The American Thyroid Association reports that an estimated 20 million Americans have some form of thyroid disease and as many as 60 percent of those that have the condition aren’t even aware that they’re suffering from it.
Women are five to eight times more likely to have thyroid issues, and one in eight will develop a thyroid disorder during her lifetime.
Located above the Adam’s apple, if this butterfly-shaped gland is sluggish, it can lead to a multitude of health problems that can dramatically affect the quality of your life.
The thyroid secretes important hormones that are responsible for controlling major bodily functions, including how your food is digested, and how you use energy.
When it slows down, everything else does too – not only will you feel extremely tired, but it’s nearly impossible to lose weight, yet very easy to pack on the pounds.
There are many things that can cause the thyroid to get out of whack, including pregnancy, genetics, stress, toxins and nutritional deficiencies – there is no one definitive answer, and because thyroid hormones can affect practically every area of the body, diagnosing the disorder isn’t always easy.
These signs, however, are a good clue that you do have a sluggish thyroid.
9 Signs You Have A Sluggish Thyroid
You’re extremely fatigued
If you’re always tired and feel like you’re suffering from a severe lack of energy, that can indicate one of many different conditions, but those signs are strongly linked with a sluggish thyroid.
If you feel this way even after sleeping eight or more hours a night, there’s a good chance your thyroid hormones are low.
That’s because, if you don’t have enough of the thyroid hormone, TH, flowing through your body, the muscles don’t get the signal to get up and get moving.
Healthcare providers agree extreme fatigue is the No. 1 symptom of an underactive thyroid.
You’re depressed, anxious or moody
Those that have an underactive thyroid are prone to mood disorders, including anxiety, depression and mood swings.
That’s because when there is too little thyroid hormone produced, it negatively impacts levels of that “feel good” hormone known as serotonin in the brain.
It basically causes the brain and other body systems to slow down, like turning the volume down on low, so it shouldn’t be all that surprising that it lowers the mood as well.
You’re experiencing brain fog
If your brain feels “fuzzy,” or you feel like you’re walking around in a fog, forgetting things easily and having difficulty focusing, it could be your thyroid.
When it’s sluggish, that can cause general brain fog as well as forgetfulness. Getting the thyroid to function as it should again almost always fixes this issue, and rather quickly too.
Your digestive system is out of whack
People who have a sluggish thyroid often experience digestive problems like constipation, because the slowdown of TH production can also cause a slowdown of digestive processes.
Your skin is dry and itchy
If you’ve noticed that your skin is drier than normal, and feels itchy, it can be caused by a metabolism that’s slowed due to too little thyroid hormone production.
That reduces sweating and cause the skin to become dehydrated, which leads to dry, flaky skin. Thyroid hormone plays an essential role in healthy skin, and dry skin is a common complaint among people who have a sluggish thyroid.
You’ve gained weight without changing your eating or exercise habits
While putting on a few pounds can be caused by multiple factors, few healthcare providers would consider that alone as a sign of a sluggish thyroid, but if you haven’t been eating more than usual or suddenly become a couch potato, that could very well be due to an underactive thyroid.
Your hair is falling out
If you have too little thyroid hormone, that can disrupt the hair growth cycle and result in hair loss – not only on your head but sometimes across the body.
People who’ve had undiagnosed hypothyroidism for several months, as well as those with severe cases, can sometimes sustain hair loss over much of their scalp.
You’re experiencing menstrual changes
If your periods are longer than normal, closer together, and you have a heavier flow and more cramps, that can be a sign of a sluggish thyroid as a lack of TH may causes changes in your menstrual cycle.
Your cholesterol is high
High levels of “bad” cholesterol, or low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, which haven’t responded to an improved diet, regular exercise or medication, may be caused by a slow thyroid.
If it goes untreated, those elevated LDL levels can lead to serious heart issues, including heart failure.
How To Fix A Sluggish Thyroid
If you’re experiencing some of these signs, it’s definitely something you’ll want to have checked out by a healthcare professional.
But the good news is, if you do have a sluggish thyroid, there are a number of ways to fix the problem naturally, without having to resort to a prescription medication that often comes with a long list of unwanted side effects.
Avoid antibacterial products, particularly anything with triclosan
Despite the news that triclosan, a chemical antibacterial ingredient added to lotions, soaps, toothpaste and other products, has been shown to be ineffective and potentially harmful, many people still use things that contain it.
Research has shown that triclosan is an endocrine disruptor which negatively impacts thyroid function.
A 2009 study out of North Carolina University found that it had an effect on thyroid hormones, and an earlier study from the University of California, Davis, revealed that it interacted with estrogen and androgen receptors.
Incorporate stress-relief practices
Practice stress reduction techniques like meditation or deep-breathing, as chronic stress is said to be one of the main triggers of a sluggish thyroid, AKA hypothyroidism. Here are twelve quick stress busters.
Following a gluten-free diet has been shown to improve thyroid functioning as research has discovered a link between wheat allergies and thyroid disease. Eating gluten can trigger an autoimmune attack on the thyroid.
Switch from iodized table salt to sea salt
Sea salt contains more minerals than iodized table salt which help to support better thyroid functioning.
Supplement with probiotics
An astounding 20 percent of thyroid functioning requires a sufficient supply of healthy gut bacteria, otherwise known as probiotics.
Not only should you add more probiotic-rich foods to your diet, like kefir, yogurt, kombucha, miso soup and sauerkraut, you should probably supplement with these friendly intestinal bacteria too.
This Vitamin Bounty Probiotic Supplement is one of the best daily probiotic supplements available.
Avoid refined carbohydrates and focus on whole, organic foods
Avoid processed foods or eliminate them all together. Refined carbs like flour, are treated like sugar by the body and can harm thyroid functioning.
Ideally, you should focus on eating as many whole, organic foods, including lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, as possible. That also helps to ensure your body will get the nutrients it needs.
While nutritional deficiencies may not be the cause of hypothyroidism, if your body lacks micronutrients and minerals, it can worsen symptoms.
If you feel you may still be lacking essential nutrients, take a high-quality multi-vitamin (such as this Dr. Tobias Multi-Vitamin & Mineral) and make sure you’re getting enough iodine, B vitamins, vitamin A, vitamin D, iron, omega-3 fatty acids, selenium, zinc, and copper.
Get enough healthy fats
Don’t be afraid of fat, at least healthy fats anyway. If you don’t get enough in your diet, it can worsen a hormonal imbalance, including thyroid hormones.
Healthy fats include things like coconut and olive oil, avocados, flax and hemp seeds, wild-caught salmon, and nuts like almonds, walnuts, and brazil nuts, as well as nut butter.
Brazil nuts, in particular, are great to add to your diet, as just one contains 80 micrograms of selenium – when selenium levels are low, the thyroid has to work harder than it should to produce its hormones.
A recent study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism linked low selenium intake with thyroid disease.
Eat sea vegetables
The thyroid runs on iodine, just like a car runs on gasoline. When your body doesn’t get enough iodine, and many tend to lack this nutrient, the production of thyroid hormones are inhibited.
That’s where sea vegetables, which are plentiful in the ocean and readily available in massive amounts, can help.
They’re considered a true superfood and have been a staple in Asian diets since ancient times.
Sea veggies are loaded with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, as well as containing a high amount of iodine.
Seaweed, including commonly eaten types like arame, kelp, nori and wakame accumulate iodine in up to 30,000 times more concentrated forms than seawater and are considered the richest source of naturally occurring iodine there is.
All you need is one gram to meet the recommended nutritional requirements. Consider snacking on nori dusted with a sprinkling of sea salt, or adding wakame to a miso soup.
Be sure to get enough vitamin D
Many people lack vitamin D, which offers important immune-boosting and anti-inflammatory properties that help to protect the thyroid from damage. Studies have found that people diagnosed with a sluggish thyroid also typically suffer from a deficiency in this important vitamin.
While it isn’t required for thyroid hormone production, it’s believed to modulate the function of thyroid function through other pathways.
You can ensure your body gets enough of this nutrient by spending 10 to 15 minutes in the sun every day, or if that’s not possible, take a vitamin D supplement and/or consume more vitamin D fortified foods.