The thyroid may be tiny but it can have a big impact on your day to day health. In actuality, that little butterfly-shaped gland that sits at the base of your neck can control everything from your metabolism to how fast your heart beats.
The thyroid’s main purpose is to produce hormones that help your organs function, in particular, your heart, liver, muscles and brain. This means that it has to maintain the delicate balance of keeping your body in working order; if it goes too fast or too slow your whole system can feel out of wack. Here are a few ways that this small gland can have huge effects on your body.
1. Your energy levels
It can seem like your morning coffee is the only thing that matters when it comes to being awake and alert, but if your thyroid isn’t doing its job you may find yourself feeling more sluggish than usual.
Hypothyroidism (which is sometimes referred to as an underactive thyroid) is a condition caused by too little thyroid hormone in your system, leaving you feeling unexpectedly exhausted. That feeling of fatigue, even when you’ve had a good night’s sleep or have already had several flat whites, is a common indicator of thyroid problems. It can be easy to ignore, but it’s important to see a doctor when your energy levels don’t seem 100%.
2. Your sleep
When we’re surrounded by screens all day and night (believe it or not, it’s not a good idea to check your phone when you wake up at three am) having trouble sleeping almost seems normal.
But if your sleep is interrupted, particularly because your heart is racing and you feel anxious, this could indicate that you need to get your thyroid tested. Keeping your body feeling healthy is a delicate balance, and getting enough sleep is pretty essential in helping every organ and gland to do their job.
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3. Your mood
It seems weird that a tiny gland in your neck could affect your emotions, but the thyroid is just that powerful.
Given the thyroid is responsible for secreting hormones into your bloodstream, you might find that it has quite a notable psychological impact. Thyroid issues have been found to cause mood swings, irritability and even depression. If you’re finding that your heart is racing and you’re nervous without any obvious cause, this could be a symptom of thyroid problems.
4. Your hair thickness
Some people spend hundreds of dollars trying to infuse their hair with magical volume without any luck. But it might not occur to them that loss of hair thickness could be a symptom of thyroid problems.
An underactive thyroid could result in dry hair that is prone to breakage. This is especially notable for women who are often more likely to invest in speciality haircare; it’s estimated that ten times more women than men are affected by an underactive thyroid.
5. Your appetite
The thyroid is surprisingly influential when it comes to your body’s perception of hunger. An increased appetite and thirst could be a sign that you have an overactive thyroid (or that you’ve been rushed of your feet all morning and forgot to have breakfast).
Conversely, a gradual loss of appetite can indicate an underactive thyroid as some of your body functions start slowing down. It can be easy to ignore a change in your appetite, but it’s a good way to gauge how your body is travelling.
6. Your body temperature
Have you ever worked in an office where everyone wants to crank the air conditioner all the time, and you sit shivering in the corner? An intolerance for temperature is a common symptom of your thyroid not operating correctly, but because people’s level of comfort in hot or cold environments varies it can be hard to detect.
Overactive thyroids can also be the culprit when it comes to excessive sweating (so can Hot Yoga).
7. Your weight
An underactive thyroid can affect your metabolism, which means that it could contribute to weight loss or gain even if your diet hasn’t changed. This is particularly tricky when you consider that thyroid issues often result in exhaustion, making it difficult to exercise.
Even though the symptoms of thyroid issues can be minor, it’s important to check in with yourself and your doctor to better address potential health issues in the future.