Fatigue, Weight Gain Could Indicate Hashimoto’s Disease
By Kathy Hubbard
“I have not changed my diet, but I’ve been gaining weight like crazy,” a woman in her mid-fifties told me. “And, I just don’t have any energy; I’m constantly tired.” I thought she sounded like a lot of us since the pandemic hit. Gaining weight and feeling lethargic seems to be familiar to those of us isolating.
However, I noticed that she kept rubbing her neck and asked her why she was doing that. She said she could feel a little lump but that it didn’t hurt. “Aha,” said I. “You should go to your healthcare provider for a look-see; it might be a thyroid issue.”
Most people don’t listen to me when I give them medical advice and for the excellent reason that they shouldn’t. My medical expertise is limited to what I read online. In this case, the woman did see her doctor and was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, also known as Hashimoto’s disease, chronic lymphocytic thyroiditis, or autoimmune thyroiditis.
“Hashimoto’s thyroiditis occurs when your body attacks the thyroid as if it were a virus,” Healthline.com explains. “This leads to a decrease in thyroid function and hormone production.”
As we all know, the thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland attached to the front of our windpipes and is part of the endocrine system, which produces and stores hormones. The thyroid regulates our metabolism, growth, temperature, and energy. When the thyroid gland produces too much hormone, it’s called hyperthyroidism, and too little is hypothyroidism.
According to The American Thyroid Association, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is the most common cause of hypothyroidism in the United States. “It is an autoimmune disorder involving chronic inflammation of the thyroid. Over time, the ability of the thyroid gland to produce thyroid hormones often becomes impaired and leads to a gradual decline in function and eventually, an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism).”
Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is a disease; hypothyroidism is a condition that occurs because of the disease. It’s most common in women. It affects about seven times as many women as men suggesting that sex hormones may be a factor. And, although its onset is typical during middle age, it can occur in younger people and children of both sexes.
According to WebMD, some women may experience thyroid problems during the first year after giving birth. Although the symptoms go away, up to twenty percent of these women will develop Hashimoto’s years later.
“People who get Hashimoto’s often have family members who have thyroid disease or other autoimmune diseases, suggesting a genetic component to the disease,” WebMD says.
Often, the first sign is an enlarged thyroid called a goiter. It may cause the front of your neck to look swollen; if it’s large, it may make it hard to swallow. As the thyroid becomes underactive, symptoms such as weight gain, fatigue, a pale or a puffy face; joint and muscle pain; constipation; inability to get warm; difficulty getting pregnant; hair loss or thinning brittle hair; irregular or heavy menstrual periods; depression; memory lapse, and slowed heart rate may occur.
Yeah, all these symptoms could be something else, so it’s essential to see a medical professional get a proper diagnosis.
“Diagnosis of Hashimoto’s disease is based on your signs and symptoms and the results of blood tests that measure levels of thyroid hormone and thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) produced in the pituitary gland,” Mayo Clinic says.
“In the past, doctors weren’t able to detect an underactive thyroid until symptoms were fairly advanced. But by using the sensitive TSH test, doctors can diagnose thyroid disorders much earlier, often before you experience symptoms.”
Healthline says that the good news is that Hashimoto’s thyroiditis can be managed with the correct dose of the prescription drug levothyroxine and a careful diet.
“While dosage and medication timing are different for everyone, levothyroxine is the first line of defense against hypothyroidism. It mimics the hormone (thyroxine) the thyroid produces,” they say.
There are pages and pages of information online about what to eat to optimize the amount of iodine, selenium, and zinc your body needs. I know this because my friend reads them all to me. Turn around is fair play.
Kathy Hubbard is a member of Bonner General Health Foundation Advisory Council. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.