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Feeling Tired and Sluggish? Your Thyroid Could Be To Blame!

Updated: May 25

Many of us have heard of the thyroid, but based on the huge job it plays in our health and energy levels, it's surprising how few people know what it actually does and how it can impact on our health, so it's time to shine the spotlight on this small but mighty gland.


Let's start at the beginning - what exactly is the thyroid?


  • The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland that is part of our endocrine system (a system of glands that produces hormones with many different functions in our body) and is located in front of the windpipe in the throat.

  • The thyroid is linked closely to the healthy functioning of our metabolism in all of the cells in our body, meaning that it has an influence over how efficiently our cells work and is therefore commonly associated with energy levels, or lack there of! It makes two hormones called thyroxine (also known as T4) and triiodothyronine (also known as T3).

Picture of location of endocrine glands in women and men


What can happen when our thyroid isn't functioning as it should be?


Did you know that women are far more likely to face problems with their thyroid? Unfortunately thyroid problems can often go on for many years without being diagnosed. The more awareness we can spread in terms of thyroid health, the more likely we are to visit our GP for help to see if your thyroid health is responsible for symptoms you might currently be experiencing.


If your thyroid isn't working as it should be, it can result in something called "Hypothyroidism", where the thyroid isn't producing enough thyroid hormones, or it can result in "Hyperthyroidism", where the thyroid is producing too high levels of thyroid hormones. Hypothyroidism is much more common than hyperthyroidism.


Thyroid problems can be something that someone lives with for life, or it can be transient. It can also be caused by something called "Autoimmunity", where your body's immune system mistakenly sees it's own healthy cells as foreign and starts attacking them. Luckily there are lots of things that can be done to support thyroid health and it does not mean that you have to continue to put up with the symptoms you might be experiencing.


If you have been diagnosed with a thyroid problem, it's also important to identify whether it's autoimmune or not, as this can impact on how you might support your health going forward (this can be determined by testing for something called "auto-antibodies" in blood tests).


What are the symptoms of hypothyroidism?


According to the NHS (2021), the following symptoms can be present (the exact symptoms experienced depends on the individual and this list isn't exhaustive):


Tiredness, constipation, weight gain, sensitivity to the cold, depression, muscle aches, muscle weakness, dry and scaly skin, brittle hair and nails, loss of libido, irregular periods or heavy periods, muscle cramps, carpal tunnel syndrome, slow movements and thoughts.


What are the symptoms of hyperthyroidism?


According to the NHS (2009), the following can be present:


Difficulty sleeping, insomnia, mood swings, diarrhoea, persistent thirst, increased urination, muscle weakness, feeling tired/fatigued, hyperactive (nervous energy), sensitivity to heat, loss of interest in sex, itchiness.


Check your symptoms with your GP!


If you are experiencing any or some of the above symptoms, it's definitely worth talking to your GP and ruling out the possibility of a problem with your thyroid. Other than hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism, there are also other thyroid-related problems that can develop, and some of the symptoms described above might not linked to your thyroid at all - so getting yourself checked as a first port of call is always the most important thing!


How can we support thyroid health?


Even if you don't have a problem identified with your thyroid, there are a many things we can do to support thyroid health in general through both diet and lifestyle. Our thyroid specifically requires many different nutrients to function efficiently, but some of the key nutrients are iodine, selenium, zinc and iron.


As a general rule of thumb, it's important to focus on a wholefood diet, that steers away from processed foods, avoid or minimise foods with high amounts of refined sugars, and watch your caffeine and alcohol consumption.


Spread of fruit and Vegetables at a market

It also comes as no surprise that you can support your thyroid and general health by managing stress effectively, getting sufficient, good quality sleep and of course, exercising regularly (it may sound obvious, but so many of us struggle with some or all of these areas).


Autoimmune underactive thyroid (also known as Hashimotos Thyroiditis) is extremely common, and due to the link between the thyroid and autoimmunity, there are several specific ways that can help support this specific health concern, and these will be addressed in an upcoming article, so keep your eyes peeled!


If you've been diagnosed with a thyroid problem and not sure where to start in terms of how you can support yourself via nutrition and lifestyle, reach out to me and we can have a no-obligation 20-minute chat to discuss a way forward.



References:


https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/underactive-thyroid-hypothyroidism/symptoms/

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/overactive-thyroid-hyperthyroidism/symptoms/



Amy Cottrell


Registered Nutritional Therapist


Dip CNM, mANP , mBANT, mCNHC


Please note that Amy Cottrell Nutrition does not claim to prevent, treat or cure any physical, mental or emotional conditions. These blog artlcles are written for educational & informational purposes only and are not a substitute for medical advice.


Do not stop or start taking medication or supplements without first talking to your primary health care provider.



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