There are significant short-term and long-term impacts of hypothyroidism on women’s health. It may be difficult to diagnose early on, but it can cause several health problems — such as obesity, heart issues, joint pain, and infertility — over time. The effects can be wide-ranging and are often mistakenly attributed to other sources.
Hypothyroidism refers to an underactive thyroid, which occurs when your body does not produce enough T3 and T4. These are the two main thyroid hormones and control several crucial body functions.
It affects 4% to 10% of women and becomes more common with age. The thyroid, a small but important gland in the neck, is responsible for regulating many bodily functions. These include metabolism, energy levels, body temperature, respiratory health, and heart health, meaning problems with it can affect the rest of the body.
This article will help you understand the impacts of hypothyroidism on health and wellness to find the best solutions.
5 Common Causes of Hypothyroidism
Women who suffer from hypothyroidism often want to know what caused it. That can be a tricky question because there are several possible causes. A few of the most common include:
1. Autoimmune Disease
The autoimmune ailment known as Hashimoto’s disease is a common cause. This occurs when the immune system produces antibodies that begin attacking the body’s tissues. These antibodies prevent the gland from producing enough T3 and T4 hormones.
2. Iodine Deficiency
Iodine, a trace mineral found mainly in seafood and seaweed, is essential for producing the necessary hormones.
It can sometimes occur during or after pregnancy and is then classified as postpartum hypothyroidism. This can increase the risk of miscarriage, premature delivery, and high blood pressure, possibly affecting fetal development.
4. Damaged Thyroid
Thyroid damage can occur for many reasons. Radiation therapy or problems during surgery can damage the gland and cause it to malfunction.
Women who have hyperthyroidism, an overactive thyroid, produce too much of the necessary hormones. Radioactive iodine or other medications may be prescribed, but hypothyroidism can result if they lower hormone production too much. Other drugs, such as lithium, can also cause it.
The many causes of a low-functioning thyroid can make this a difficult condition to self-diagnose. Speaking with a doctor about any symptoms you may be experiencing is vital to ensure proper treatment and optimal body function.
Short-Term Impacts of Hypothyroidism
Hypothyroidism’s impact on women’s health can manifest as short-term and long-term issues. That’s because the hormones involved contribute to regulating so many systems throughout the body. Here are a few of the many ways it can impact the body in the short term:
1. Brain Fog and Mental Health Issues
It can affect thought processes, memory, and concentration abilities, known as “brain fog,” and can also lead to depression and sadness.
2. Issues With Hair, Skin, and Nails
Low levels of the necessary hormones can affect how your body regulates your temperature, causing a decrease in sweat production and leading to dry and itchy skin. Hair and eyebrows can also thin or fall out.
3. Gastrointestinal Issues
The movement of food through the stomach and intestines can sometimes slow. This can back up your stool and lead to heartburn, constipation, and bloating.
4. Weakness and Stiffness
Women who have low thyroid hormones may experience weak, achy, or stiff muscles. When the required hormones are low, the body switches from metabolism to catabolism, meaning the body breaks down body tissues, such as muscle, for energy. This makes the body feel weak and achy.
5. Slow Metabolism
Hypothyroidism can slow the metabolism, causing it to store more calories as fat. This can lead to fatigue, weight gain, sensitivity to cold, and swollen hands and feet.
A doctor is your best bet for determining whether thyroid issues or other ailments are causing any of the above. It’s best to seek expert help, because these and other effects of hypothyroidism can significantly impair your quality of life.
Long-Term Impacts of Hypothyroidism
The thyroid gland’s widespread influence on various systems in the human body means its effects are not only short-term. It can cause significant long-term health problems when it isn’t functioning correctly. Here are some to look for:
1. Peripheral Neuropathy
Hypothyroidism left untreated can disrupt the way the nerves carry information to and from the brain, the spinal cord, and the rest of the body. This condition, known as peripheral neuropathy, can cause numbness, tingling, burning, or pain.
2. Reproductive Issues and Menstrual Changes
Women may experience menstrual changes, including irregular periods or heavier menstrual flow. Lack of treatment can lead to infertility, miscarriages, and difficulty getting pregnant.
3. Increased Blood Pressure and Cholesterol
Hypothyroidism can slow down your heart rate, weaken your heartbeat, and make it less efficient. This can cause the arteries to narrow and raise your blood pressure, leading to high cholesterol and possible heart disease.
4. Respiratory Issues
Low thyroid hormones can cause the lungs to work less efficiently. This may result in shortness of breath, difficulty exercising, and sleep apnea.
There are ways to counteract these short-term and long-term impacts of hypothyroidism. Seeking a professional diagnosis and proper treatment can ensure care and regulation of the thyroid.
What are Some Naturopathic Medicine Treatments for Hypothyroidism?
There are many naturopathic medicine options available for treating hypothyroidism naturally. Each body is unique, and each person has different needs. Changing your diet and taking supplements are two holistic medicine options that can help treat it naturally. Here are a few other options:
Probiotics and Fermented Foods
Diet plays an essential role in thyroid health – thyroid function is dependent on healthy gut bacteria. Eating fermented foods, such as kimchi and Greek yogurt, as well as fruits and vegetables can significantly improve healthy gut bacteria. Yogurt also has probiotics, which support gut health.
Foods containing selenium support thyroid health.
Fewer Processed Foods and Sugars
Reducing processed foods and foods high in sugar can decrease inflammation, slowing down the thyroid hormones.
You can take this in supplement form, but it is also present in many foods.
A few other holistic supplements help against hypothyroidism, including Thytrophin PMG, apple cider vinegar, iodine, Ashwagandha, and Omega-3 fatty acids. Taking these can help combat symptoms.
Healing the thyroid does not happen instantly; it takes time and the proper consultation. Leading a healthy lifestyle and taking supplements can significantly contribute to a healthy thyroid and overall health and wellness.
Consult an Expert in Women’s Health and Hypothyroidism
Women struggling with some of the issues above should consult with a naturopathic physician to explore natural and holistic solutions. Dr. Karen Threlkel has helped countless women improve their health through naturopathic medicine. Contact Dr. Karen Threlkel today to schedule a personalized assessment of how our team can treat the impacts of hypothyroidism naturally.