About 12% of Americans develop thyroid disease, and of those who get it 60% will never know they have it.  That’s a problem. The thyroid regulates hormone balance and contributes to weight, mood, and mental stability. If ignored, a thyroid imbalance can develop into serious medical conditions. Awareness is key, so to help, here are 10 symptoms of thyroid problems that are often missed.
1. Cholesterol That’s Too High or Too Low
Too much fat in your diet causes high cholesterol, right? Wrong. High cholesterol can have a number of originating factors; and diet is only a small contributor compared to others. If diet and exercise don’t help, it may be time to consider that there is an underlying problem. If you take medication for cholesterol and it’s not working, then definitely have your thyroid checked. You may have hypothyroidism, or low thyroid hormone levels. In some cases, low cholesterol may be a problem. It’s always a good idea to get tested for hyperthyroidism, which is too much circulating thyroid hormone.
2. Sore Joints and Nerve Pain
Research has find that thyroid diseases, both hypo- and hyperthyroidism, can cause nerve pain in some people who suffer from thyroid disease and getting their thyroid in check has lead to improvements in wrist pain and tingling sensations in some people.  In one case, a 60-year-old Italian woman suffering from a burning sensation showed symptoms of hypothyroidism. As she progressed with her thyroid treatment, the pain went away. 
3. Heart Disease
Checking your thyroid may be a good plan if you discover you have heart disease. Thyroid hormones play a direct role in heart health. A 2014 study out of John Hopkins University reported low thyroid hormone levels were common in young and middle-aged adults with early stage coronary artery disease and blood vessel calcification.  A Polish study similarly compared 25 patients with low levels of thyroid stimulating hormone to 25 patients with normal levels. Those with the lower levels had more cardiac events. 
4. Weak, Fragile Fingernails
Don’t ignore your nails when they crack or flake; it may reflect a bigger problem. Those with hypothyroidism often have soft, fragile nails, and those with hyperthyroidism may find the nail coming off its bed on the fingertip.  Dry skin and brittle hair often accompanies this symptom.
5. Anxiety and Mood Imbalances
Your hormones play a huge role in affecting how you feel. Low hormone levels, such as in the case of hypothyroidism, can leave you feeling down in the dumps. Excess of hormones leads to frequent anxiety or panic attacks. If you have regular feelings like this, it might be a good idea to get your thyroid tested before considering any psychiatric drugs that may make your problems worse.
6. Inexplicably Gaining or Losing Weight
If you can’t can’t explain your weight gain or loss, it could be your thyroid. How fast or slow your metabolism is directly depends on hormone activity. A sudden change in weight, up or down, can be an indication of a thyroid problem.
7. Constant Fatigue
This symptom is common, yet often ignored. Many young adults write fatigue and poor energy off as a sign of their lifestyle; but, if you’ve got an established routine and get regular sleep, you shouldn’t ignore chronic fatigue. Do you get 7-8 hours of sleep and feel like it’s not enough? It could be an early symptom of a thyroid issue. Those suffering from hyperthyroidism may find it hard to fall asleep, which can leave you dragging during waking hours.
8. Low Libido
Since the thyroid is all about hormones, it comes as no surprise men and women experience problems with their reproductive organs. Women can have a more frequent, longer menstruation with low hormones and short, light menstruation–or have a cycle stop altogether–with too many circulating hormones. Fertility may also be a problem. Men experience infertility, low libido, and may even develop enlarged breasts when sex hormones and the thyroid become imbalanced.
9. Gut Problems
IBS isn’t always caused by what you eat. In fact, it may be that your metabolism isn’t working right. This prevents necessary enzymes from getting to the gut to help with digestion. If constipation, diarrhea, or IBS are ongoing problems and therapies aren’t helping, it may be time to consider checking your thyroid.
As hormone levels get out of whack, other imbalances follow, and terrible dips in energy levels is a classic. Your thyroid, your metabolism, your energy levels — all connected. If you’re feeling week but your nutrition is good and you get enough sleep, it’s time to consider underlying possibilities, and your thyroid is one.
Promoting Thyroid Balance
Thyroid health has a number of contributing factors and there are a few things you can do to encourage them to be optimal.
1. Make sure you’re getting enough iodine. It’s not a cure or treatment but it is the exact nutrition your thyroid needs to function normally. Iodine-rich foods are one way to get your iodine requirements, an iodine supplement is another.
2. Exercise regularly. The goal isn’t to become a bodybuilder, it’s to use and work your muscles — all of them. Get up and move around.
3. Eat a balanced diet that meets all your nutritional requirements. Your body is like a swiss watch, all its parts need to be functioning individually for it to function properly as a whole. If you have nutritional deficiencies, of any kind, you’re not going to feel balance.
Have you experienced thyroid problems that were hard to pinpoint? We’d like to hear from you. Leave a comment below and share your experience.
-Dr. Edward F. Group III, DC, ND, DACBN, DCBCN, DABFM
American Thyroid Association. Prevalence and Impact of Thyroid Disease. ATA Fact Sheet.
Roquer J1, Cano JF. Carpal tunnel syndrome and hyperthyroidism. A prospective study. Acta Neurol Scand. 1993 Aug;88(2):149-52.
Penza P1, Lombardi R, Camozzi F, Ciano C, Lauria G. Painful neuropathy in subclinical hypothyroidism: clinical and neuropathological recovery after hormone replacement therapy. Neurol Sci. 2009 Apr;30(2):149-51. doi: 10.1007/s10072-009-0026-x.
Zhang Y1, Kim BK1, Chang Y1, et al. Thyroid hormones and coronary artery calcification in euthyroid men and women. Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol. 2014 Sep;34(9):2128-34. doi: 10.1161/ATVBAHA.114.303889.
Krysicki M, Jaworska M, Popowicz B, et al. The incidence of hypothyroidism symptoms and risk factors for cardiovascular events in subclinical hypothyroidism. Pol Merkur Lekarski. 2014 Jul;37(217):10-6.
Razi A, Golforoushan F, Nejad AB, Goldust M. Evaluation of dermal symptoms in hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism. Pak J Biol Sci. 2013 Jun 1;16(11):541-4.