Statistics suggest that at least 10% of adult females have reduced thyroid function.
The thyroid gland sits like a bow tie around the front part of your neck. It is a vital component of your endocrine or glandular system. Just a small decline in the output of thyroid hormones, if continued over a long period of time, can have major consequences for health and wellbeing. The health of the thyroid is strongly linked to your nutrition and your environment, and even minor imbalances can cause a wide range of symptoms. The thyroid gland influences every system, organ and muscle in your body; hence it’s potentially wide ranging effects. This gland secretes hormones that help to regulate nearly every cell in your body, and one of its most important functions is the regulation of the rate of metabolism. If cellular metabolism drops too low, widespread dysfunction of the body can occur.
Thyroid dysfunction is a very common occurrence in women, and most commonly affects women over 40. Statistics suggest that at least 10% of adult females have reduced thyroid function. As well as causing symptoms related to metabolism and energy as listed below it can have also have consequences for a woman’s menstrual cycle and her reproductive abilities. Even minimal hypothyroidism can increase the likelihood of miscarriage and may also have adverse effects on the later cognitive development of the child.
Underactive thyroid – common features
- Frequently feeling tired and lethargic. Often have trouble waking in the morning. Tend to need more sleep than other people and have a tendency to fall asleep during the day if opportunity arises.
- Less energy
- Fluid retention leading to puffiness around the face (especially eyes), hands, ankles and feet
- Frequent muscle cramps and joint aches
- Morning stiffness
- Skin becomes drier and tends to itch more
- Hair becomes drier, more coarse and brittle
- Hair loss
- Weight gain and difficulty losing weight
- Feeling cold when other people feel warm
- Cold hands and feet
- Worsening memory
- Heavier and more frequent menstrual periods
- Worse pre-menstrual symptoms
- Loss of libido
- Slow thinking
If you have four or more of the symptoms listed above, it would be worth asking your doctor to give you a blood test to check for an underactive thyroid. You can also do a simple test at home by measuring your temperature. For best results use an electronic thermometer. You need to record your basal body temperature, which is your body temperature when resting. So take your temperature first thing in the morning before you get up. Repeat this for three mornings in a row. For women basal temperature will vary during the menstrual cycle and so for greater accuracy it is best taken on the 2nd, 3rd and 4th days of your cycle. If your average basal body temperature is less than 36.4 degrees Celsius (97.6 degrees Fahrenheit) then you could have an underactive thyroid.