Hypothyroidism Symptoms: Recognizing an Underactive Thyroid


Your thyroid is a small gland with big responsibilities. As part of your endocrine system, it produces hormones that travel through your bloodstream to every cell in your body. Thyroid hormones control many of your body functions, including your heartbeat and metabolism.

What is Hypothyroidism?

Hypothyroidism is the medical term for a sluggish or underactive thyroid. More common in females, it is estimated that 1 in 8 women have thyroid issues. Thyroid imbalance is more likely to occur during menopause and pregnancy due to significant hormone changes.

In most cases, hypothyroidism is caused by your thyroid underperforming by failing to produce enough thyroid hormone. Sometimes, however, it is caused by a dysfunction in the conversion of the storage hormone T4 to the active hormone T3.

Symptoms of Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism slows down your metabolism, causing you to gain weight. In fact, unexpected weight gain is often the first sign that women notice when they have a sluggish thyroid. If you continue to gain weight despite a healthy diet and exercise, your thyroid may be to blame.

Many women mistake the symptoms of hypothyroidism for menopause because of the similarities that occur with the changing endocrine system. Because hypothyroidism can mimic other health problems, it can be tricky to diagnose. Some of the signs of underactive thyroid include:

  • Fatigue
  • Cold sensitivity
  • Constipation
  • Dry skin
  • Puffy face
  • Hoarse voice
  • Muscle weakness
  • Joint pain
  • High cholesterol
  • Slow heart rate
  • Thinning hair
  • Depression
  • Poor memory
  • Night sweats


Hyperthyroidism is an overactive thyroid gland. Metabolism speeds up and you have too much thyroid hormone in your system. Some of the symptoms of hypothyroidism are common in hyperthyroidism as well. The symptoms that these disorders can share include:

  • Fatigue
  • Muscle weakness
  • Dry skin
  • Thinning hair
  • Menstrual changes
  • Goiter
  • Brittle nails

Many hyperthyroid symptoms are the opposite of those experienced with hypothyroidism. For example, overactive thyroid usually produces:

  • Sudden weight loss
  • Heat sensitivity
  • Frequent bowel movements
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Tremors
  • Anxiety
  • Constant hunger and thirst

How is Hypothyroidism Diagnosed?

In general, your doctor should test your thyroid function if you experience fatigue, hair loss, depression or unexplained weight gain. Because hypothyroidism is common in older women, doctors sometimes recommend screenings with a routine blood test during annual health exams. Your thyroid is often screened during pregnancy as well.

Diagnosis is most often based on a blood test that measures your thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), a hormone produced by your pituitary gland. Since the TSH has become the gold standard for thyroid testing, doctors often disregard how you’re feeling. However, lab testing should be used as a guide and the emphasis should be put on your signs and symptoms.

Listen to your body instead of trusting a lab results. Your body will signal a need for help with some of the signs and symptoms listed above. If your doctor ignores the signs, shop around for a practitioner in Vancouver that has more experience treating patients with thyroid disease.

Through proper nutrition, nutrient supplementation and taking a holistic approach to health and wellness, you can support your thyroid naturally. Not only can this improve your thyroid function, but also enhance your general health and wellbeing.

Dr. Jeda Boughton is a doctor of Chinese medicine in Vancouver BC, Canada, and the founder of the Natural Thyroid Health Program. She teaches women who suffer from thyroid disorders how to heal naturally through alternative medicine.

Jeda Boughton – who has written posts on Hypothyroid Treatment Vancouver BC – Natural Thyroid Treatment Doctor.