For the last few months Bhairavi Shukla, 40, homemaker was feeling tired even after sleeping for 8 to 10 hours at night. Then she started to pile on weight and felt irritable all the time. Shukla was sensible and went for an annual health exam. Her thyroid gland was not functioning optimally.

The thyroid is a small butterfly-shaped master gland. It is located at the base of your neck, just below your Adam’s apple. It produces two main hormones: T4 (also called thyroxine) and T3 (also called triiodothyronine), which have an enormous impact on your health.

The thyroid gland governs your metabolism. It decides the rate at which you will burn calories or your heart will beat. And when your thyroid gland stops secreting the required amount of hormones, it is known as hypothyroidism, a condition which upsets the balance of chemical reactions in your body.

Hypothyroidism speaks: 10 Not-to-ignore signs 

According to The Lancet around 11 percent, Indians suffer from hypothyroidism. Despite, the concerted government campaign to raise awareness on iodized salt,  iodine deficiency has been responsible to a large extent for the malfunctioning of the thyroid gland. Hypothyroidism often goes untreated because it is under-diagnosed. The symptoms get misinterpreted as effects of advancing age.

  1. Tiredness
  2. Weight gain or the inability to lose weight
  3. Mood swings
  4. Muscle pain and joint pain
  5. Having a body temperature consistently below 98.5
  6. Dry skin, brittle nails and
  7. Excessive hair loss
  8. Constipation
  9. Foggy memory
  10. Neck swelling, snoring or hoarse voice

5 Facts that hypothyroidism communicates about the status of your health?

Like any ‘dis-ease’, hypothyroidism is nature’s way of communicating that the body is not at ease and it needs to be corrected.

  1. You are stressed!

When you are stressed your body releases cortisol hormone.  Too much of it can interfere with your thyroid hormone production. Cortisol stimulates the thyroid gland to work harder to create sufficient amounts of thyroid hormone and it shows in above the normal range of your TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone).

Stress will also make you vulnerable to Hashimoto’s disease—an autoimmune disorder—a condition in which the body mistakenly identifies thyroid gland and the hormones secreted by it as foreign invaders and attacks it.

  1. You may be at the risk of developing a heart disease.

You would not have suspected this but hypothyroidism may give you a heart disease. The low levels of thyroid hormone increase your cholesterol level. This forms plaque on your arteries and makes them less elastic. Your blood pressure rises in order to circulate blood around the body and your heart rate slows down.

  1. You have a sluggish liver

T4 or thyroxine should be converted into T3 or triiodothyronine to exert its effects in your body. A large chunk of this conversion does not occur in your thyroid gland, but in your liver, kidneys and muscles.  If your liver is tired or you have fatty liver, this conversion will not happen which can leave you tired, bloated and overweight.

  1. You may be deficient in selenium

Selenium is a mineral found in the soil and it protects the cells from anti-oxidant damage. Whereas healthy adults may not be deficient in this trace mineral those suffering from digestive issues are certainly at risk. Selenium is a co-factor in the conversion of T4 to T3 which allows the body to use it. Research studies have also demonstrated that selenium supplementation will help treat autoimmune thyroid conditions.  

  1. You are experiencing hormonal upheavals

Hypothyroidism is more common in women than men, particularly when they are undergoing hormonal upheavals – adolescence, pregnancy and years prior to menopause.

Pregnancy is a major factor for hypothyroidism. Iodine requirements shoot up in the mother and the fetus. Moreover, changes in the reproductive hormones also cause changes in the level of thyroid hormone. In addition, some women develop antibodies to their thyroid hormone causing a condition known as postpartum thyroiditis.

If you are taking thyroid medications, you need to tell this to your doctor, before you start estrogen therapy because it can lower your levels of thyroid hormones in the blood.

Treating hypothyroidism

You cannot treat hypothyroidism until you know about it. Nearly 10 percent of women in the world are hypothyroid and many of them do not know it. Get yourself checked for thyroid levels every five years, starting at age of 35.  

Hypothyroidism speaks volume about the status of health. It calls for immediate action. You also need to tweak your lifestyle. Sleep well. Do deep breathing exercises and seek help if required to lower your stress level. For a healthy liver, you should keep your weight in control, eat organic foods and drink alcohol in moderation. A high-quality multivitamin will provide you with trace mineral like selenium. Additionally, you may explore Ayurveda to find a more holistic solution to hypothyroidism. More about it in the next article on hypothyroidism.

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