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The Truth About a Slow Thyroid

By Patricia Cherasard, PA-C, MBA


So you’ve been diagnosed with a Slow Thyroid (aka hypothyroidism). What does that mean? Well, to put it simply, it means your thyroid gland is not making enough thyroid hormones. Low thyroid hormone levels can make you feel tired and weak. Untreated it can have lasting effects on your whole body.


So...what is thyroid gland and what does it do? The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland located in the front of your neck. It makes hormones that control the way your body uses energy. Thyroid hormone regulates how much energy reaches all your cells. The best way to safeguard your energy center is to catch the problem early.


The good news is that accurate thyroid function tests are available to diagnosis and treat the disorder. You should follow up with a primary care physician or endocrinologist for treatment. When hypothyroidism isn’t treated, signs and symptoms can gradually become more severe. Constant stimulation of your thyroid gland to release more hormones may lead to an enlarged thyroid (known as a goiter).


What are the signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism?

Signs and symptoms can vary, depending on the severity of the hormone deficiency. Fatigue, increased sensitivity to cold, constipation, dry skin, unexplained weight gain, puffy face, hoarseness, muscle weakness, elevated blood cholesterol, muscle aches, tenderness and stiffness, joint pain and swelling, irregular menstrual periods, thinning hair, slowed heart rate, depression, and impaired memory.


What are the causes?

There can be a number of causes, including autoimmune disease, congenital disease, pituitary disorder, pregnancy, iodine deficiency, treatment of hyperthyroidism, radiation therapy, thyroid surgery and certain medications (i.e. lithium).


So what about weight gain/loss?

Many hypothyroid patients struggle with an inability to lose weight. If weight gain occurs with the onset of symptoms, then it is believed that with treatment successful weight loss should occur.


What if you are taking your meds regularly but the weight doesn’t come off?

Slow thyroid may not be the only reason for your weight gain. Changes in your metabolism, insulin resistance, and increased cortisol levels from stress can also attribute to weight gain. By taking the proper hormone replacement medications, if indicated, following a diet of nutritious food, exercising regularly and maintaining an overall healthy lifestyle can help with successful weight loss.