At hypothyroidism, lack of thyroid hormone affects function of every cell in the body. The patient starts to develop a variety of symptoms and health dysfunctions due to slowing down of the metabolic rate.
1. The cellular metabolic rate is decreased in people with hypothyroidism which results in low energy production in the mitochondria. The person feels fatigued all the time, struggles to recover after stressful events and the ability to fight against viruses and bacteria may diminish. Many of these symptoms develop slowly and often are blamed on signs of aging.
2. The thyroid regulates body temperature. At the early stage of Hashimoto’s disease some people can have hashitoxicosis which is a release of an excess of thyroid hormone caused by an autoimmune attack on the thyroid gland. Metabolism speeds up and women can start to experience symptoms similar to hyperthyroidism including heat intolerance, excessive sweating and hot flashes.
In perimenopausal women hyperthyroid symptoms such as hot flashes, anxiety and night sweats could be easily mistaken for dropping estrogen levels when in fact they are caused by Hashimoto’s disease.
As the Hashimoto’s disease progresses, destruction of the thyroid gland can lead to low thyroid function. Patients show hypothyroid symptoms such as feeling cold all the time or cold intolerance. Low body temperature, cold hands and feet are typical signs of underactive thyroid.
3. A connection between underactive thyroid and gut health is often overlooked. Low levels of serum gastrin that is an indicator for hypochloridia or a decreased production of hypochloric acid in the stomach are other common lab findings in the Hashimoto’s patients.
4. Patients with hypothyroidism have a diminished gastrointestinal motility that leads to sluggishness of the gastrointestinal tract. The body does not have enough metabolic capacity to move the digested food along the intestines due to deficiencies in digestive enzymes. This causes gas, bloating, constipation, re-absorption of intestinal toxins and increased intestinal permeability. One research study proposed that abnormal smooth-muscle function of the esophagus may be another manifestation of the gastrointestinal motility disturbances which are associated with hypothyroidism and result in chronic gastroesophageal reflux.
5. Individuals with Hashimoto’s and hypothyroidism can develop different types of anemia:
- Microcyctic hypochromic anemia which is an iron deficiency. Women with hypothyroidism lose the ability to absorb iron and variety of other nutrients due to decreased enzyme reactions in the intestines.
- Normocytic normochromic anemia occurs when the haemoglobin, hematocrit and RBC levels are depressed but the MCV, MCH and MCHC are normal. One of possible causes is an autoimmune disorder.
- Pernicious anemia is vitamin B12 deficiency which often accompanies hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s disease. An autoimmune attack against intrinsic factor which is responsible for the absorption of vitamin B12 is the cause of this type of anemia. Injections are more effective than tablets in restoring the B12 levels, however it leave the over reaction of the immune system untreated.
6. The balance of neurotransmitters mainly epinephrine and norepinephrine is affected by altered thyroid function. This could lead to depression, anxiety and emotional swings resulting in diminished ability to handle stress.
Epinephrine and norepinephrine stimulate the breakdown of fat that is called lipolysis. Despite exercise and dieting people with neurotransmitter imbalances have difficulties to lose body fat. You could learn about connection between neurotransmitters, thyroid and weight loss here.
7. Decreased clearance of liver, gallbladder and bile ducts are very common in Hashimoto’s patients leading to diminished gut motility, impaired nutrient absorption and detoxification process. Lack of enzymes necessary for successful detoxification compromises the clearance of antigens.
8. Hypothyroidism affects blood sugar regulation in three following ways:
- it slows the insulin response to glucose following eating carbohydrates and sugars
- it slows glucose uptake into cells and tissues
- it slows absorption of glucose from the intestinal tract.
There is enough glucose in the blood but it is unable to enter into the body’s cells and tissues. This causes the entire system of energy production to slow down and puts additional stress on the pituitary and adrenal glands.
9. Individuls with low thyroid function and undertreated hypothyroidism have impaired lipid balance resulting in increased cholesterol and triglycerides. Strict diet causes more stress for endocrine system, tissue starvation and low energy leading to even higher cholesterol levels. In contrast, restoration of the thyroid function normalizes the lipid balance.
10. Hypothyroidism affects estrogen metabolism shifting toward an estrogen metabolite that has been proven to increase the risk of breast cancer. Low thyroid also reduces the sex hormone binding proteins contributing to higher estrogen activity that increases the risk of any cancer.
11. Hypothyroidism makes the progesterone receptors less sensitive. Women experience low progesterone symptoms, although the progesterone levels show be normal. Difficulties to get pregnant and PMS are common due to the diminished activity of progesterone. The implantation of the embryo in the second half of the female cycle becomes less probable.
Hormonal imbalances of progesterone and estrogen could also contribute to underactive thyroid and weight gain making it impossible to lose body fat.
12. Besides thyroid imbalance there are more than 50 other physical causes of depression. Hypothyroidism is most common disorder that can either be a cause of depression in women or a major contributing factor.
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Why Stomach Acid Is Good for You: Natural Relief from Heartburn, Indigestion, Reflux and GERD by Dr. J.V. Wright, MD, L. Lenard, PhD, M. Evans and Company, 2001
The Thyroid Alternative: Renew Your Thyroid Naturally by Dr. N.R. Hedberg, D.C., D.A.B.C.I., Renew Your Health, LLC, 2011
Help, My Body is Killing Me: Solving the Connections of Autoimmune Disease to Thyroid Problems, Fibromyalgia, Infertility, Anxiety, Depression, ADD/ADHD and More by Dr. K. Conners, AuthorHouse, 2010
Reversal of lower esophageal sphincter hypotension and esophageal aperistalsis after treatment for hypothyroidism. J Clin Gastroenterol. 1982 Aug;4(4):307-10.