My arms were tingly, my hair was falling out and I felt tired ALL of the time. This may sound like a typical day in the life of a mommy but when I was experiencing these symptoms I didn’t have a screaming baby or energetic toddler to deal with. I wasn’t even pregnant. It was my thyroid. My under active thyroid (hypothyroid) to be exact.
Located at the base of your neck, just below the Adam’s apple, the thyroid is an endocrine gland that controls how quickly the body uses energy, makes proteins and produces hormones that regulate the rate of metabolism and affect the growth rate of function in many other systems in your body. Having a hypo (indicates a deficiency) thyroid means your thyroid isn’t producing enough thyroid hormones, which can result in that sluggish feeling I had as well as dry skin and brittle nails, sensitivity to cold, constipation, memory problems, heart palpitations and heavy or irregular periods.
Hypothyroidism is one of the most under diagnosed conditions in the United States but is also one of the easiest to treat. It’s symptoms of lethargy, depression and weight gain can easily be attributed to other factors, making it difficult to diagnose and difficult to even recognize. My symptoms didn’t happen all at once and individually they didn’t point to a dysfunctional thyroid.
It started with an unfortunate flat iron hair debacle (a story for a different time) that left me with very short bangs. At the time I thought I just left the iron on my hair too long (which is still a possibility) but as I looked back I realized there had been more hair than usual in my shower drain and on the floor of my bathroom. Straightening my hair only made it more brittle and more prone to falling out. My symptoms then escalated to sluggishness and muddled thinking and capped with constant tingling in my forearms. The tingling was by far the most concerning symptom to me, even though I had weird hair for a good year!
While my symptoms may sound dramatic, it wasn’t dramatic enough to really make me worry. I was more curious than concerned. The curiosity eventually led me to a doctor for a physical exam where I made sure to bring up my unusual symptoms. After several questions and a blood test it was revealed that my Thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) and Thyroxine measurement (T4) levels were lower than average. My doctor prescribed Synthroid to help regulate my thyroid hormones. Synthroid is a small pill that I have to take every morning one-hour before I can eat anything. At first taking the pill was a little unusual but now it’s second nature. Other than taking Synthroid daily I currently visit an endocrinologist twice a year to make sure the amount of Synthroid I take is still effective. It requires more blood work and a simple visit to my doctor at Northeast Florida Endocrine.
If not treated, a hypothyroid can raise your cholesterol levels and make you more likely to have a heart attack or stroke. Pregnant mothers should especially check their levels, as an untreated hypothyroid can harm the baby. A warning to pregnant mothers who do have hypothyrodism – if you’re taking prenatal vitamins make sure you do not take them at the same time as your thyroid medication. The prenatals can interfere with Synthroid’s function. I would take mine about three hours after my Synthroid.
And while I want to tell you that my 100 micrograms of Synthroid has 100% cured me of my symptoms I have to admit that on occasion I still feel mental fog and tingly arms. After doing a little research upon my initial diagnosis and later paying attention to when I felt more tired and tingly I realized that certain foods had a lot more to do with my symptoms than I realized.
If you google “hypothyroid foods” you’ll come across a slew of different articles about which foods are the best and worst to eat for the condition. And they all pretty much say the same thing – avoid goitergenic foods. Goitergenic foods suppress the function of the thyroid gland by inflaming the tissues and blocking iodine uptake. Goitergenic foods are generally beneficial in fighting off other diseases in healthy people but can cause an enlargement of the thyroid, aka goiter.
Here are some of the goitergenic foods on the “do not eat” list: cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower; millet; soy; and products containing gluten. This isn’t to say that you can never eat these foods again it’s just a recommendation to watch your intake. If even with the medication you are still feeling off I suggest playing around with some of these and eliminating if need be. If they are affecting your thyroid you will feel the difference once you take them out of your diet. Goitergenic foods aside, I notice if I eat too much sugar or don’t drink enough water my symptoms increase. Just be aware of what you’re doing or eating when your symptoms flair up.
Here is a great article on ways to treat a hypothyroid naturally. I’m certainly not promoting eliminating medication if you need to be on it but it’s always nice to have some options.
If you are suffering form any of the above-mentioned symptoms please see your doctor.