Slow Thyroid Gland (Hypothyroidism): 31 Symptoms, 9 Causes & 3 Tips
Will you, not be able to lose weight? Or did you gain weight, without any apparent reason? Do you have vague complaints such as fatigue, stubbornness or concentration problems?
Perhaps this is because you have a slow thyroid gland. With a slow thyroid gland, your metabolism slows down, causing all kinds of (vague) symptoms.
In this article you will learn:
- What a slow thyroid gland is
- What the causes are
- What the symptoms are
- Hashimoto’s disease
- What you can do with a slow thyroid gland
I also give you a questionnaire with which you can test yourself if you have a slow thyroid gland.
What is a thyroid gland?
The painting gland, or the glandula thyroidea or thyroid, is a gland located in the front of the neck. The pulp gland is against the trachea and for the larynx.
The pancreatic gland is one of the best circulatory organs in your body. 4 arteries provide the thyroid gland with blood.
The thyroid gland produces a group of hormones which are also referred to as thyroid hormones.
These are the hormones:
- Triiodothyronine (T3)
- Thyroxine (T4)
You would not be able to live without these hormones.
To make these hormones, the thyroid gland needs iodine and tyrosine (an amino acid). The T3 and the T4 hormones influence our metabolism.
What is a slow thyroid gland?
A too slow (hypothyroidism) or too fast working thyroid (hyperthyroidism) are common disorders of the thyroid gland.
In case of a too slow gland, insufficient thyroid hormones are produced. Too much thyroid gland too fast. Complaints will occur in both cases.
Causes slow thyroid gland
The functioning of the thyroid gland can be disrupted by various causes, these are:
- Iodine deficiency
- Too much iodine (for example as a radiocontrast agent)
- Autoimmune diseases (Hashimoto’s disease, Graves’ disease)
- Iodine-containing medication
- Lithium-containing medication
- Operative removal of the thyroid gland
- Thyroiditis (thyroiditis)
- A congenital abnormality
While the name may be reminiscent of a Japanese Samurai, it is the most common cause of hypothyroidism.
Hashimoto disease is an autoimmune disease, which means that the immune system produces antibodies that affect the body’s own healthy tissue. This has a negative influence on the thyroid gland, which makes it fail. This results in a slow thyroid gland. This may be the cause of an iodine deficiency (but that is not necessarily necessary).
There is still a lot of confusion about the disease, but research has shown that about 90% of the cases of a slow-acting thyroid gland are the result of Hashimoto’s disease (source).
Hypothyroidism is often not a problem of the thyroid gland itself, but rather a condition that arises as a reaction to a weakened immune system.
A diet with little iodine and selenium increases the risk of thyroid disorders because the thyroid needs both selenium and iodine to produce enough thyroid hormones.
Do you have Hashimoto’s disease? Pay attention to eating raw cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, etc.), the use of rapeseed oil (canola oil), excessive amounts of omega 6 fatty acids and gluten.
Certain foods can also influence the absorption of your thyroid medication. Always talk to your doctor first about how you can best take the thyroid medication in combination with the diet.
In addition, it is important that you get enough vitamin B12, vitamin D, selenium and zinc (these values are often lower in people with Hashimoto’s disease).
In the case of iodine deficiency, an endemic goiter (an enlarged thyroid gland) and hypothyroidism (slow thyroid gland) are obtained.
For this reason, iodine is added to common salt (JoZo) and bakers use iodized salt in the bread. Bakers are legally obliged to do so.
Due to the addition of iodine to the (baker’s) salt, an endemic goiter almost no longer occurs in western Europe.
Fortunately, iodine naturally contains enough other foods so you do not have to worry about an iodine deficiency if you include it in your diet.
For example, there is a lot of iodine in fish and eggs.
In the table below you can see an overview of iodinated foods.
nutrient Iodine content per 100 grams nutrient Iodine content per 100 grams
whitefish 322 Bread 69
Haddock 322 Eggs 35
Lobster 140 Brazil nuts 20
Mussels 125 Hazelnuts 17
Codfish 124 Milk 7
Scallops 120 Walnuts 2.5
Mackerel 115 Pistachio nuts 2.5
Whiting 108 Fruit 2.5
Fried fillet of Haddock 99 Cashew nuts 2.5
Oysters 60 Almonds 2.5
Shrimp 55 Potatoes 2.5
Canned Anchovies 45 Pecans 2
Plaice 36 Macadamia nuts 2
Flounder 31 Vegetables 2
Dab 30 Legumes 0.2
Salted herring 29 Canned Sardines 23 Canned tuna 14 Smoked salmon 13 Salmon 8 Trout 8 Pangasius 6
If you do not eat bread, you can possibly supplement iodine with kelp tablets. Make sure that you do not get too much iodine inside, this is also disadvantageous for optimal functioning of your thyroid gland.
Slow working thyroid hereditary
Graves’ disease is multifactorial hereditary. If you have a genetic predisposition to Graves’ disease, you can not predict whether you will actually get the disease.
Nutrition, smoking, medication use, alcohol use and infectious diseases that you have had also influence whether or not to get this autoimmune disease.
The symptoms of a slow thyroid gland
Because some complaints are vague at first, a (family) physician will usually not directly attribute these to a slow thyroid gland.
In order to be able to determine whether there is actually a slow thyroid gland, a blood test will have to give a definitive answer.
If the thyroid gland is indeed too slow, there will be too little of the T3 and T4 thyroid hormones in the blood.
In a blood test, the TSH level will also be measured immediately. On the basis of the TSH level, the cause of the slow thyroid gland can be determined. Here you will also find an overview of all kinds of thyroid tests that you can request online.
There is a trap here that the regular medical world does not yet understand and recognize. For example, one does not often view the reverse T3 value, which tries to get rid of the surplus of T4. The product of T3 can usually become higher if someone experiences stress or have an active immune system.
In short, it may be that TSH is high/normal and T4 is normal. With this, your GP will say that there is nothing wrong with your thyroid hormone. Still, your T3 may be low and your rT3 high and then there is definitely a problem.
Physical symptoms of a slow thyroid gland:
- Struma (enlarged thyroid, seen at the neck)
- The fast cold
- Myxedema on for example ankles and eyelids
- Hair loss, eyebrow loss, brittle hair
- Increase in weight
- A dry or itchy skin
- Short of breath
- Sleep apnea
- Muscle weakness
- Hese/creaking voice
- The retention of moisture in the limbs
- Brittle nails
- Carpal tunnel syndrome (nerve in the wrist which is pinched)
- Menstruation which is more severe than normal
- Nipple outflow
- Premature puberty
- Fertility disorders
- Cardiac arrhythmias
- Exophthalmus (bulging of the eyeball)
Psychological symptoms of a slow thyroid gland:
- Slow thinking and acting
- Talk more slowly
- Backing up the memory
- Problems with the ability to concentrate
- Reduced libido
The most common symptoms of a slow thyroid gland I will explain below.
The low thyroxine values are responsible for the tired feeling. Because of low thyroxine levels, someone can feel really exhausted.
- Physical exhaustion
- Mentally tired
- Reduced activity
- The feeling of not being equipped even though one sleeps more
- Constantly tired
- Always sleepy
- Low motivation
About 40% of people with a slow thyroid gland are more sensitive to cold than usual. This is due to the low thyroxine values (source).
To gain weight
Arriving for no apparent reason is another common symptom of a slow thyroid gland (source).
Because of the low thyroxine levels, you arrive while you eat the same amount of calories as you always do. The body will store fat through low thyroxine values.
If you have arrived in a short time without any changes in your lifestyle (otherwise eating, drinking, moving or resting) then your thyroid gland might have something to do with it.
In that case, I would like to advise you to discuss this with your doctor so that the functioning of your thyroid gland can be investigated.
There is a link between depressive feelings and a slow thyroid gland. No less than 57% of men and 64% of women with a slow thyroid gland feel depressed (source).
People with a slow thyroid often also feel anxious or suffer from panic attacks. These are about the same percentages as those of people who suffer from depressive feelings.
Research shows that depressive feelings have to do with the low thyroxine values. In one study, people with a slow thyroid gland were given the hormone thyroxine and the mood improved (source).
The link between a slow thyroid gland and depression is also under discussion. There are also studies in which this relationship could not be made hard.
Depression can have many other causes besides the possibility of a slow thyroid gland. Depression is a serious condition for which you always have to seek help and never have to try things out on your own.
Hair follicles, like most cells, are regulated by thyroxine hormones. Because hair follicles have a short life cycle, they are more sensitive to low thyroxine levels (source).
The low thyroxine levels ensure that hair follicles do not recover, resulting in hair loss. After treatment of the slow thyroid, the hair growth is restored to most people.
A study in people with hair loss showed that at 25% to 30% that a slow thyroid gland was the culprit. This is the case in 40% of cases in people who are 40 years old (source).
Hair loss can also have other (hormonal) causes. Your doctor can help you to find the cause.
A Dry and Itchy Skin
Because of the low thyroxine levels, the normal life cycle becomes longer and it takes longer for skin cells to renew. As a result, the epidermis is subject to wear for longer and it takes longer for dead skin cells to loosen. This ensures dry and sensitive skin.
People with low thyroxine levels suffer from dry skin in 74% of the cases (source, source). It must be said that dry skin is a common problem that many people face, regardless of whether they have a slow thyroid gland or not.
17% of people with a slow gland suffer from this, while that percentage for people without this condition is 10% (source).
The low thyroxine levels inhibit the functioning of the large intestine.
Some 40% of people indicate that their memory is getting less (source).
Thyroxine hormones disrupt the action of other hormones and have a direct effect on the ovaries and the uterus.
In women with a slow thyroid gland, the menstrual cycle can, therefore, become irregular and the blood loss can become more severe than normal (source).
Slow working thyroid test
If you suspect that you have a slow thyroid gland then you should go to the doctor. This can do a blood test so that it can be determined with certainty whether or not you have a too slow thyroid gland.
It could also be that you have a too fast thyroid gland, many complaints of a slow thyroid gland correspond to a thyroid gland that works too fast.
Before you make an appointment with the GP, you can already get an indication of whether or not you have a too slow thyroid gland using the self-test questionnaire below.
The Slow Thyroid Checklist:
- ____ I can not lose weight by exercising more or adjusting my diet
- ____ I have become heavier for no apparent reason
- ____ I suffer from (severe) blockages
- ____ I feel tired or exhausted
- ____ I often feel dizzy or light in my head
- ____ I have a headache more often
- ____ I feel slow and sleepy
- ____ I feel cold while others find it warm/comfortable
- ____ My menstrual cycle is irregular
- ____ My period is more severe (more cramps, more blood loss)
- ____ I have pain in my joints, hands and feet
- ____ My hair is dry and brittle or falls out
- ____ It is swollen under my eyes
- ____ I feel depressed, depressed or gloomy
- ____ I am no longer interested in my normal daily activities
- ____ My mood fluctuates
- ____ I feel restless
- ____ I cannot concentrate well
- ____ I often forget things differently
- ____ I have trouble remembering things
- ____ I feel worthless
- ____ I have little or no sense in sex anymore
- ____ My voice has changed
- ____ I snore more than usual
- ____ I have a sleep apnea
- ____ I have the need to yawn to get oxygen
- ____ I feel rather short of breath
- ____ I sometimes feel pressure on the chest
- ____ My eyes are more sensitive to light
- ____ My eyes feel dry and often itch
- ____ Sometimes I have a strange feeling in my neck or throat
- ____ My neck is more sensitive. My jewelry, scarves or tie give me an uncomfortable feeling around the neck
- ____ My neck is thicker than usual or has a visible irregularity
Note: the above complaints can also have another cause. Therefore always have your blood tested for a definitive determination.
Temperature Test Thyroid
Measure your temperature as soon as you wake up, do this while you are still in bed, even before you get up. Measure the temperature under your arm.
Do this for 3 consecutive days and then take the average.
Women in menstruation should measure the temperature on the 2nd, 3rd and 4th day of menstruation.
If your average temperature is between 36.4 and 36.8 degrees then this is good.
If your average temperature is lower than 36.4, this is an indication that your thyroid gland may be too slow and you can ask your doctor whether your thyroid gland function can be investigated.
Tips for a Slow Thyroid Gland
What you can do with a slow thyroid gland depends on the cause.
Slow-Acting Thyroid Medication
Thyroid hormones are present in these medications. A doctor will slowly increase the dosage of these thyroid hormones until the symptoms disappear.
The attending doctor will regularly test the blood to check that there are not too many or too few thyroid hormones in the blood.
Homeopathy with a slow Thyroid Gland?
Incidentally, there is no scientific evidence for the efficacy of homeopathic remedies at all.
The effect of homeopathic remedies is no greater than that of placebo’s (source).
Slow Thyroid Gland Nutrition
If your slow thyroid gland is caused by your diet, you can do something about it by making adjustments to your diet.
To remedy a sluggish thyroid gland, there are a number of things that will help you and some that you should not eat.
Do eat this
What your thyroid gland needs are foods with iodine, vitamins A, B12, D and E and dietary fiber. These include, among others, the foods listed below:
Do eat this
- Unpolished rice
Don’t eat this
High insulin values influence the functioning of the thyroid gland, so better not eat added sugars and refined carbohydrates (source). This will cause the blood glucose to rise significantly and your body will have to produce a lot of insulin.
Furthermore, caffeine, nicotine and alcohol have a negative effect on the production of thyroid hormones. If you have a slow thyroid gland then you better avoid it altogether.
A number of foods that are healthy can also have a negative effect on people with a slow thyroid gland.
These foods are:
- Brussels sprouts
Goitrogens are substances that are released when vegetables are cut or chewed. By boiling vegetables the goitrogens are deactivated and they can also be safely eaten by people with a slow thyroid gland.
Foods that you can not eat raw with a slow thyroid because of the goitrogens are:
- Brussels sprouts
- Mustard green
- Lima beans
- Pine nuts
- Sweet potatoes
- Soy milk
If you have a slow thyroid gland then it is even more important than normal that you eat as varied as possible. This way you prevent that you regularly get nutrients that you would not be able to take.
It is even more important than normal that you choose unprocessed food. This is to prevent your blood glucose from being disturbed by added sugars or refined carbohydrates.
Note: These dietary guidelines are only intended for people whose thyroid gland function is slow due to incorrect diet. These guidelines are not intended for people with severe thyroid problems or thyroid patients. In the case of thyroid problems always check your diet with your doctor.
In short, focus on nutrition if you want to stay healthy!
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