Hypothyroidism: Does Your Thyroid Make You Sick, Tired and Overweight?

Mark Hyman, M.D. by Mark Hyman, M.D. | September 14th, 2009 | 26 Comments
topic: Health & Wellness

thyroid

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?

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.

What is 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.

Who is affected by hypothyroidism?

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.

But there is good news: There are clear ways to diagnose the problem as well as to treat it, with a comprehensive functional medicine approach.

Symptoms of hypothyroidism

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 Fahrenheit 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.

To your good health,

Mark Hyman, M.D.

To view the original article, click here.

Comments

  1. i just found out today that i have a hypothyroid and i know this sounds crazy because i was excited to find this out i’m a least 100 pounds over weight i feel like crap all the time i’ve been to different doctors and they never found my problem i finally went to a hormone replacement doctor and their the ones who found my problem i just can’t figure out how other doctors missed it at least i know now that feeling tried and the weight gain might not be my fault after all and to think i had one doctor to look at me and tell me no wonder i felt bad that i was too fat i needed to lose weight.

    carrie | October 19th, 2009 | Comment Permalink
  2. Yes – this is my diagnosis, took working through 3 naturopathic docs to finally find one who gave me an answer. Am taking natur-throid – helps only a little bit, but too much makes me too listless to move, and so I plod through the day. Trying to walk every day for 4 weeks, more than 15 minutes wipes me out for 2 hours. I get tired of waiting for things to get better. Can’t wait for the next post – but would really like to find out some suggestions. Added 1 yoga a week, makes my body sore all over for days.

    lindred13 | October 27th, 2009 | Comment Permalink
  3. I have had Hypothyroidism for several years now and what I am finding out is that a lot of doctors either don’t care or don’t know how important your thyroid is. The first doctor that found out I had hypothyroidism gave me medicine but, never told me it was medicine that I was gonna have to take the rest of my life. The next doctor I went to told me that I was stupid for not knowing. I’m not the one that went to school to be a doctor. It is true about all of the symptoms this doctor is saying. My body temp. stays right around 96.5, my sex drive-I don’t care if I ever have it again, I could sleep 24 hours and it still not be enough sleep, my skin stays yellowish in color, my body stays swollen(exspecially in the face area), keep gas a lot, stomach stays bloated, and I stay constapated. When you have all this going on you tend to fad away from interacting with people cause you just feel that bad all the time. It also takes its toll on your marrige because your partener doesn’t understand why you want to sleep all the time plus, doesn’t understand why you don’t want to have sex any more. If you have any of these sysmptems please make your doctor give you a blood test and test it for t3 and t4. I would still like to know more of what I can do to make life easier. If you can help please let me know.

    Kimberly Sumner | November 2nd, 2009 | Comment Permalink
  4. Carrie, I feel exactly the same as you. I was actually excited at the diagnoses knowing that all the diet and exercize I had done in the past, and failed miserably at losing weight or feeling better, was not my fault. Stupid thyroid! lol. At least now after taking the medication for about a week I am starting to feel better. I even fit back into some of my old clothes even though the scale doesn’t say I have lost any weight – still about 50 pounds overweight. I am showing some real positive signs though. Good luck to your weight loss and your health!

    Jennifer | February 1st, 2010 | Comment Permalink
  5. I do know that hypothyroidism is curable by alternative means. It’s just a matter of a well-planned diet.

    I found this link: (Hi, I’m a spammer and my link has been removed) Hopefully, this helps you guys.

    naturopath

    naturopath | February 2nd, 2010 | Comment Permalink
  6. i was diagnosed with hypothyroidism a few years ago and was taking 0.5mg synthroid daily. my md left and i had to see another md. he took my off of synthroid and told me my tsh level is normal. now i am gaining weight, miserably constipated, have had a period for 2 weeks and i cannot stand the cold. how can i feel abnormal and my test be normal?

    delisa | March 14th, 2010 | Comment Permalink
  7. I am 32 yrs old and learned a couple of weeks ago i had low thyroid hormone i was going throrh some trouble’s with my body and didnt know aht the hell it was until finally i went to the er for the 10 time in 7 mnths and a genius doctor actually checked and seen that it was very low i made an appt with my pcm and found out that when i got home from iraq because i had put on 45 lbs in a yr that it was low in march of 09 its is now april 2010 and finally i have gotten some relief finally going to see an endocronologist and the crappy part is tha i had told doctors that this ran in my family and all i got was that you were to young to have so when my great grandma my grandma dad aunts brothers have some kind of thyroid issue’s and your told repeatedly that thats not it makes you a lil mad now i have ulcers constant pain gas all the time cholesterol is throgh the roof and i have lost 40 lbs cause i cant eat what i used to makes me glad that finally some 1 was smart enough to finally refer me to a specialists thanx doctor jenkins for being a smart man

    john | April 24th, 2010 | Comment Permalink
  8. i am 13 and just found out i have this i think it explains some but i dont really care for other symtums

    dng grama | July 2nd, 2010 | Comment Permalink
  9. my grama passed it down cause she has it

    dng grama | July 2nd, 2010 | Comment Permalink
  10. Unfortunately, hypothyroidism often goes undiagnosed if the individual’s lab results fall between the acceptable “conventional” limit. Great to hear that Dr. Hyman also takes into account a person’s basal body temperature, along with the person’s symptoms and results on a full thyroid panel. We can’t just rely on the TSH value alone.

    Sault Naturopath | July 24th, 2010 | Comment Permalink
  11. Thank you for such a nice post about such a common health problem – hypothyroidism. Because hypothyroidism is most often due to an autoimmune condition called Hashimoto’s the TSH will often look normal one day and then low or high the next. Sadly, most doctors don’t test for thyroid antibodies because their treatment would be the same – thyroid replacement medication. This doesn’t fix the problem though and other problems like adrenal fatigue go unaddressed even though it is often an accompanying problem. To read more about adrenal fatigue visit my blog at VueWellness.com

    Barry the Seattle Naturopath | August 1st, 2010 | Comment Permalink
  12. I really like the way you have simply and clearly described the symptoms of Hypothyroidism. I also really appreciate Dy Hyman doing the fluid retention in the earwax, good point., I haven’t come across that and think it is very thorough of Dr Hyman. I just wish all people who have hypothyroidism, meet a good doctor so that they can be treated, with natural or conventional treatments.

    Ann | September 2nd, 2010 | Comment Permalink
  13. delisa,
    you need to either make your doctor understand or get another one! I too fought these problems since I was in my teens & I am now in my 40’s & was finally diagnosed about a year ago! I was as excited as most of the people posting here! Lol the last time they drew blood 3mos ago I was told my levels were “normal” & I freaked & asked if I was going to be taken off the meds?! I also expressed that I did not want to have to force myself to have to “do” my daily necessities,I didn’t have the energy any more! Thank goodness this doctor saw that the meds were helping & maybe my excitement & stressing out helped too,idk? Hang in there!! :)

    Cecilia | August 3rd, 2011 | Comment Permalink
  14. i was diagnose with thyroid some ten years ago! i was going to a medical doctor once, but nothing seems to get better, untill one day i went to the hospital with my son who was”snt feeling well and nigerian doctor saw me and said you have thyroid, i said to my self this must have been god sent, he then say he can help, i then say really, he wrote a letter same time and send me t specialist an ears, nose and throat (E.N.T) I WENT THE THE NEXT MORNING. my condition was so bad, i have lost my hair, my complexion was so dark, black as you may call it, lost a lot of weight, very irretable and was not working at that time. eventually i got rid of it to and fro from kingston with my husband who has been by side from that very fist day untill now, he was there for me all the way and that”s why i love him so much. i got treatment, drank the raw iodine about two vials of it, had to screen myself for almost three days. but i am on eltroxin 300mg for life. i am tired of this tablet. i have some problems now very disturbing, i dont have any sex urge, i could not care less, don”t want to hear the name sometime, body ache, sweeling of feet, very tired and lazy, have to push myself every day until now and my hair is still thin. now this is it what must i do!!!!!!!!

    pauline wauchope | March 15th, 2012 | Comment Permalink
  15. i dont know if i have hypothyroidism, but i wake up every morning and have difficulties getting out of bed let alone moving. I am not over weight i am underweight, my ankles crack when ever i walk, I have troubles concentraiting in school and staying awake! I am understress but i need to get this figured out because i am almost graduated and want my last years to be successful.
    please write back with any information protainting to if i might have hypothyroidism, i would really appriciate it.
    sincerly ……..

    jacob | March 28th, 2012 | Comment Permalink
  16. Hi Jacob,

    Thanks for writing us. We can’t offer diagnoses, but the Mayo Clinic has excellent information on hypothyroidism on its website: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/hypothyroidism/DS00353. Your best bet is always to arm yourself with information and then consult your personal physician. Good luck and happy almost graduation!

    Kind regards,

    Valerie Gleaton
    Assistant Editor, Gaiam Life

    Valerie Gleaton | March 29th, 2012 | Comment Permalink
  17. I stumbled up on this site after trying to find out what was wrong with me. I have had hyperthyroid for years and was on 125mcg of levothyroxine. for about six month I was always tired muscle achs and pains, hair loss, came down with a bad case of VB, heavy periods and this out of body experience. I really thoght I had startded menopause because I was so hot all the time. I did blood test and they say they cannot find anything wrong. I went to a rheumathologist and he saw nothing, went to a community center noting. I got tired of goin to places. Then I went back to with all kinds of complaints freequent urination which turns out to be a complex cyst on my left kidney (thank God I found that one out) but no other problems. I requested more blood work because I started to get scared that I am going to die and leave my 4 kids to find for themselves. My blood work came back with a TSH of 0.04 she said its low and drop my meds from 125 to 112. I went into complete historia after I started taking the 112 to the point of cannot stand or do anything for my 21 month old baby. I decided to stop taking the med and get an appt with an endo. He was so mad when he learnt what my dr. had done. He said go back on the 125 synthroid no generic, and after a week take 5 whole ones and skip two days one week then take 5 the other week and half the next two days. I did that and I mmediatly i started to improve. I am not fully there yet but I am getting better as times goes by. I have decided to move to a state where I can get better help with my problem because I do not have a thyroid gland at the moment and I am not going to let this thing stop me from living.

    Trena | June 7th, 2012 | Comment Permalink
  18. Ive had a underactive thyroid for about 18 months and I’ve never felt well since , I’ve just had a auto immune test and my antibodies are over 2000 my docs have took me off my meds which to be honest I was nearly in tears and have sent me to a specialist but I don’t no why could anyone help me as I have looked up on these antibodies and it looks like hoshimotos or graves:-(

    Louise | August 29th, 2012 | Comment Permalink
  19. i remember when my mom started wondering why i wasnt losing weight, i played the wii thing that helps you lose weight but i was always gaining and not losing, got frustrating. then i went to the doctors and my mom told to my doctor and said that i have been doing a lot of exercise and keep gaining, they did a blood sample and when we got the reading they said i had this problem, i dont remember if they used that big word or not though. i didnt know much about the health problem and i looked it up and learning more about my conditions, i also have ADHD. my mom had to be careful what i took with my ADHD medicine, she said if done wrong it could be bad. lol dont know how bad it could get but i guess i dont wanna know. i would say i got the results easy but thats probably cause i was a kid. i got a question that i might google soon, can not taking yout thyroid medicine delay your period?

    chloe | September 13th, 2012 | Comment Permalink
  20. I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism when I was 20 years old & put on synthroid making my symptoms disappear. Fast forward 22 years later I am severely hypothyroid (tired, dry skin, weight gain, brain fog, hair loss, anti social). My meds stopped working on me because my body stopped converting T4 to T3. I was lacking & needing T3 badly. My doctor had no clue what was happening and refused to put me on dessicated thyroid medication (contains both T3 & T4). Finally found a doctor that discovered my adrenals are severly fatigued with a 24 hour salvia test. I was also told I have levels of metal in my body. I’m currently taking dessicated nature throid 3 grams & dessicated adreanal support along with other supplements. So far I feel my health has improved but it’s been a slow process. I have fewer good days but I’m a lot better then before taking new meds & supplements. Tomorrow I go in for my first session of chelation to remove the toxic metals. I pray that will make a significant improvement on my health.

    Pattie | March 21st, 2013 | Comment Permalink
  21. Funny thing that over half of the symptoms of the thyroid is what I have. Interestingly enough, my Marine recruiter asked me to get a check up on my thyroid, but having no insurance doesn’t help the matter. I always thought that those things were normal for me. I checked my temperature once, 97.2 … thought that was just normal for me … until I told my recruiter that I can’t lose weight. I, in fact, when I exercise, either gain weight or stay at the same weight. Never below 180, never above 195. And I am 69 inches (5′9″). I always thought it was because I just was naturally more muscular than my peers … way to think again … just wondering, how much do you think a checkup for that would cost, as I know I would need to pay out of pocket for this …

    AJ | March 23rd, 2013 | Comment Permalink
  22. Great article. undiagnosed hypothyroidism is really unfortunate but often occures.

    It is important that people suffering with the symptoms mentioned above seek assitance aswell as educate themselves on what to ask from their doctor.

    Im glad to see that you dont ignore the person basal body tempature as it plays a major role in regards to proper diagnosis

    James | May 30th, 2013 | Comment Permalink
  23. Hello, I was just diagnosed with hypothyroidism. I think I’ve had symptoms for quite some time. Fatigue and thinning hair, lack of concentration, low body temp and always cold. My doctor just started me on Synthroid today. I don’t know if its the “placebo effect” but not as tired and sluggish this eve. I would love some answers as to what foods and or supplements I could add to my diet. I am a very healthy person already age 45 and exercise most days with a low carb, low fat diet. I’m so glad to have an answer for these symptoms I’ve been experiencing for a couple of years.

    Michelle | June 6th, 2013 | Comment Permalink
  24. I have alot of problems i feel like falling while walking, fatigue, depresed angry most of time, conspitation, rarely go to badroom, I have painful on my tissues, joints, my feet are like burning i feel dizzy while driving now i cant drive pls give me advices

    Said moha | June 29th, 2013 | Comment Permalink
  25. Hey i have an high tsh level and lately i have been very tired an sick and have anxiety wich i never had before…what can i do for that to go away? i am only 18 and i am not over weight

    RURU | July 27th, 2013 | Comment Permalink
  26. It’s important to get your adrenals checked too. The reason being if they are low then taking throid meds will make you feel worse because you have to raise your adrenals first before your thyroid will respond.

    Eugene | December 25th, 2013 | Comment Permalink

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