Last updated date: 29-Aug-2023

Originally Written in English


Hypothyroidism, also termed as underactive thyroid, is a medical condition characterized by insufficient production of important hormones by the thyroid gland. The thyroid refers to a tiny, butterfly structured gland located on the front part of the neck. It plays a vital role in producing hormones that enable the body to control and use energy. 

Furthermore, the thyroid provides energy to almost every body organ. It also regulation various body functions, including how the digestive mechanism operates and the heart rhythm. On the other hand, an insufficient amount of thyroid hormones slows down the natural processes of the body. Approximately 5 percent of people aged above 12 years have hypothyroidism. 


Causes of Hypothyroidism 

The standard balance of chemical reactions within the body can be disrupted if the thyroid gland fails to produce sufficient hormones. Autoimmune disorders, radiation therapy, hyperthyroidism therapies, thyroid surgery, and some drugs are the possible causes. 

When the thyroid gland does not release enough hormones, hypothyroidism occurs. The following are the possible factors that can cause or trigger hypothyroidism; 

Hashimoto’s thyroiditis: This is a common type of autoimmune disease that is known to cause hypothyroidism. This disorder develops when the body's immune system creates antibodies that fight your tissues. Such a process can sometimes include the thyroid gland. 

The medical experts are uncertain of the reasons this occurs. However, they believe that it could be a combination of some factors, including environmental aspects and genes. Regardless of how it happens, the antibodies alter the ability of the thyroid to release hormones. 

Over response to hyperthyroidism treatment: Radioactive iodine and anti-thyroid drugs are often used to treat patients with hyperthyroidism (producing too much thyroid hormone). These treatments aim to restore normal thyroid function. However, treating hyperthyroidism can sometimes result in a significant reduction in thyroid hormone production. This causes permanent hypothyroidism. 

Medications: Using a range of drugs can lead to hypothyroidism. Lithium, for example, is a drug that doctors use to address some mental health illnesses. However, it can also contribute to a thyroid disorder. Always inquire with your doctor about the effects of any medications you are taking on the thyroid gland. 

Thyroid surgery: A surgical procedure to remove all or a section of the thyroid gland may reduce or stop hormone output. In such a situation, doctors recommend taking thyroid hormone for the rest of your life. 

Radiation therapy: This is a form of treatment that medical providers use to treat head and neck cancers. It can sometimes alter the thyroid gland, causing hypothyroidism. 

Other rare but possible causes of hypothyroidism include; 

  • Congenital disorders whereby a child is born with a faulty or no thyroid gland. 
  • Pregnancy (can occur during or after the pregnancy)
  • Pituitary disease whereby the pituitary gland fails to produce sufficient thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH)
  • Iodine deficiency 


Symptoms of Hypothyroidism 

The signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism tend to vary based on the intensity of the hormone deficiency. With time, the problems usually begin to develop gradually. It might be difficult to notice hypothyroidism symptoms at first. However, as the metabolism continuously slows down, one can start to experience more common problems such as; 

  • Constipation 
  • Extreme fatigue 
  • High sensitivity to cold 
  • Dry skin 
  • Unexplainable weight gain 
  • Hoarseness 
  • Puffy face 
  • Weakness of the muscles 
  • Tenderness, stiffness, and muscle aches 
  • High level of blood cholesterol 
  • Thinning of the hair 
  • Irregular or heavy menstrual periods 
  • Slowed heart rhythm 
  • Impaired memory 
  • Depression 
  • Goiter (enlarged thyroid gland)


Hypothyroidism in the Infants 

While hypothyroidism is more common in middle-aged and older women, it can affect anyone, including babies. Infants born with no thyroid gland or have a thyroid gland that isn't functioning properly can experience a few signs and symptoms at first. Hypothyroidism in babies or newborns can cause a variety of issues, including:

  • Jaundice; yellowing of the skin as well as the whites of the eyes. Mostly, this develops when the liver of the child is unable to metabolize a material known as bilirubin. Bilirubin usually forms whenever the body recycles the damaged or old red blood cells. 
  • Breathing difficulty 
  • A big protruding tongue 
  • Hoarse crying 
  • Umbilical hernia 

Over time as the condition advances, the baby is likely to experience feeding problems and develop and grow abnormally. They can as well have the following symptoms; 

  • Poor muscle tone 
  • Constipation 
  • Too much sleepiness 

Without treatment, hypothyroidism in infants, including mild situations, can result in serious mental and physical retardation. 


Hypothyroidism in Children and Teenagers 

Overall, hypothyroidism in children and teenagers involves similar signs and symptoms as those of adults. However, they might also have additional symptoms such as; 

  • Permanent teeth delayed development 
  • Retarded growth that causes short stature 
  • Delayed poverty 
  • Poor or abnormal mental development 


Risk Factors of Hypothyroidism 

Women, especially those who are older, are at a higher risk of developing hypothyroidism compared to me. Other risk factors that can contribute to the development of this condition include; 

  • People above the age of 60
  • Having an autoimmune disorder, including celiac disease or type 1 diabetes 
  • Having a family history with a similar health condition 
  • Undergoing treatment with antithyroid drugs or radioactive iodine 
  • Undergoing partial thyroidectomy (thyroid surgery)
  • Getting radiation on the upper chest or neck
  • Have been pregnant and gave birth during the last six month  


Hypothyroidism Diagnosis 

Hypothyroidism Diagnosis 

Medical providers can diagnose hypothyroidism disorder through a medical assessment of the patient and conducting hypothyroidism blood tests

  • Medical assessment 

Doctors often begin conducting a detailed physical examination on the patient as well as assessing their medical background. During this procedure, they can look for the physical signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism such as; 

  • Slow reflexes 
  • Skin dryness 
  • A reduced heart pulse 
  • Swelling around the neck 

Furthermore, the physician will also inquire about the symptoms you are currently having. They can include depression, fatigue, constipation, and frequently feeling cold. You should also inform your doctor if you have an evident family background of thyroid disorders. 

  • Blood tests 

Blood tests are often the best way to verify a hypothyroidism diagnosis. TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone) testing determines how much TSH the pituitary gland produces when; 

  • The thyroid hormone production in the thyroid is insufficient. The pituitary gland will increase the level of hormone production by boosting TSH. 
  • You have a hypothyroidism condition; the TSH levels would be high because the body is attempting to induce more production of thyroid hormone. 
  • You have a hyperthyroidism condition, the levels of TSH would be lower because the body is attempting to avoid an excessive production of thyroid hormone. 

Hypothyroidism can also be diagnosed with a thyroxine (T4) level exam. T4 is the hormone that your thyroid produces directly. T4 and TSH tests are used together to assess the function of the thyroid. 

Hypothyroidism is diagnosed when a lower level of T4 is combined with a high TSH level. A thyroid disorder, on the other hand, comes in a variety of forms. Some other thyroid activity examinations might be necessary to diagnose the problem accurately. 


Hypothyroidism Treatment 

Hypothyroidism treatment involves replacing the hormone which the thyroid no longer produces. Medication is usually the best way to achieve this. Levothyroxine is one of the most widely used medications. This drug, when taken orally, raises the amount of thyroid hormone the body releases, balancing the levels.

Hypothyroidism is generally a treatable condition. You should, however, continue taking the prescribed medicine for your entire life to normalize the hormone levels in the body. You can live a normal and stable life with diligent monitoring and follow-up visits with the medical provider. This helps ensure your medication is working effectively. 


Natural Hypothyroidism Remedies 

There are certain natural solutions known to help with hypothyroidism conditions. However, it’s highly essential to talk with the medical provider first. This is because treatment options for thyroid disorders require delicate balancing. 

The common natural hypothyroidism remedies include; 

  • Selenium

Individuals with certain thyroid issues can benefit from using selenium supplementation, but only after consulting with a doctor. A deficiency or too much of this micronutrient can lead to adverse outcomes, according to the researchers. On the other hand, supplementing with selenium, especially when the doctor has not prescribed may be dangerous. 

  • Probiotics

Small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) occurs when bacteria from the colon get into the small intestine where they are not usually found. This can occur in people who have hypothyroidism. A medical study shows that taking both probiotics and antibiotics results in a negative outcome. Also, people with inflammatory and autoimmune thyroid problems can use supplements like omega 3 and turmeric can help enhance inflammation. 

  • Vitamin D

A chronic Hashimoto’s condition is associated with a deficiency. Therefore, supplements might be vital to achieving a significant vitamin D level in the blood system. 

  • Sugar-free diet

Inflammation in the body can increase due to sugar foods and processed meals. T4 conversion to triiodothyronine (T3), which is another thyroid hormone, may slow down because of inflammation. Furthermore, the symptoms, as well as thyroid disorder, can worsen as a result of this.

Sugar also only gives you a temporary boost of energy. Hence, removing it from the regular diet can help you control the energy levels in the body. In addition, eliminating sugar from the diet may be beneficial to your stress levels as well as your skin. 

  • Vitamin B

Vitamin supplements can impact thyroid health. Reduced hormones can alter the levels of vitamin B-12. Therefore, supplementing vitamin B-12 can aid in the recovery of the damages triggered by hypothyroidism. While thyroid disorder can make you tired, vitamin B-12 can significantly help with the situation.


Dietary Recommendations for Hypothyroidism Patients 

Dietary Recommendations for Hypothyroidism

In general, patients with hypothyroidism do not usually have a particular diet to stick to. However, these are the significant recommendation to always have in mind; 

  • Eating a well-balanced diet 

The thyroid normally requires enough iodine amounts to function appropriately. On the other hand, you should avoid taking the iodine supplement for this purpose. Foods that provide sufficient iodine in the body include beans, whole grains, lean proteins, vegetables, and colored fruits. 

  • Keeping an eye on the intake of soy 

At times, soy can hamper thyroid hormone absorption. The body will not be able to absorb the medicine if you consume many soy products appropriately. It's particularly critical for medical caregivers to keep an eye on the amount of soy intake in children who are being treated for hypothyroidism. They can also take the soy formula.

Product rich in soy include; 

  • Soy milk 
  • Meat products and vegan cheese
  • Soy sauce 
  • Soybeans 
  • Tofu 


To maintain consistent levels of thyroid hormone in the blood system, you must take the drug at regular intervals. Do not drink or consume soy-based products for about four hours before and after taking medicine. 

  • Consider fiber intake

Fiber, just like soy, can obstruct the normal absorption of hormones. An excessive amount of dietary fiber is likely to prevent the body from receiving the hormones it requires. On the other hand, fiber is generally important in the body; hence you should not completely refrain from taking it. However, you should not take the medication for a few hours after consuming high fiber proteins. 

  • Avoid taking thyroid drugs and other supplements 

If you are taking supplements or drugs in addition to your thyroid medicine, try to space them out. Other drugs may affect the absorption of the thyroid drug. Hence, it's better to take it on an empty stomach and don’t mix it with any other medications or even foods.  


Is Hypothyroidism a Preventable Condition?

Generally, hypothyroidism is not a preventable disorder. However, keeping an eye out for signs of hypothyroidism is the only way to avoid developing a severe form of the disease. This also prevents you from experiencing serious symptoms that can negatively impact your life. In case you're experiencing some of the signs of hypothyroidism, the only thing you can do is consult your doctor. If you develop hypothyroidism early and start treatment right away, then it would be manageable. 


Complications of Hypothyroidism 

Untreated hypothyroidism could result in a range of medical conditions, including; 

Goiter: The continuous stimulation of the thyroid gland to produce additional hormones can make it enlarge, resulting in a hypothyroidism goiter. A larger goiter may impact a person’s appearance and might alter with breathing and swallowing, even though it is usually not painful. 

Peripheral neuropathy: Peripheral nerve damage may result due to uncontrolled or untreated hypothyroidism for a long time. The peripheral nerves transmit signals from the brain and spinal cord to other parts of the body, such as the arms and legs. Also, peripheral neuropathy can trigger discomfort, numbness, and tingling within the affected regions. 

Heart conditions: Increased low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels (the "negative" cholesterol) can develop in individuals who have an underactive thyroid. Due to this, hypothyroidism can be linked to an increased possibility of suffering heart disease or heart failure.

Myxedema: A prolonged and undetected hypothyroidism causes this rare, fatal disease. Drowsiness and extreme cold intolerance are the common signs and symptoms, accompanied by severe lethargy as well as unconsciousness. 

Infection, sedatives, or any other forms of body stress may result in a myxedema coma. Seek emergency medical help right away if you experience signs or symptoms of myxedema. 

Mental health disorder: Hypothyroidism can cause depression, which can become more serious with time. Hypothyroidism may also trigger mental sluggishness function. 

Congenital disabilities: When compared to children delivered to healthy women, those born to mothers with untreated thyroid conditions might have higher chances of congenital disabilities. These babies are much more likely to have severe cognitive and developmental issues. Furthermore, infants who have untreated hypothyroidism at birth are prone to severe physical and mental health issues. However, if this disorder is detected in the first few months after birth, the likelihood of normal growth and development is high. 

Infertility: Thyroid hormone deficiency can inhibit fertility by interfering with ovulation. Moreover, certain hypothyroidism causes and triggers, including autoimmune conditions, can affect fertility.


Hypothyroidism and Pregnancy 

The thyroid gland, which is found in the front of the neck, produces hormone levels that change dramatically during pregnancy. As a result, thyroid disorders may begin or aggravate when pregnant or after delivery. 

Hypothyroidism during pregnancy is uncommon. But since some of the signs, like weight gain and tiredness, are similar to those of a typical pregnancy, they may be overlooked. 

Maternal hypothyroidism presents a danger to both the mother and the child if not treated. Thyroid hormones are important not only for a pregnant woman but also for her baby's growth. High blood pressure, muscle pain, anemia (reduced red blood cell count), and fatigue can affect pregnant women who have an uncontrolled condition. Also, there might be a higher chance of miscarriage and premature or stillbirth.


Hypothyroidism and Depression 

The natural activities of the body tend to slow down and delay if thyroid hormone levels are lower. This can result in a number of symptoms, such as exhaustion, weight gain, and depression. According to a recent report, about 60 percent of individuals diagnosed with hypothyroidism showed depression symptoms. 

Other people who have hypothyroidism only show signs of mood problems. Hypothyroidism can be difficult to diagnose because of this. However, doctors recommend checking for underactive thyroid and treating it accordingly in addition to treating the brain. 

A number of depression and hypothyroidism signs are similar. They include fatigue, depressive mood, weight gain, low satisfaction and desires, sleeping problems, and concentration difficulty. 

The diagnosis of depression is usually made depending on the symptoms present and medical records. A physical examination and blood tests are essential in diagnosing low thyroid function. The doctor can also request these tests for an ultimate diagnosis to check if there is a correlation between depression and thyroid function.

If hypothyroidism is the sole cause of the depression, treating the hypothyroidism will alleviate the depression symptoms. Alternatively, the doctor can recommend some medication for the two disorders if the initial is not effective. 


Hypothyroidism and Anxiety 

The hypothyroidism effects can sometimes include anxiety. According to the report, people diagnosed with hypothyroidism have double the chances of developing anxiety issues. Approximately 30 percent of the anxiety problems are linked to autoimmune thyroid conditions. 

Anxiety is a common reaction in case of a stressful situation that is usually associated with hypothyroidism. At times, it can be present independently or along with depression. 

Some of the symptoms of anxiety to watch out for include; 

  • Muscle tension 
  • Insomnia 
  • Rapid heart rhythm 
  • Unable to stop worrying 
  • Breathing difficulties 
  • Sweating and shaking


Coping With Hypothyroidism 

While undergoing hypothyroidism, you will likely deal with various complications or long-lasting problems associated with the condition. These tips will thus help reduce the impact of hypothyroidism on your life quality; 

Watching out for other medical conditions:

Usually, there is a close connection between hypothyroidism and other autoimmune disorders. In most cases, hypothyroidism develops alongside other health conditions, which can include; 

  • Diabetes 
  • Celiac disease
  • Lupus 
  • Rheumatoid arthritis 
  • Pituitary disease 
  • Adrenal gland disorders 

Creating fatigue coping tactics:

While you are on medication, you can still feel tired from time to time. It's thus important to do the following to help you deal with low energy levels;

  • Getting enough quality sleep every night 
  • Consuming fruit and vegetable-rich diet
  • Opting for stress-relieving techniques, including yoga and meditation. 

Discussing it with someone:

It's difficult to live with a chronic health condition, particularly if other health issues follow it. You can consider finding a person with whom you can freely share your experiences, thoughts, and feelings. It could be a therapist, a family member, a best friend, or a support program for other patients who have the same problem. 


Bottom Line 

Hypothyroidism is a medical condition associated with the production of thyroid hormones in the thyroid gland. It’s usually characterized by weight gain and fatigue and is more common among people aged above 60 years, especially women. 

With mild cases, the symptoms usually disappear with time, while others will subside shortly following the treatment. People with low thyroid hormone levels will require control using drugs on a regular regimen. Supplementing the reduced levels of thyroid hormones using artificial hormones is also an effective treatment form.