Causes and Symptoms of Hypothyroidism (and How to Treat Them)

While a common condition, symptoms of hypothyroidism often contribute to disorders, hormonal imbalances, dysfunctions, and diseases. It afflicts many women, but it can also be treated and — in many cases — completely healed with lifestyle and other small adjustments.

The first step toward treating hypothyroidism is to understand what it is and who it impacts. Women are much more likely to have these symptoms than men, for example, as approximately 1 in 8 women will experience thyroid problems during their lifetime. 

This guide will walk you through the signs and common causes to find the most effective treatment options for you. 

Symptoms of Hypothyroidism

How Hypothyroidism Impacts Women’s Health

The thyroid is a small gland in the neck that secretes hormones. It is a crucial part of the metabolic system that affects many bodily functions, including temperature, energy levels, heart rate, cholesterol levels, and menstrual cycle. It also influences your ability to break down food, and thus whether you gain or lose weight. 

Women who experience an imbalance in this gland may notice weight changes, spotting, irregular periods, amenorrhea, or early menopause. Hypothyroidism can also affect ovulation, making it harder for women to become pregnant, and even cause problems during pregnancy. Those with more severe cases may experience heart problems, cognitive issues, joint pain, and difficulty swallowing. 

Symptoms of Hypothyroidism

Signs that a woman may have developed hyperthyroidism may take a while to appear and can be mistaken for menopause. If you are experiencing any of the following, it’s essential to seek medical attention as soon as possible to keep them from worsening:

1. Feeling Tired and Sluggish

Feeling Tired

This is one of the most common symptoms. The hormones receive signals from your brain that coordinate with bodily functions, including controlling energy levels and influencing whether you feel like taking a nap. Low levels of the hormones cause women to feel exhausted, sluggish, and unrested, even when they sleep more. One study found that 138 adults who had the condition experienced physical exhaustion and decreased activity. 

2. Increased Weight

Unexpected or unexplained weight gain is another common symptom. Those who have the condition may experience reduced activity levels, and it can cause the metabolism to store more calories from your diet as fat, which can lead to weight gain. It’s essential to make healthy choices in your lifestyle and diet to maintain a healthy weight. If you are gaining regardless of your diet and exercise plan, discussing your symptoms with a doctor can help you determine if hypothyroidism may be the reason. 

3. Constipation

This condition may lead to a dysfunctional colon, and that could lead to constipation. This symptom often accompanies other thyroid issues, as well. 

4. Feeling Cold

Your metabolism may slow down if you have hypothyroidism, meaning your body is not generating as much heat as it should be. This results in often feeling more sensitive to cold than others around you. 

5. Irregular or Heavy Periods

Many women with low hormones experience menstrual irregularities, including spotting and heavy bleeding. The condition can disrupt hormones that regulate the menstrual cycle, causing problems with the uterus and ovaries. 

6. Weak or Achy Muscles and Joints

Achy Muscles

Catabolism, when the body breaks down tissue and muscle to use for energy, causes decreased muscle strength, weakness, and achiness. Experiencing these signs beyond what you usually feel after strenuous activity could indicate a problem you should discuss with a medical professional.  

7. Difficulty Concentrating or Memory Issues

Mental “fogginess,” poor memory, and difficulty concentrating could be signs of issues with the thyroid gland, particularly if they are severe or come on suddenly. It would be wise to discuss any such symptoms with a doctor.

8. Itchy, Dry Skin 

Skin cells have rapid turnover, meaning they are sensitive to low hormones. A disrupted healthy skin cycle could slow renewal and regrowth, causing the skin to become dry and flaky. Women experiencing such issues that seem to be unrelated to allergies or new product chemicals should seek a medical expert’s advice. 

9. Hair Loss 

Hair Loss

Hair follicles are more sensitive to levels of these hormones than other tissues due to their short lifespan and rapid turnover. Women with the condition often experience hair loss but can minimize it with proper treatment. 

Hypothyroidism affects its sufferers in so many ways, and it’s easy to confuse it with other conditions. Understanding its signs and symptoms and seeking effective treatment are crucial to finding the best possible treatments and improving your quality of life. 

4 Common Causes of Hypothyroidism

There are many causes for this condition, and women who suffer from it often have a thyroid that does not produce enough of the two main hormones: thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). Low T3 and T4 hormones can occur for several reasons, including:

1. Autoimmune Problems

An autoimmune condition known as Hashimoto’s disease leads to the immune system attacking the gland and inhibiting its function. Hashimoto’s is one of the most common conditions that induces hypothyroidism, but there is no apparent cause for it. You can significantly reduce your chances of developing it by eating a healthy diet, reducing stress levels, and getting regular exercise, however. 

2. Pregnancy-Related Issues

Postpartum thyroiditis, a condition that arises during pregnancy, affects a small percentage of mothers starting around two to six months after birth and lasting up to one year. Pregnancy causes several hormonal and physical changes, and disorders such as this can lead to hypothyroidism. 

3. Iodine Deficiency

Iodine is a natural mineral that helps to support thyroid health. Many women do not get enough pf it in their diets, leading to iodine deficiency. This can cause hypothyroidism or a swollen and enlarged gland, known as a goiter. 

4. Damage to the Thyroid

Physical damage to the gland may also be a cause. This can occur for many reasons, including during treatment, when undergoing surgery, or by radiation around the throat area. Certain medications, such as lithium, can also lead to issues with the thyroid gland’s overall health and function. 

It’s essential to keep these common causes in mind when determining if you have hypothyroidism. Speak with a medical professional if you feel you may be experiencing hypothyroidism or one of the possible conditions above. 

Holistic Medicine Treatments

Holistic Medicine Treatments

Holistic medicine treatments can help to reduce many symptoms, and there are several natural ways to find relief. A few of the most common practices include: 

  • Changing your diet 
  • Adding supplements — such as iodine, selenium, and zinc —  that support the thyroid gland 
  • Maintaining a healthy weight 
  • Getting enough exercise and rest 

Naturopathic medicine is another option that can help restore the gland naturally through a personalized treatment plan, comprehensive analysis, and a holistic approach to care. Holistic medicine involves taking a natural approach to understanding and treating your condition for effective, non-invasive relief to help you live a healthier life. 

Dr. Karen Threlkel is dedicated to providing women with a full range of alternative, holistic solutions to combat many conditions. Contact her today for advice on naturopathic treatments that are proven effective in relieving hypothyroidism symptoms. 

About The Author:

Dr. Karen Threlkel, Naturopathic Physician, Washington DC

Dr. Karen Threlkel, Naturopathic Physician, Washington DC

Dr. Threlkel received her degree of Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine from The National College for Naturopathic Medicine (now called The National University of Natural Medicine) in Portland, Oregon. She also holds a Bachelor Degree in Kinesiology from The University of Maryland. She is licensed in Naturopathic Medicine by the Government of the District of Columbia Department of Health. Dr. Threlkel is a member of the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians, past president & current member of the Washington DC Association of Naturopathic Physicians.

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