Maybe it's just part of the super dry skin we have. I've lost most of my eyebrows & have given up them coming back. I'm considering tattoo makeup for my eyebrows because it's so time consuming to draw them on just right. I read somewhere you can get an eyebrow transplant just like a hair transplant for around $3,500. Maybe someday. My fingernails & toenails are so weak, they just disintegrate so it's no use even filing them or painting them. My hair is so dry, it won't even accept conditioner. I've aged really fast because of thyroid problems & it's not fair. I've never seen the doctor who supposedly runs this site answer anyone either. He probably doesn't exist so it looks like a chat page/misery loves company site for us thyroid ladies.
My anxiety is absolutely shocking.. its awful.. the bad thoughts that go through my mind.. is well upsetting. and as for the skin on my fingers,, you might as well call me a cannibal lol.. and i think i sound like a bloke hehe my voice is quite hoarse and always seem to have a frog in my throat!
ps..:) I also have very puffy calves/ankles and feet..maybe fluid retention? Dunno.. they dont go down with water tablets. My knees are very creaky, hurt a lot and i get cramp a lot in my legs. Not a good time during a zumba session!
Hi my name is Adele. I have hypothyroidism. To date , I am currently on 300mg of levothyroxine. It all started 7 years ago when I was 22years old. Firstly I noticed that my periods had stopped. After numourous pregnancy tests and negative results, we ruled out pregnancy. Constantly feeling tired, worn out, and quite sad, I thought about going to my doctors. I didnt go because I assumed ,being a single mum with a 2 year old daughter , that i would naturally be tired running around after my daughter, sleepless nights, the usual.. My skin started to become very dry, I found more hair on my brush, in the bath, on the floor that was normal for me. Same again, I thought well I didnt look after myself like i should, i didnt moisturise, have my hair cut regulary. Tired because my daughter was teething, i piled weight on, but yet again, I wasnt working at the time, I wasnt as active as i had been, I wasnt really watching what i ate... excuses excuses . Though I wasnt pregnant so why had my periods stopped? My mum advised me that I should go see my Gp to see what was happening. After numourous trips to the gp, blood test after blood test.. " everything is fine Adele, dont worry. Just try to lose a few pounds and stop smoking .come back and see me if you struggle" Ok i thought doc knows best. Weeks went by and no period, felt so down and upset all the time, was eating healthier and stopped smoking. No weight periods.. could fall asleep on a washing line, terrible dry skin, my nails on my feet started to fall hair was coming out in clumps, i felt like crying. I asked my mum to come in with me to see my gp because i just felt at a lost end. I knew something wasnt right and i wanted to know what! That day, why my mum was there,.. she said "there is no way a 22year old girls period should stop for no reason at all..Look at her she is drained." The doc said " well i forward her to see the Thyroid Specialist at my local hospital." I thought what is that?! I thought he said i was ok?! Within 2 weeks an appointment came through and i see DrMcNulty, thyroid specialist. He took a few blood samples off me, came back with 30mins and asked me " How have You even got here?I dont even know how you have got up this morning. " Well i never.. I was in shock . He asked me had i had this symptom, that symptom.. Yes i say.. followed by .." well i have a 2 year old " "yes i have .. well i dont moisturise " .." yes i have.. well I dont exercise" He said stop answering my questions with your excuses. He said I have underactive thyroid, and that i need to take medication daily. Straight away he started me on 50mg levothyroxine. Within days i was like a new woman. I felt on top of the world! WOW! Within weeks, my periods came back, I had energy, I started to lose a few pounds, not a lot but just a few, my nails were stronger, my skin had colour in it, and i felt amazing! I even stayed up past 10pm! .. Well according to my GP, there was nothing wrong. So why did he send me to thyroid specialist after 4 visits to him and my mum saying her bit! ... Well 7years down the line, Ive suffered with depression, Mostly around winter time, still feel low during the other months and constantly a day dreamer. I always sweating , constantly warm, with freezing hands. I feel like my heads a mush at times and find it hard to explain things. Like finding the right word.. I cant even think now what " being sent to a hospital is called LOL.. I laugh because ive come to terms with it and people call me dizzy, It isnt a laughing matter but this is me now. People know me and they know i Have hypothyroidism, but like me 7 years ago they dont know the truth about it. I hadnt even heard of it! Straight onto google.." what is hypothyroidism! " Oh yes thats me.. Ive got that .. etc. And yes The outer third of my eyebrows no longer exist! My skin is still dry.. I have struggled with the biggest weight battle, and finally come to terms with what i can and cant eat. I have followed Slimming World , and attend groups weekly. I have found a new love, called ZUMBA! and attend 3 times a week. After 12 months I have managed to lose 2 stone. I know its going to be a long journey but i will fight this! I have my eyebrow pencil, moisturiser, and thyroxine ready! plenty of coffee and regular periods are the way forward, and freezing cold hands and itchy skin to make it a package! I am booked in this week for another routine blood check, last time i went my TSH was 11 :/ I hope its lowered now, dont fancy taking more tablets.. but hey ho..I am now happy , yeh i still have my days where i wanna scream and or cry.. but suppose thats life. Get to your GP and dont take no for an answer. Thyroidism affects every aspect of your life , and I think it needs to be talked about more. MAKE PEOPLE AWARE OF THIS ILLNESS. Thank you very much for spending your time reading this. Take care xx

Mr. Hyman,

I am a 17 year old female and have been experiencing some of the symptoms. I work pretty much everyday and I also go to school. I feel like no matter what I am doing, I am always freezing cold and tired and have muscle and joint pain. I have been falling asleep in class- I literally cannot help it, I do everything in my power to stay awake but always end up asleep which is affecting my grades. CAN YOU PLEASE HELP ME????

Has anyone ever heard back or had any of their questions answered on this website?  Just curious why we are putting our time and effort into asking when there is no response.
Hi again must say that Ive lost the battle the weight won. I am back at 92 kg lost 4 kg but i have put them back at the start of 2012 now lost again 2 kg and ive put them back. Gp prescribed me Ally tablets but cant take them anymore as they cant be found in any pharmacy as theyve put stop to them . I feel angry fustrated and complectly hate myself. Sex drive is low and to be honest if I would be a man i woudnt even look at a woman like me considering i was once a size 10 and now an 18. I take diazepam to cope with my angry days I feel. Comlectly insecure in everything. I am constanty hungry and tired and worst I feel feed up. Also discovered that I have policystic ovaries so fight that aswell . Looks like i will never win this noetter how much i try maybe is better to fatten myself up 5 units on my 35 BMI and then I willl be condidered for a gastric bypass . What do you think?
I have gained 14 pounds in one year despite being a faithful lifetime member of WW and attending a minimum of 5 Zumba classes per week.  My bloodwork shows a low WBC and my Flex T4 appears "normal".  The doctor cannot explain the swelling and puffiness in my face and hands EVERY morning except to tell my to watch my salt intake.  I have several other classic thyroid symptoms.  I am very frustrated.  My next step:  Pay a lot of money to go see an endocrinologist.
I was 50 pounds overweight, depressed, super tired, even after 12 hours of sleep, and my hair was very dry, weak, & falling out, including my eyebrows & eyelashes, for many years. Even though I had most of the symptoms of hypothyroid, my doctor refused to give me a full panel thyoid test because she said the regular test would show it if it exsisted. I brought in articles & finally in 2009, she agreed to give me the full panel test. Yes, it did show low thryoid!! She gave me 75 mg for Synthroid & I lost 50 pounds without even trying. I got energy & my depression improved. My hair never came back & I still have very little eyelashes & eyebrows but at least I was thin again. Then, about about 2 months ago, I got my annual blood tests done & I asked for a full panel thyroid test & my new doctor refused because she said it would show low thryoid if it existed! I had already told her about before & she still refused. It came back normal, of course. Then, for no reason, because I haven't changed anything, for the past 2 weeks, I've been putting on weight at an alarming rate, about a half pound a day, now it's 9 pounds in 2 weeks, & I'm extremely tired, depressed, & super hungry. I asked her for a full panel but she said it isn't necessary because it showed to be normal on the regular test!!! I called her nurse, crying, on Friday & begged for the test so she could see that she needed to increase my dosage. I've already sold or donated all my fat clothes & being normal weight was about the only joy in my life. I don't have the money to go to another doctor & start all over again. I have no insurance, am 60 years old, & am going to a charity clinic. Help me, please!!
I had low ferritin.  Took iron supplements  for 4 months.  Now have normal ferritin, too high iron (31), sudden high cholestrol, sudden hypothyroidism.  Never had problems with the last two before.  Shocked about the high cholestrol.  Don't know what to make of the hypothyroidism.  Dr. wants to put me on meds for thyroid.  Said to take iron sup. every other day.  I want to stop them all together and see if it helps the other two problems of too high iron and cholestrol.  I have had ringing in my ears, exhausted, fainted for about 10 days.  Maybe because of too high iron???  I am so confused.

hello doc,

i have alot of thyroid symptoms, my basel is around 96.8-97.0, my outter eyerows are thinning to gone. i have no libido, my daily temp stays around 97.4, i am sluggish most of the time. i have anxiety and depression. i have no appitite, antidepressants are not responding to me. i have high cholseterol. could this b a thyroid problem?

Hi people here I am again weighing 84.4 kg from 93.3 what I was weighing when I posted my 1st coment on here. Against what people say I started Atkins diet from about 2 months and a bit and put down nearly 10 kg, I take also magnezium, cronium picolinate and green tea as pills and as tea every day, I do zumba 3-4 times a week as far as I can push myself and here I still try to put down more weight but dont know if it will go more any lower then this. Im happy some of my old clothes fits me, but regarding how I feel... doesnt make much change, still tired and feed up about mostly eberything. No probs with the sex drive, but more with the fact that I am very snapy, get andry verry easily from one minute that I am calm next minute I can be a storm of anger and I scream and shout that you can hear me from miles away.Oh well Ill keep you posted see If I can go any lower in weight then this and see how much Im in for a depresion (hope I aint!)
I am 41 yrs old, i use to have hyperthyroid, so i had it removed so now im hypo, now my sex drive sucks. I feel like im always flexing my muscles when taking a shower or bath. I have to take a break to rest my arms, because they feel so tired all the time. Not only that but my back feels tired all the time. Plus it also feels like its about to lock up. I use to weigh 186 four months ago now im 236, so yes im depressed, I used to run 2 miles a day, now i cant walk 100 feet without extreme fatigue.Everybody says i look great but i feel like shit. The sudden weight pick up is killing my back. I cant work on my car, my bike, or even my yard without extreme pain. I feel like someone is inflating me slowly with air. I feel it in my face, arms , legs and hands. Maybe i should have stayed hyper atleast i was more active sexually and physically. But i understand its one of those damned if u do and damned if u dont. Im surprised i havent had a nervous breakdown. But im pretty strong willed. Ive been to the docs but they really dont have any answers for me, But the norm give us some blood. O yeah  i have a constant spasm in my left eye ever since i burned my thyroid. Being Hypo really sucks a**.

Reading the symptoms that you listed blew me away.  I suffer from almost all of them.

I have Crohn's Disease and have been feeling lousy for the last couple of years and thought that I was maybe re-lapsing or that my symptoms had something to do with my disease, but all of my tests have shown that my disease is still in remission.  I also have chronic pain and short bowel syndromes.  I require a B12 shot every 3 weeks.  I suffer from depression and it has been worse.

My new family doctor noticed that my thyroid was swollen or enlarged at my last appointment and is sending me for an ultrasound.  I am actually hoping that hypothyroidism is the culprit because there are atleast things that can be done about it.  My old family doctor thought that EVERYTHING was in my head until a diagnosis by specialists were made.

Thank you for the information, I really appreciate it.

Hi, I am 33 year old mother of a 4 and 5 yrs old and suffer from low thyroid from 5 years, been diagnosed soon after my 1st birth, since then I think I lost weight once and that only because I stoped eating complectly and run myself deep into a depresion but soon that Ive got back on track all the weight got back on and even more. I also overdosed myself in thyroxine instead of 200 mg what I was prescribed I took 400 for nearly 1 year now hoping that I give my body a boost and make it work harder( been reading that in the past thyroxine been used in weight loos till they decided is too dangerouse and stoped it) but neither that didnt help me loosing weight but gaining more. I feel hungry constantly, I feel tired soon that I wake up, I forget things easily I always realise that I forgot doing something after is too late and is fustrating as I used to be a person with a good memory now I struggle to memorize a phone number. I told my GP about overdosing myself and didnt do much apart of asking me to do blood test and even in that it didnt show much apart from the fact that my thyroid went just a little bit over active but that didnt stop the weight gain. Every 2-3 years I end up on Prozac for 6 mths or less( that doesnt help either the weight at all). Now I will have to go to a wedding in June and meet people who havent seen me from years (since I used to be skinny) and I just cant get myself together how am I suposed to face them here is the new me looking like a whale in a paddling poole. I get very easy angry and once I get angry I findit hard to stop. Im iritable all day long and people findit hard to cope with me hahaha is hard to cope with myself so no wonder. I went to GP not long ago enquiring about a gastric bypass and I was told that is no way for me to get not even close to it as I am not fat enough. well from 11 stone to 14,7 stone in 12 mth thats not fat enough when my skin is struggling to keep the fat inside without bursting???? Just started Atkins diet today, I decided to stop all my meds just to give my body a break and see what cances of loosing weight do I have, well Im gona try this for two weeks and if aint working I was thinking to go and cry myself out again at the GP about having a gastric band fitted, but again probebly I aint fat enough with a BMI 35 and a bit. So what am I suposed to do? People if you have any ideas I am opened for  a try.

I have so many of the sypmtoms.  I am constantly tired, i have dry skin, my hands stay cold. My sex drive sucks and I have this bulging ball in my throat. I am constipated, depression Every sypmtom associated with hypothyroidism i have. I went to my doctor and they said my tests came back negative and i needed to change my diet and i have changed it but i am still feeling the same way. I know there is something wrong because my body is different. What should I do? should I have more tests done? Please help!

hello i have more than 80% of the symtoms mentioned above and yet my doctor tells me that my thyroid is normal. What do i do? I am very fatigued, constipated i havent went to the restroom in 5 days. I have thinning hair. I am cold all the time. My skin is dry. I have gained alot of weight and my neck seems very large. My doc said its just my diet. What do i need to do. I know there is something wrong. Please help!

I am a singer, recently my voice becomes very hoarse and hooty if I sing more than a couple of songs, I have lowered libido, amd tired all the time and my hair is very dry and frizzy.  I also have chilblains all over my toes and am 3 stone overweight despit trying every diet known to man.  My thyroid is enlarged on the left hand side. My doctor has referred me to an ENT specialist for my voice problems, should I ask for a thyroid test?


Doctor Hymen,

      I am a student at the moment, to be a Medical Assistant. I am working on a project right now about Hypothyroidism, I chose this disorder because my mother was diagnosed 7 years ago and she has finally benefited from the thyroid hormone replacement because it took some time to figure out the dose she needed. This article has helped me so much in my research, but further more I appreciate you for specializing in this area, we need more Doctors to be informed about this disorder. As someone who has witnessed it, I know the effects it has on the patient. A uncontrolled thyroid is a more serious disorder than people think. Again, Thank you very much!

God bless, hannah 

I actually know a young woman who fits those symtoms a lot. As for myself it was a couple of tests in a row with auto immune numbers that were " off" apprently I'd even had a swelling but attributed it to a previous neck surgery, Lo and behold upon ultrasound they found a nodule, large, and even larger than thought upon removal of my whole thyroid, which when send to pathology was found to have more nodules on the other side too, so here I am two weeks after surgery, finally getting back to somewhat normal, and although I can't tell you how I'll be feeling yet, I think I got through the parathyroid part ok. I only had a numbness at the very beginning in my lips, and once in my feet, but I take the calcium faithfully. It'll be interesting to see if my weight changes, and my choletserol which are both high, I had the opposite of the cold sensations, I was always very sensitive to hot or heat and had the opposite of constipation., Not sure how that happens but, excited to see where this takes me.
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