Symptoms: thyroid problems in women

Good thyroid health and function is essential for good hormonal health (and especially for conception and pregnancy maintenance). Many people associate poor thyroid function with weight gain and fatigue, however there are a range of symptoms that might indicate your thyroid is under functioning.

In my clinic, I see lots of women with sub-clinical hypothyroidism which is usually ignored by previous healthcare practitioners – this is why I ALWAYS ask to see my patient’s results rather than just believe that “everything in the bloods was fine” which is what I hear all the time.

Symptoms of thyroid problems in women

  • Fatigue
  • Always feeling cold
  • Depression / low mood
  • Poor memory
  • Dry skin
  • Hair loss
  • Dry skin
  • Fertility problems
  • Heavy periods
  • Change in menstrual cycle length
  • Constipation
  • Unexplained weight gain

If you suspect a thyroid issue, test your TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) should ideally be under 2.0 – if it is higher, you may be hypothyroid or sub-clinically hypothyroid which means that you are still ‘in range’ but certainly not optimal for hormonal health and really not good for maintaining early pregnancy! If TSH is above 3.0, you should also test your actual thyroid hormones (T3 and T4) in addition to thyroid antibodies (to check if your immune system is mounting an attack on your poor thyroid).

Poor thyroid function (a TSH above 2.0) can sometimes be due to low iodine levels so this is the next test to consider. Giving iodine to a sick thyroid can sometimes be dangerous so make sure you have an experienced practitioner monitoring your supplements. Iodine is best tested with first morning urine, making sure that you don’t take any supplements containing iodine (check your multi) for at least three days before testing.

Supporting your thyroid naturally

If your thyroid is under-functioning, or you have a history of thyroid disease in your family, try these tips:

  • Gluten free is essential– gluten can negatively affect thyroid function so ditch the gluten but don’t load up on the gluten free products in the supermarket – just focus on real foods. Gluten antibodies can cross-react with thyroid antibodies making autoimmune conditions worse
  • Avoid soy which can depress the thyroid and block the absorption of important nutrients and minerals
  • Cook all broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, fennel, kale, spinach, brussel sprouts to reduce potential negative thyroid effects
  • Check your urinary iodine levels (first morning urine) and vitamin D levels – these nutrients are important for making thyroid hormone – without the right ingredients it is almost impossible for your thyroid to function properly!
  • Eat 6 brazil nuts on most days to increase selenium – an important mineral for good thyroid health
  • Commit to a mindfulness / meditation practice before bed each night to support stress which can impact thyroid function
  • Your naturopath may consider using herbal medicines depending on whether medical intervention is required.

The moral of the story is that if you have some of these symptoms and they are not going away with regular exercise, eating well and getting enough sleep – get tested! Always get a copy of your results and double check them with your Naturopath to make sure that you are in the optimal health ranges and not just in the sub-clinical category.

If you need inspiration for healthy recipes, thyroid-friendly meal suggestions and an easy way to track your health symptoms (with natural tips to improve symptoms!), download the Seed iPhone App today.

About the author

Belinda Kirkpatrick is an expert Nutritionist and Naturopath in Sydney. She specialises in natural fertility, family and women's health care. She is the author of Healthy Hormones (a practical guide to balancing your hormones) and is the founder of the SEED Concept and also Seed App for iPhone.

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