Mood Swings, Weight Gain, Low Energy, Is Your Thyroid to Blame

Mood Swings, Weight Gain, Low Energy? Is Your Thyroid To Blame?

It’s a Monday night, you are lying in bed after a long day of work, you’re exhausted but can’t seem to fall asleep. You fought through the day with caffeine and “pick me up” snacks but still feel like you had no energy to get through your daily tasks. You start to wonder why your mood is always changing. You’re also wondering where these extra few pounds came from and why your hair is falling out more than usual. If this sounds familiar, your thyroid hormones may be to blame! 
 
Did you know that 1 in 10 Canadians suffer from a thyroid condition and majority are women? The thyroid gland sits in the middle of the neck and plays a major role in regulating energy and metabolism. It is one of the smallest glands in the body, yet plays a powerful role in the way a person feels, especially women. Unfortunately, experts believe that 40-60% of people with thyroid disease do not even know they have it!  When the thyroid isn’t functioning optimally, problems with energy, weight, sleep, digestion, mood and menstrual irregularities dominate. If you are experiencing any of these read on to learn more! 
 

What Is The Thyroid?

The thyroid is responsible for making two thyroid hormones, triiodothyronine (T3) which is the active hormone and thyroxine (T4) which is the inactive hormone. The thyroid gland only makes about 5-10% of T3, the rest needs to be converted from T4 (inactive hormone) to T3 (active hormone). These hormones are under the regulation of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) which is released from the pituitary gland in the brain. TSH makes sure that thyroid hormones are released to meet the demands of the body. Thyroid dysfunction can occur in one of two ways: over-activity of the thyroid gland OR more commonly, under-activity of the thyroid gland. 

 

The Two Main Thyroid Conditions:

  1. Hypothyroidism - Underfunctioning thyroid
  2. Hyperthyroidism - Overfunctional thyroid

 

Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormones to meet the demands of the body.  Both genes and lifestyle play a role in the development of hypothyroidism where women are more susceptible. 

 

Causes of hypothyroidism include: 

  • Inflammation of the thyroid gland that destroys a large percentage of the thyroid cells (Hashimotos Disease)
  • Removal of the thyroid gland
  • Periods of high stress
  • Hormone imbalances (pregnancy or menopause)
  • High estrogen levels with low progesterone levels and low iodine levels can all inhibit thyroid function

Symptoms of hypothyroidism include:

  • Depression
  • Constipation
  • Palpitations
  • Unexplained weight gain or inability to lose weight
  • Intolerance for cold temperatures
  • Fatigue
  • Dry skin
  • Hair loss 
  • Decreased memory
  • Decreased libido
  • High cholesterol levels 
  • Muscle and joint aches 
  • Infertility in women 

 

Hyperthyroidism 

Hyperthyroidism indicates an overactive thyroid where there are abnormally high levels of thyroid hormones present in the body being produced by the thyroid gland. 

 

Causes of hyperthyroidism include:

  • Autoimmune conditions where the body’s immune system targets the thyroid gland to make an overabundace of thyroid hormones (Graves Disease)
  • Thyroid nodules that cause the thyroid gland to enlarge
  • Excessive iodine intake and/or certain medications (ex. Lithium for bipolar disorder and Amiodaraone for heart conditions). 

Symptoms of hyperthyroidism include: 

  • Hyperactivity 
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Increased appetite
  • Irritability
  • Unexplained weight gain
  • Trembling hands 
  • Excessive sweating
  • Menstrual irregularities

 

How To Diagnose Thyroid Conditions

Diagnosis can be done with measuring the amount of thyroid hormones (T3 & T4) and TSH in the blood. There are “normal ranges” for all thyroid hormones that exist. However, the reality is that most people who fall in the “normal range” for thyroid hormones don’t feel normal and still display many of the symptoms that come with a thyroid hormone imbalance. Conventional testing usually only measures TSH. If TSH is in range no further testing will be done. Naturopathic Doctors attempt to take a more comprehensive approach to hormones and look at TSH, T3 and T4 to get a complete picture of thyroid health in order to better direct treatment. 
 
Ideal Thyroid Hormone Ranges for a Non Pregnant Adult:
  • TSH - between 1-2 mlU/L
  • T3 - between  5-6 pmol/L 
  • T4 - between  14-18pmol/L
It is important to note that adrenal hormones can also influence thyroid function. High amounts of the stress hormone, cortisol may inhibit thyroid function and make one more prone to developing hypothyroidism. Thus, it is useful to also get the adrenal hormones, like cortisol, tested as well. 
 
Basal body temperature may also help to assess thyroid hormone activity.  A temperature of 36.4 C or lower may indicate an underactive thyroid. 
 

 

Naturopathic Treatment Plan For Hypothyroidism

Since hypothyroidism is much more common than hyperthyroidism, the focus for this section will be natural treatments used to combat hypothyroidism. Western medicine for hypothyroidism involves taking the prescription, Synthroid which is a synthetic form of T4. As mentioned earlier this is the inactive version of the thyroid hormone and needs to be converted to the active version, T3. This conversion requires the presence of certain macro and micro nutrients which will discussed later in the article. If you are lacking these nutrients, Synthroid may not work best for you. Many patients feel that Synthroid does not address all of their symptoms and comes with many side effects, like irritability, flushing, anxiety, headaches, insomnia, decreased bone mineral density and so much more. For this reason, patients turn to Naturopathic medicine for overall support. 
 

 

Natural Solutions For Hypothyroidism

Naturopathic medicine can help to restore the function of the thyroid gland. Treatment often involves dietary and lifestyle changes, and supplementation. 
  1. Supplementing with macro/micronutrients 

    • Conversion of T4 to active T3 needs the following vitamins and minerals: iodine, selenium, zinc, iron, tyrosine, magnesium, vitamin A, vitamin D, adequate protein, vitamin B6 and healthy fats. If the body is deficient in any of these T4 will not be converted to T3 and hypothyroidism can develop. Supplementing with these can provide the missing links and allow for the conversion to happen efficiently. Combination products that contain a cocktail of these nutrients are available and can help to support the thyroid. 
  2. Fix the adrenals

    • Thyroid health is dependent on the health of the adrenal glands. High cortisol can inhibit the body from converting T4 to T3. As well, stress uses up nutrients like selenium and magnesium, which deprive the thyroid of what it needs for hormone production. Finding ways to lower cortisol and supporting the adrenals through stress management, sleep hygiene, self-care (ex. taking a bath, going for a walk) and adrenal support supplements can be quite helpful.  
  3. Exercise

    • Regular physical activity can help to increase the uptake of T3 into cells
  4. Addressing food allergies

    • Removing sensitive foods, especially highly inflammatory foods like gluten and refined sugars, can help to reduce inflammation and decrease autoimmunity, which is especially important if its an autoimmune thyroid condition. 
  5. Eliminate raw brassica vegetables

    • Cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, bok choy, Brussels sprouts are known to inhibit the conversion of T4 (inactive thyroid hormone) to T3 (active thyroid hormone). 
  6. Avoid fasting & low carb diets

    • Fasting and low carb diets (<100 g) can cause T3 levels to drop, so avoid these if battling hypothyroidism. 
 
 
The thyroid is such an integral part of the human body and plays a major role in regulating energy and metabolism, especially in women. If you experience any of the thyroid symptoms mentioned in this article, make sure to take a comprehensive look at all the thyroid and adrenal hormones to get a complete picture of what may be going on so you are able to combat those feelings of relentless fatigue, weight fluctuations and low mood. 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
** Disclaimer: The advice is in this article is for informational purposes only. It does not replace the care of a Naturopathic physician. 
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