Why Are So Many Women Suffering with Thyroid Problems?

This summer we are taking some time to discuss some current issues that are on our minds–issues that we do not know how to answer. We are relying on you, the Keeper of the Home readers, to weigh in as we wrestle with these often complex subjects.

By Erin Odom, Contributing Writer

Up until a couple years ago, I had never heard of thyroid problems. I don’t even think I knew where the thyroid was located in our bodies. Perhaps I didn’t even know this little organ existed!

But over the course of the past two years, I’ve discovered what a powerful organ the thyroid is! It regulates hormones throughout the body. These hormones affect metabolism, growth, development and body temperature!

But, sadly, I’ve also found out that an alarming number of women–young women–are experiencing thyroid problems today.

And so I’ve begged the question:

Why are so many women suffering with thyroid problems?

Image by jkirkhart35

What is the thyroid?

The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped organ that sits very low on your neck–along the windpipe. When the thyroid is normal in size, you should not be able to feel it.

What are problems associated with the thyroid?

There are actually quite a few problems that can be associated with the thyroid–ranging from a goiter (or enlarged thyroid) to various forms of thyroid disease to thyroid cancer. Graves Disease and Hashimotos’ are two diseases associated with the thyroid. Hashimotos’ is an autoimmune disease.

Symptoms of Problems with the Thyroid

There are a plethora of signs that may signal that something is wrong with your thyroid, including:

  • You can feel your thyroid (indicating that you have a goiter–or enlarged thyroid).
  • You have trouble losing–or trouble gaining–weight. (There are two extremes since the thyroid regulates the metabolism. If it is not properly functioning, it will be difficult for your body to regulate weight.)
  • You have heart palpitations and/or excessive nervousness.
  • You have brain fog or depression.
  • You are extremely tired–or you have insomnia.

Many people shrug off these symptoms as being a part of menopause, aging or depression. In fact, I thought I had been experiencing postpartum depression.

Image by jbcurio

My Story

When my second baby was close to a year old, I developed a persistent cough. What left me dumbfounded, though, was the fact that my cough was not accompanied by any other viral-like symptoms. It was simply a cough that would not go away.

This cough seemed to get worse at night when I lay down. And, sometimes, I felt like my airways were restricted while lying down–so much so that I began sleeping with several pillows that helped elevate my head.

I finally scheduled an appointment to see a doctor about the cough. I was shocked to find out that the cough was a symptom of an enlarged thyroid gland–a goiter.

The doctor immediately noticed the goiter protruding from my neck. The goiter had been pressing on my windpipe and causing irritation–the cough and trouble breathing when I reclined.

I asked her what could have caused the goiter, and she told me that it could be thyroid disease or even thyroid cancer.  After a very scary 24 hours, she confirmed that I did not have cancer, but my thyroid levels were low enough to suggest that I had an underactive thyroid–or hypothyroidism.

I told the doctor that I did not want to be on any synthetic medications, so she put me on Armour thyroid, which is derived from a pig’s thyroid.

I was on this medication for several months…during which time I became pregnant with my third baby–shortly after my second baby turned a year old.

After my first trimester, my midwife sent me to see an endocronologist–to monitor my thyroid condition. However, the doctor looked at me like I was crazy: My levels were fine, she said. And I did not have a goiter.

To this day, I wonder if, perhaps, my levels were fine and I did not have a goiter because I was, after all, on the medicine.

After my third baby was born, my symptoms came back. In May of this year, I was diagnosed with adrenal fatigue by my chiropractor. Then, in June, I started the cough again, felt the constriction in my throat, and I felt that a goiter had formed.

I went back to that same doctor. I do have a goiter, but my levels are “fine.” However, she went ahead and put me on Armour again to try to shrink the goiter–and to help my symptoms.

I sometimes wonder if my iodine levels are low since iodine deficiency can cause goiters, but the doctor told me there is no good test for this–and that most Americans are not low in iodine because it’s included in table salt and processed foods.

I don’t think she knew what to think when I told her I don’t eat processed foods and use real sea salt instead of table salt.

Could I be iodine deficient? It may be.

I want to get better. I don’t like being on medicine. In the past week, I have noticed that my hair is starting to fall out and that I feel jittery. But on days when I skip my pill, I feel like I can barely function–barely drag myself out of bed.

It’s like I’m going from one extreme to another–which I hear is common with thyroid conditions.

But, then again, I wonder if this all goes back to the adrenal fatigue. And I wonder if the thyroid condition caused the adrenals to stop working, or if the adrenals affected the thyroid.

I do not have answers, but I know some of you do.

Why do you think so many women are suffering with thyroid problems today? Have you ever experienced thyroid problems? What advice do you have to share?

*Note: At a nurse’s suggestion, I started halving my pills. I have noticed that my symptoms are much, much better when I am taking half the dose!

Sources/Resources:

Disclaimer: Today’s post is on thyroid problems. None of the Keeper of the Home writers are health experts. We are simply women who enjoy researching about health. We encourage you to seek all medical advice from your trusted healthcare provider.

About Erin O

Erin is a follower of Jesus, wife to Will and mommy to three little redheaded girls (born in 2008, 2010 and 2012). She is a life-long, professional dreamer and recovering overwhelmed homemaker. Her mission is to encourage, educate and empower her readers at The Humbled Homemaker to live a grace-filled, natural life. She is the author of a 200+-page eBook all about cloth diapering-- Confessions of a Cloth Diaper Convert: A Simple, Comprehensive Guide to Using Cloth Diapers.

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Comments

  1. Christine says:

    I had the same symptoms about 6 years ago. My hair was falling out, I had no energy, I was sick all the time, and nervousness was my middle name. Unlike you, I had no health insurance. I started myself on a vitamin regemend which became very expensive so in searching for a more affordable alternative I found a powder which had all the recommended vitamins in an easily digestable form and now my symptoms are gone.My hair grew back, my energy is back and so is my sanity! I use this powder called “all one”, I get the kind that has phyto nutrients as well. I found it at the best price on swansons.com. (Plus I take CQ, and fish oil. ) Good Luck!!

  2. I have suffered with thyroid issues over the years, starting as a teenager. The doctor wanted to shut down my thyroid and put me on medicine. Thankfully, my parents always went the natural route. I have been able to manage my thyroid problems, as well as other health issues, with homeopaths and supplements, under the care of a natural practitioner. I have also been using pure, therapeutic grade essential oils and using a fitness program designed for health issues. My thyroid is not a problem any more…thankfully!! Thanks for sharing, Erin, and glad you are doing so much better!

  3. Fluoride is definitely a culprit- it interrupts our endocrine systems. Plus all our hugely processed foods don’t help. Try an osteopath as well.

  4. Thanks for sharing your story! I’ve got a couple of tips, based on the experience of family members who have thyroid issues and adrenal fatigue.
    1. You don’t say why you don’t want to take synthroid; I assume you researched it and have specific reasons for your reluctance. But just in case you didn’t, I’d recommend considering it as an option. My mother has taken it for 50+ years with no problems.
    2. Thyroid treatment usually requires frequent adjustment–every 6 months, at least. If you haven’t been following this schedule, that could account for your difficulty in finding consistency. This is another area where synthroid might be useful because it’s highly adjustable.
    2. You might consider finding a naturopath or holistic NP who will do a full workup on you to check for other vitamin/mineral deficiencies that could be combining with your hypothyroidism and adrenal fatigue to cause your symptoms. Vitamin B, vitamin D, and magnesium are just three I can think of off the top of my head.
    Best wishes for getting to the bottom of it returning to full health!

  5. Hi, I was just reading your post, but cannot see responses that people may have left. On other blogs you can view these at the end of the post…. am I missing something?

  6. Rachel Peterson says:

    I have Thyroid issues-hypothyroidism and am taking prescription medication. Through my chiropractors office I was invited to a free seminar taught by a Naturopathic Doctor on how to treat your thyroid naturally. She gave us a hand out with a list of foods to avoid, and a list of foods that help improve the health of your thyriod. She said that we need Iodine, Copper, Zinc, and Selenium to help our thyroid function properly. She said that getting these nutrients from you diet is a better way than taking supplements. One of the foods richest in Selenium is Brazil Nuts, so I went and bought a pound of them at the grocery store. They’re a little spendy, but you aren’t eating a pound of them in one sitting. I ate 3-4 per day for a month. I also bought a Kelp supplement for the Iodine and took that once a day with a meal. After a month I had some bloodwork done and found that my TSH levels have improved by almost .600 The Naturopathic Dr said that if you are already on Thyroid medication it’s tough to get off and you most likely won’t. That’s not to say you shouldn’t try to have a healthier Thyroid.

  7. Hi Erin,

    I know you said you went to a chiropractor, but what type of chiropractor are they?
    The reason I ask is I’m thinking you may need to go see a neurological based chiropractor, they’re different than most chiropractors and are not just pain based. They focus on your brain, spine, and nerves through out the body. Generally if you are having a thyroid issue it means one of your spinal column bones has shifted out of position and is putting pressure on a nerve, in this case, a nerve that goes to your thyroid. All of our nerves go to organs in our body and if there is interference going on, that’s where the malfunctioning and issues come into play.

    A neurological chiropractor doesn’t focus on treating your symptoms, they try and get to the root cause of why you’re having that symptom in the first place. By removing that interference with getting adjusted, you’re body can start healing itself and functioning how it’s suppose to again.

    I hope that makes sense. I’ve seen a lot of people who have had success when going to this type of chiropractor. It’s a very simple concept, and often the most simple concept is hardest to understand. I hope this is of help.

    Bailey

  8. Hey Erin,

    I’m so sad to hear that you’ve been struggling with your thyroid. I can so relate. For years and years I would lose my voice for months at a time, and no one knew why. Finally, three years ago I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s. I got on Levothyroxine and I switched to a gluten-free diet. Three years later, I can finally lose weight, I’m not exhausted, and my cycles are more regular (not clockwork, but better). I lost my voice for a few days a year or two ago, but nothing like what used to be common every year….

    My recommendation: find a doctor/endocrinologist who will treat your symptoms, whether your levels indicate you are “normal” or not. I had to beg for my PCP to refer me to an endocrinologist, and I love him! He listened to me, told me ideal TSH levels are much lower than the general range suggests, and he said he’d ‘up’ my dosage, see how I feel, test my TSH levels in a few months, and then repeat. I’m now at Levothroid (Walmart generic) 100 mcg daily, and while I don’t like taking a synthetic pill every day, I’m grateful I can now function. It’s worth it overall to me.

    I will pray for God to lead you to the right solution! (And, of course, for healing… Nothing is impossible for our God!)

  9. I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism in my twenties having gained almost twenty pounds, feeling tired all the time, hair easily falling out, and many other issues. Getting diagnosed lead me to a lifetime of synthetic meds that keep me balanced. There are natural meds you could use to balance your TsH levels, if that’s the route you prefer, but it is a serious matter and when I hear other women with similar symptoms, thyroid is the first thing I tell them to get checked.

  10. I have been diagnosed with Hyperthyroidism and I started taking an herbal supplement called Thyrosoothe, it has helped me tremendously! After seeing what happened to my mother’s singing voice after they removed her thyroid I said no way! I’ll try anything instead of having it removed. Someone told me that stress has a lot to do with the thyroid but I don’t know if this is true or not.

  11. This was posted at a good time for me,too! I have a cyst on my thyroid right now and and showing all signs of adrenal fatigue. My personal doctor just thinks I have anxiety, (she sees depression in my medical history and just says anxiety for everything). I have had a biopsy which turned out fine but my thyroid doctor is quick to do surgery, “just in case”. I am going to seek a second opinion and this post and all the comments are giving me questions for the next doctor!

  12. I showed low thyroid in my blood work two years ago and started taking Iosol (iodine) drops (2 a day) and that brought my levels in the normal range. This year they dropped again and also tested positive for Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. I have done a lot of research since this diagnosis. If you test positive for the antibodies for H.T. you might not be able to take iosol drops because it can aggravate the H.T. (this would also mean you should stay away from iodine in seafood). If you have H.T. you are really dealing with two problems. You have an auto immune disease that reacts negatively to soy, gluten, dairy and sugar. (things that cause inflammation). You want to make your body as free of inflammatory foods as possible in order to heal your adrenal glands and thyroid. Also I learned that flouride directly attacks the thyroid. Flouride is in your tap water (you can buy filters that filter out flouride). Flouride is also in caffeine. The longer you steep a tea bag, the more flouride is produced. I was drinking lots of iced tea and also tap water. It’s also in your toothpaste. If you have thyroid issues you really need to take flouride/caffeine out of your diet. Just wanted to share this info. It’s not fun to remove all these things, but necessary to get back your health.

  13. I was certain my thyroid issues were triggered by having babies. After gaining 40 lbs since my last one arrived (now 2 years old), not feeling well, hair falling out, no sex drive, etc. I started looking for answers. I went to a holistic chiropractor who prescribes Stand Process (whole food) supplements. They put me on things to heal ovaries and thyroid. My naturopath put me on a homeopathic for adrenals. I recently was turned onto a book called Gut and Psychology Syndrome by Natasha Campbell-McBride. In this book I learned why I had so many childhood illnesses, including severe eczema and juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. I’m having celiac symptoms too. I also learned that gut problems can cause hormone and thyroid issues as well. Bingo! I went back to my chiropractor, whose wife is a nutrition mentor, and had a long chat about the book and what could be causing the issues. Because they thyroid and hormone supplements hadn’t done what they “should” in 6 months, they agreed I needed a different course of action. I am now on a supplement designed to reverse autoimmune response, another to kill bad parasites and bacteria in my gut, and one more to put healthy gut flora back into my body. I’ve been doing it for 10 days so far and am feeling better. I’m also doing a cleanse and have lost almost 15 lbs. in the past 3 weeks, where weightloss used to be nearly impossible. I am also beginning to consume fermented foods to help put healthy bacteria back into my gut – kefir, kombucha, homemade yogurt and homemade sauerkraut, etc. I also agree that soy is a BIG problem in this country and should be completely avoided. I am currently reading a book called Wheat Belly. I’m only a few pages into it but the wheat in this country is causing significant health problems also. Good luck with your healing journey!

  14. I had to be on thyroid meds for a few years also and was able to discontinue after I weaned myself off and stopped eating gluten,soy and cow dairy. Eating soy makes my thyroid levels go really low almost immediately. So I would make sure to never eat any from of soy products. The best thing to do for your thyroid is to eat lots of seafood like seaweed, oysters, clams etc. They are loaded with nutrients the thyroid needs to function such as iodine, zinc, and selenium. Don’t listen to docs that say you will need it forever because it really is not true! (unless your thyroid gland is removed)

  15. Barbara Melrose says:

    My husband takes a natural supplement called Norwegian kelp which contains iodine. It has really helped him. Plus, it is supposed to be a protectant from radiation. I don’t used iodized salt, always sea salt which is labeled that it doesn’t contain much iodine. WIthout some type of iodine supplement, I don’t believe people are getting enough of it to feed their thyroid gland to keep it healthy.

  16. After I had my second child I noticed a lump on the front of my neck. Long story short, after a lot of tests and procedures I was told that I didn’t have cancer (whew!) but instead had postpartum hyperthyroidism. HUH?? I was surprised that it took months for someone to give me a straight answer. I learned the hard way that sometimes doctors aren’t sure what the problem is or what is causing it so they have to test, and retest, and get other opinions and sometimes just take a guess at what might be wrong and try to treat it to see if it goes away. :-/ My symptoms went away on their own, but then came back after each new baby I had, then would go away on its own again. (I have 6 children now)

  17. I have hashimotos and am hypothyroid. After having my first baby, I went through secondary infertility. It would take a year or longer for me to get pregnant and then miscarry shortly after. I went to a infertility doctor and had numerous tests and they couldn’t find anything that was causing the infertility issues. Finally after about 4 years of testing the doctor finally tested my thyroid because I told him that I felt tired all the time. The test showed hashimotos with hypothyroid. He sent me to an endocrinologist who told me that my thyroid problem was causing my fertility issues and once they got my TSH levels to 1 I should have no problem conceiving and carrying to term. It took about three months to get my level down to 1 and after that I didn’t have any issues with getting pregnant and carrying to term. It is amazing how one little gland regulates so many things in our body. I have always wondered if there was a more natural way to heal my thyroid. I’ve read about the benefits of coconut oil on the thyroid and certain foods to avoid, but I’m not sure if that has helped me or not because I’m on the medication.

  18. I also started having thyroid problems after having my first baby. Same symptoms. I have hyper thyroid. I was taking half a pill but am pregnant now so not taking any medication. It’s funny and weird that, just like you, when I get pregnant it seems to go away. My levels are fine. I jokingly told my husband when we had our last daughter that I need to be pregnant for life! Hahaha and well, here I am again waiting for our 4th daughter in September. Four girls in 6 years! Not looking forward to it coming back though. Thanks for sharing! God bless

  19. Valerie B says:

    Oh my, I’m taking this article as a sign from God… In the last month I’ve started gaining weight quickly with no explanation, can’t sleep, am having irritable moods, and about every other symptom of a thyroid problem. A few friends with hypothyroidism told me it sounds just like what they went through. I’ve been off processed foods and use real salt for about a year & a half, as well as having radiation treatment for breast cancer, which extended up near the collarbone…So now I am convinced I need to go get checked ASAP. Thank you, this was just the push I needed to make the call!

  20. I’ve also have thyroid issues and have been on synthroid for some time. I would like to switch to Armour but right now the Synthroid is working and next time we move (which is often in the military) I plant to look for an endo who is more open to Armour.

    I have been finding a lot of blogs and articles about the thyroid lately and it really makes me think my poor diet (read lots and lots of french fries) in high school and college had a lot to do with my thyroid. I’ve read about soy and PUFAs and gluten all affecting the thyroid. I’m trying to avoid gluten and soy now and hoping my thyroid can start to do better on it’s own. I’ve also read a lot of iodine and I’m wondering if I should be taking an iodine supplement.

  21. So interesting to read all the comments and experiences! My thyroid issues began like yours, right after a pregnancy. And yes, taking on half a pill has made a huge difference for me – much less jittery and all. Had never heard about removing soy – I don’t consume a lot but I’ll have to look at that in my diet and see if there’s a difference. I’m also on a B complex and really think it helps too. And this post has reminded me that I need to schedule my scan – thanks!

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