Twice a month, Yahoo Health’s Hormone Whisperer Alisa Vitti, HHC, is answering the most common questions about hormones and how they relate to weight, sex, acne, bad moods, low energy, and everything in between. Read her introductory column to learn more about Alisa’s approach to stopping hormonal chaos and getting into hormonal flow.
THE QUESTION: I’ve been experiencing fatigue and some weird weight gain lately, even though my eating and exercise habits haven’t changed. How can I tell if it’s an issue with my thyroid?
ALISA’S ANSWER: Do you feel like your weight gain, hair loss, fatigue, and mood issues might be part of a bigger issue? Have you ever gotten your thyroid hormones tested, but the results came back “within normal range”?
This can be so frustrating, and I’ve seen so many women in my practice at their wits’ end because they’re trying to feel like themselves again.
One in five women have a thyroid disorder, yet this is the most under-diagnosed hormone issue. Getting an accurate assessment of this hormone is critical when you are trying to resolve period, fertility, and low libido issues. I’d like you to be aware of what your thyroid is and does, as well as the symptoms of a thyroid disorder and the kinds of tests you should be asking for.
The FLO Science
The thyroid gland, part of the endocrine system, is located in the front of your neck and plays a huge role in your energy levels. It creates and stores hormones that regulate your internal body temperature, blood pressure, and heart rate, among other functions.
But some people have a sluggish or under-active thyroid that isn’t humming away as it should. Hypothyroidism is a condition in which your pituitary gland sends more and more Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) to your thyroid gland because it is not producing enough of thyroid hormone Thyroxine (also known as T4). This, in turn, leaves you without adequate Triiodothyronine (also known as T3), which is the active form of your thyroid hormone that governs your metabolism, heart rate, and growth. When this isn’t functioning properly, it will affect your cycle in various ways. Some signs include:
You have multiple periods per month.
Your bleeds are heavy and full of clots.
You’ve experienced one or more miscarriages.
You find you’re having many anovulatory cycles (cycles in which you might bleed, but you don’t ovulate).
You have unexplained weight gain despite eating well and exercising regularly.
You feel exhausted all the time.
You have cold or tingly feet and hands.
You have puffy eyes.
The FLO Fix
1. Get your thyroid tested. You want to be tested for TSH levels, T4, T3, and T3 uptake — this will give you the best understanding of where your thyroid function is breaking down. Here’s the challenge, though, for so many women: They get these tests done, but the results show that everything is technically normal. However, if you were to look closely at the lab results, the levels might be on the higher end of the range. This means too much TSH is being produced due to unresponsive thyroid — which leads to not enough T4 and T3 being produced. This can be indicative of subclinical hypothyroid, meaning, you test within normal range, but you don’t feel normal. This is so common it’s scary, as the population range (an average of normal ranges) is not necessarily a good representation of your personal range. Your personal range is what’s normal for you, and is unique to each individual. It’s always best to get a baseline test of these hormones when you feel good, so you can see if anything has truly shifted when you start feeling funky.
2. Support your thyroid with diet and lifestyle. Doing some basic things can really go a long way when it comes to your thyroid’s health. Cook with iodized sea salt — your thyroid needs iodine to make thyroid hormone! And make sure to get lots of vitamin D3 to protect your thyroi, which you can get through food via salmon, cod liver oil, and egg yolks. Your body also synthesizes the vitamin through exposure to sunlight. (However, applying sunscreen blocks this vitamin D synthesis; depending on the health experts you ask, skin cancer risk is not worth getting vitamin D via the sunlight route, though others will say it’s OK to expose your unprotected skin to the sun for a few minutes.)
For more foods to eat and things to avoid to improve your thyroid function, read this.
Good things come in threes: I want to hear from you in the comments!
First, what symptoms do you have that make you suspect your thyroid is off?
Second, what are your top health questions for me, your trusty Hormone Whisperer? Your question could be featured in my column!
Third, everyone you know is hormonal: Spread a little good ovary karma and share this article with your friends on social media, and be sure to follow me on Facebook, Twitter,Pinterest, and Instagram.
Need more Hormone Help? If you’re ready to get to the root of your issues, it’s time you started dealing with your hormones. Get out of symptom chaos so you can get back into hormonal FLO. Sign up here for a free download of my 4-Day Hormone Detox from my book WomanCode.
ABOUT ALISA: Alisa Vitti, HHC, is an integrative nutritionist, best-selling author of WomanCode, creator of the WomanCode System, and the founder of FLOLiving.com, a virtual health center that supports women’s hormonal and reproductive health. A graduate of Johns Hopkins University and the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, Alisa has been featured on The Dr. Oz Show, has a web series on Lifetime, and has been a regular contributor for CBS, Fox, Shape, Women’s Health, MindBodyGreen, and the Huffington Post. She’s also presented at TEDx, Talks@Google, Summit Series Outside, Hay House, WIE Symposium, and SHE Summit.