In the world of health scares, many symptoms rear their ugly heads in major ways, making it easy to identify the underlying cause.
However, in the case of autoimmune diseases, these causes can be well-hidden. Autoimmune diseases develop when the body confuses normal, healthy cells for invading cells, thus attacking and killing them.
One such autoimmune disorder is hypothyroidism (commonly known as underactive thyroid). This occurs when the thyroid gland, responsible for metabolism, does not produce enough hormones to regulate the body.
Because hypothyroidism is often initially hard to detect, it may be helpful to understand and recognise some of its effects, and what to do if you’re worried.
Depression and fatigue
Common symptoms of hypothyroidism are feelings of depression and sluggishness. Feeling tired happens to everyone from time to time, especially with a busy schedule. However, this will usually lift with a good night’s sleep. In the case of an underactive thyroid, these feelings are rather consistent and can linger if not treated.
According to the American Thyroid Association, about five to 10 pounds of a person’s weight can be attributed to the thyroid gland. One job of the thyroid is regulating metabolism. When not enough thyroid hormone is released, the body’s metabolism slows down and is not able to burn as many calories as it should, causing weight gain that is seemingly impossible to lose.
An overwhelming feeling of muscle weakness is another side effect of an underactive thyroid. This can be paired with sore, aching muscles, even if a person has not exerted themselves in any way. This is caused by the body retaining fluids, causing the muscles to swell and press against nerves. Medication may be prescribed to alleviate the swelling, so please consult your GP if you’re concerned.
Later symptoms of hypothyroidism
While unlikely, if untreated, more serious symptoms can develop, such as anaemia. One of the scarier symptoms of hypothyroidism is a slowed heart rate. This can, unfortunately, lead to heart attack and other cardiovascular health problems. Luckily, these can be treated with medication.
Of course, everyone is different and so, may not experience the same symptoms. An underactive thyroid can affect the body in many ways, but many of the symptoms are also linked to less serious conditions. If you’re showing symptoms and are concerned, do consult your doctor.
Individually, these side effects do not necessarily indicate a case of hypothyroidism, however, if a person is showing a number of symptoms, professional support may be needed. Underactive thyroids can be identified through a series of blood tests, which at this point, is the only way to find an accurate diagnosis.
Once diagnosed, hypothyroidism can be treated with hormone replacement tablets, which works to regulate the thyroid’s function. Those with hypothyroidism are most commonly given medication that they will continue to use throughout the rest of their lives.
Identifying the effects of hypothyroidism is the first step. While there only a few listed here, they are just a glimpse of a much longer list. Remember, if there is any concern when it comes to health, a visit to the doctor is the first step to feeling like yourself again.
What about nutrition?
There is plenty of conflicting information regarding nutrition and the effect of our diets on thyroid problems, however, it’s widely believed that the best hypothyroidism diet is one that is balanced and varied.
For more information on the effects of nutrition and advice tailored to your symptoms, please contact a qualified nutrition professional.