Women's Health Articles

Strategies for managing hypothyroidism (low thyroid function)

“My thyroid is normal”

I’ve heard this before from so many women, who have all the symptoms of low thyroid function but their thyroid is ‘normal’. 

Women are often juggling multiple responsibilities such as work, looking after family, running a household and managing relationships; while also feeling incredibly frustrated with not feeling like themselves. They put feeling tired all the time, down to a long list of items on their daily to do lists. However, thyroid issues have become exceedingly common amongst women and one of the common signs of thyroid dysfunction is feeling flat, like you have nothing left. 

Some other signs and symptoms of thyroid dysfunction include:

  • Tired, sluggish, and life feeling hard
  • Trouble with memory, concentration and focus
  • Weight gain, and difficulty when trying to lose weight 
  • Feeling cold in your bones, or experiencing chills difficult to warm up from
  • Dry skin, brittle hair and nails 
  • Menstrual cycle irregularities and PMS symptoms worsening 
  • Fluid retention
  • Voice changes, such as a hoarse voice
  • Changes in bowel movements, with a tendency towards constipation 
  • Decrease in sex drive

What does our thyroid do?

The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped gland that sits around the windpipe at the base of the neck and produces hormones which are important in numerous metabolic processes, not just your weight, but also body temperature, heart rate and blood pressure.

The thyroid uses iodine to produce two main hormones T3 & T4, this process is triggered by another hormone released from your brain called thyroid stimulating hormone (or commonly referred to as TSH).

What causes thyroid dysfunction?

Hypothyroidism is when not enough thyroid hormone is being produced, this can be due to the body attacking the thyroid cells which occurs in autoimmune conditions such as coeliac disease, type 1 diabetes or Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.

To restore balance, it is important to determine the root cause/s of your thyroid imbalance. There are several factors that can contribute to thyroid dysfunction: 

  • chronic stress 
  • exposure to environmental toxins such as pesticides and heavy metals, as they can act as hormone disrupters and interfere with hormone metabolism and function 
  • food intolerances which can lead to inflammation, such as a gluten intolerance 
  • nutritional deficiencies, particularly iodine, vitamin D, selenium, zinc, omega 3’s, B vitamins, and vitamin A. 

Thyroid dysfunction and infertility

Low thyroid hormones can prevent egg release and therefore no ovulation, issues with implantation due to the short second half of the menstrual cycle, high prolactin levels due to the upstream thyroid releasing hormones accumulating creating irregular or anovulation. Research has shown that women who struggle with infertility have a higher prevalence of hypothyroidism compared to the general population.

How to best support thyroid function?  

If you resonate to the symptoms listed in this article, treatment may include dietary changes such as moving away from processed foods and choosing whole real foods, to give your body the nutrients it needs for optimal thyroid health. Implementing stress reducing techniques such as diaphragmatic breathing can also be beneficial due to the intimate relationship between thyroid and adrenal hormones.  

It can be awfully frustrating when our health is impacted. It can lessen our energy, happiness and our ability to manage our daily responsibilities. Instead of choosing to be frustrated with your challenges, choose to be curious and recognise what your body might be trying to communicate to you.