Hypothyroidism: Causes, Symptoms and Medical Treatments

Hypothyroidism (HypoT) effects energy, metabolism, protein synthesis and adjust the bodies sensitivity to other hormones. It causes a decrease in thyroid hormones.

There are 60 million Americans many women having thyroid problems. Most common is HypoT. It is almost in epidemic proportions since the last 15 years.

Statistically, there are more women in their younger years like the 20, 30, 40’s due to stressful demands. Women are trying to balance careers, family life and other outside interests.

This is compounded by unhealthy diets, increased toxic loads for the thyroid and adrenal glands, causing burn out.  Your adrenal glands are responsible for releasing hormones (cortisol and adrenaline) in response to stress.

The thyroid is extremely vulnerable to pesticides, heavy metals, and pollutant toxins. Toxins like chlorine, fluoride and bromine all chemically similar to iodine and all easily absorbed by your thyroid.

Iodine is needed by thyroid gland to produce the hormone, itself, too much can worsen into Hyperthyroid; too little leads to Hypothyroid.

Iodine is a natural detoxifier but avoid it you already have Hashimoto’s or Hyperthyroidism.  Foods include seaweed, seafood or iodized salt

When you live in a farm area with pesticide sprays like orchards or vineyards you thyroid will be affected.

Symptoms of Hypothyroidism

The estimate is more than 10% of the US population suffers from HypoT yet it frequently is not diagnosed. Symptoms are not just in one area of the body; they can be vague or attributed to other diseases.

Generally, the most common symptoms are persistent fatigue and energy loss.

Weight gain owing to underactive hormones slows down body processes. Dieting will not work since your body converts fewer calories into energy not weight loss.

Sensitivity to cold, this happens because the body is busy conserving heat energy by constricting the blood vessels.

Elevates Cholesterol since the thyroid hormone slows down the liver’s capability to remove excess.

Many other hypothyroidism symptoms include:

  1. Dry, brittle hair and nails
  2. Depression, inability to concentrate, moody
  3. Constipation due to slow motility of the gut
  4. Hoarse throat, deep voice, difficulty swallowing
  5. Menstrual irregularity and infertility
  6. Muscle pain and stiffness
  7. Slow heartbeat
  8. Hair loss or dry skin with numbness

Advanced hypothyroidism is called myxedema. This is often seen in infants. It can cause jaundice (yellow skin), frequent choking, poor growth and protruding tongue. If this is not treated in time, it can lead to physical and mental retardation.

Due to a number of symptoms involved, patients may have to see several doctors before finally being diagnosed.

In some cases patients may have normal ranges, but still have symptoms. So, at times, the total picture may not correlate for the doctor. Many of these symptoms can also come from other diseases.

Causes of Hypothyroidism

First cause is inflammation of cells causing damage or inability to produce sufficient hormone. This can be caused by the toxic loads each person carries.

Most common is Auto Immune Thyroiditis, or Hashimoto’s, caused by the patient’s own immune system going awry.

Second category is “medical treatments”, such as removing the thyroid gland surgically.

Surgery, called thyroidectomy, is necessary in cases like cancer or “nodules”, sometimes only taking partial or a piece of the thyroid gland. It may not leave enough to produce hormone needed to function. Result is Hypothyroid.

Goiter’s are growths treated with radioactive iodine therapy to kill the thyroid. This is done to stop growth of the tumor. Later this can turn into Hypothyroidism; due to low hormone production, a side effect of this therapy.

Thirdly, congenital issues or if thyroid disease is in the family tree; it can possibly be a for-runner to Hypothyroidism.

Rare complications with HypoT can be depression, heart failure or coma.

Treatment for Hypothyroidism

This disease is treatable with medication and other therapies which we will discuss in the next article.

A majority of hypothyroid patients take a form of hormone replacement, levothyroxine, a synthetic pill or liquid, which helps build up the hormone. It will generally improve the symptoms and bring blood tests back to normal range.

For some patients, medication adjustments will not be simple, since one type of meds or proper dosages may take several months to a year of change to get the hormone levels in proper range.

Side effects are loss of calcium from bones if hormone levels get to high. Also this can reverse to Hyperthyroidism disease.

The thyroid hormone will often change during pregnancy; doctors will need to monitor this monthly throughout the pregnancy.

Hypothyroidism in Chinese medicine

In Chinese medicine, Hypothyroidism is Yin/Yang imbalance, as was discussed in Hyperthyroid.

In many cases, for both medical systems, the doctor may ask you to take your body temp in the morning; this is because with HypoT you often have a temperature of 97.6 or below daily. Normal body temperature should be 98.6.

This may be a sign of Qi (energy) deficiency or deficiency of Yang, the fire in the body. Yang deficient organs are kidneys and spleen.

Life Symptoms Reviewed by Chinese

  1. Stress on the body similar to the saying “Burning the candle at both ends” can cause hypothyroid issues. Working hard, playing hard and no rest habits encourage hormone depletion.
  2. Long term illness decreases the effectiveness of the immune system. Possible auto immune reactions.
  3. Lack of Digestive Vitality if the food you ingest is not breaking down into the nutrients you need. Irregular eating habits or unhealthy foods deplete your Qi and blood, In short, then Jing (vital essence), will be utilized of which you only have limited amounts.

Once Jing is used up there is no more “fire” to live.

Overuse of stimulants, like energy drinks or caffeine to “keep us going”, actually cause adrenal exhaustion. So these do not replenish, only give you a short burst of energy, but do not boost your Qi level.

Overall, it is matter of balance. To take care of yourself, look at your stress level. Make an effort to get enough rest, and proper nourishment with exercise.

Get help if your digestive system is not working properly. The gut and the immune system need to work together to help balance all the other organs.

Normally, in Chinese medicine, the protocol will be acupuncture and herbs. Decongest the liver, which is seen as a common problem in Hypothyroidism. Focus on restoring and strengthening the kidney and spleen Qi. Look at www.merryherb.com for herbal info.

We will have much more on therapy, herbs and foods in our next two hypothyroid articles

Thyroid gland







Cindy Burrows, B.S., M.T., Herbalist, is a Natural Health Consultant helping individuals start health programs to improve their life, wellness and happiness. Cindy is a speaker, writer and entrepreneur of several businesses.