Your thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland found at the base of the front of the neck, and besides playing a vital role in digestion it’s also responsible for most of the systems in the body and when it doesn’t function properly everything can go haywire. It’s surprising how many parts of the body the thyroid affects when it’s not producing enough thyroid hormone and even more when you’ve had a thyroidectomy. Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid is underactive and doesn’t produce enough thyroxine (T4). Its symptoms include; tiredness, fatigue, weight gain, constipation, body aches, dry skin, lifeless hair, excess hair shedding, feeling cold, fluid retention, hoarse voice, infertility, and irregular or heavy menstrual periods in women. These symptoms can be mild before becoming severe and manifesting in other parts of the body.
Rebecca Ireland, author of the book, Life After Thyroidectomy outlined more than 200 hundred symptoms of hypothyroidism in her book. So, what systems do hypothyroidism affect? We can list a few of them here, but just imagine, if hypothyroidism affects your digestion and you’re nutrient deficient, just imagine how many side-effects you may be experiencing just as a result of that!
How the bodies systems are affected by hypothyroidism:
Hypothyroidism weakens the muscles used in breathing, making the lungs work less effectively. As a result, one may feel short of breath or even have trouble exercising. Also, sleep apnea which is pauses in your breathing while sleeping, this can also occur after thyroidectomy.
With Hypothyroidism, everything S-L-O-W-S-D-O-W-N including your digestion, it lowers stomach acid levels which help in the absorption and digestion of nutrients. Slow digestion can also mean dreaded constipation. If you have low stomach acid your body cannot digest and break down proteins, this event can result in the symptoms you see in your hair as well fatigue and muscle wasting. But it could also mean nutrient deficiency for other areas of your body. This is one example of how hypothyroidism can indirectly affect multiple systems of the body simply by throwing off one. And, when it starts to affect multiple systems, you get multiple side effects, most of which can unpleasant. When hypothyroidism affects the digestion, it does this by either lowering the number of parietal cells that produce stomach acid or by lowering their ability to produce it, this is known as hypochlorhydria. This directly affects nutrient absorption, and can result in low levels of vitamin D, B12 or iron; which are all very important nutrients needed by the body, and your thyroid to function properly. Low gastric acid leads to inflammation, ulcer, heartburn, and can result in the overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine affecting gut health. (Read More on Nutrient Deficiency)
Dry skin or split nails among other things can be the direct result of an underactive thyroid. Your thyroid produces hormones that are able to influence how much the blood vessels dilate, this can also affect how much heat escapes the body making the patient heat intolerant or very cold. Patients with hypothyroidism complain of both sensations whereas patients with hyperthyroidism complain of heat intolerance or always feeling hot.
With additional symptoms like:
• Dry skin with deep cracks and scale (especially on the feet)
• Deep, noticeable lines on your palms and soles
• Yellowish-orange color on your palms and soles
• Doughy appearance and swollen face, especially on your eyelids, lips, and tongue
• Flushing on your face and red palms
• Darker skin in the creases of your palms, on your gums, or elsewhere in your mouth
• Rashes, especially in the creases of your skin
• Reddish spots or bumps on the skin that come and go
The small hollow organ where bile is stored and concentrated before being released into the intestine can also be greatly affected by hypothyroidism. The thyroid affects the composition of bile and how it flows. Since an underactive thyroid leads to a lack of thyroxine (T4) causing a decrease or abnormality in bile flow, gallstones are produced excessively.
One of the severe effects of hypothyroidism is swelling of the eyes and loss of hairs in the outer part of the eyebrow. There is also the low risk, of Graves’ ophthalmopathy, or bulging eyes. Bulging eyes are most common in graves’ disease, the most common form of thyroid disease. Graves’ ophthalmopathy affects approximately 16/100,000 women and 3/100,000 men. Although these symptoms can spontaneously go into remission, they can also be treated medically.
Women suffering from hypothyroidism may have irregular, heavy or missed menstrual flow. They can also have difficulty getting pregnant or even when they do get pregnant, miscarriage can occur.
Regulating your metabolism is part of your thyroids job, when it produces the right amount of thyroid hormone your thoughts, memory and other parts of the body are usually right on point. But, when your thyroid hormone is low, hypothyroidism can affect memory span, and the ability to concentrate. A condition known as “brain fog” or mental cloudiness, and it can lead to forgetfulness and fatigue.
Mental & Emotional Health
Studies have shown that hypothyroidism can lead to change in mood and sadness. Patients with thyroid disorder are more prone to depressive symptoms as well as sudden and unexpected outbursts of anger. These usually subside when the thyroid is treated and the TSH is optimal. However, sometimes a patient can experience these symptoms even when their TSH is normal, this can happen as a result of nutrient deficiency and can be helped with the right nutritional supplementation, like ThyVita. ThyVita supplements are created to help your body absorb nutrients, so you can actually see and feel the difference.
The Circulatory and Cardiovascular Systems
The direct consequences of hypothyroidism include higher blood pressure, as well as a decrease in heart rate. Patients with hypothyroidism are also at a higher risk for high cholesterol. Insufficient thyroid hormone slows the heart rate and because it also makes the arteries less elastic, causing blood pressure to rise in order to circulate blood around the body. High blood pressure is a common symptom among thyroid sufferers.
Osteoporosis is a disease that causes the bones to become fragile and break more easily. This disease can come about if the thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) level in the body stays too low for a long period of time. This disease though is not caused directly by hypothyroidism, rather, it can come about as a result of over treatment of hypothyroidism, meaning too much thyroid hormone is given for long period of time to correct a deficiency. The same however can be said for patients with hyperthyroidism, and over production of thyroid hormones.
The nerves have the function of receiving raw data and circulating interpreted information by the brain round the body. Changes on how information are circulated to the brain, spinal cord and the body in general can arise as a result of untreated hypothyroidism leading to a condition known as peripheral neuropathy. Peripheral neuropathy may cause painful cramps, muscle twitching, muscle loss and changes to the skin, hair, and nails. But, these are just a few of the side effects. Muscle twitching, and the feeling of pins and needles can also be a sign of potassium deficiency, so it’s best to have your Dr. diagnose the cause as potassium deficiency can lead to cardiac arrhythmias.
The Endocrine System
The endocrine system consists of the pancreases and the thyroid – with both influencing each other. With hypothyroidism, the body produces little T4 and T3, two important hormones that control metabolism. Since one influences the other, the underactive condition of the thyroid automatically leads to difficulty in sugar absorption (the main energy source) in the body, thereby paving way for fatigue, malabsorption issues as well as diabetes.
Although hypothyroidism can affect every part of the body, from the brain to the skin, its symptoms vary according to individuals, basically its different for everyone. While one person can exhibit multiple symptoms’ others may only exhibit a few. While symptoms like fatigue, weight gain, cold intolerance and swelling maybe severe in some people, it may be mild in others. If you think you may have thyroid disease the best thing you can do is see your doctor for proper diagnoses and treatment if necessary.
Rebecca Ireland; Life After Thyroidectomy