Thyroid FAQ – Questions and Answers About Thyroid Problems in Women
If you found my thyroid FAQ, then you are probably seeking answers to your own thyroid problems. I’m glad you found me. When it comes to finding solutions for thyroid problems in women, it seems like there are more questions than answers. That’s how I felt, too, until I started a long journey to find my own answers. On this page, I share all the questions I had about my own thyroid problems and the answers that I finally found.
I hope my thyroid FAQ will help you better understand thyroid problems in women, so that you can find answers to your own thyroid struggles.
What is the function of the thyroid?
The thyroid gland affects a number of things:
- your weight (Low metabolism means slow conversion of fat into energy.)
- your energy levels (Thyroid hormones power you up.)
- your gastrointestinal health (Thyroid is responsible for stomach acid formation, essential for good digestion.)
- your nervous system (This is why low thyroid causes brain fog, forgetfulness, and depression.)
- your cardiovascular health (Many heart diseases could be avoided if the thyroid was properly checked.)
- your hormonal balance (This is why infertility is often caused by thyroid issues.)
Thyroid problems in women and in men can cause serious problems for the body as a whole.
What are the symptoms of hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid)?
- Increased perspiration
- Thinning of your skin
- Fine brittle hair
- Muscular weakness especially involving the upper arms and thighs
- Shaky hands
- Panic disorder
- Racing heart
- More frequent bowel movements
- Weight loss despite a good appetite
- Lighter flow, less frequent menstrual periods
What are the symptoms of hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid)?
- Fatigue, exhaustion
- Feeling run down and sluggish
- Difficulty concentrating, brain fog
- Unexplained or excessive weight gain
- Inability to lose weight no matter what you do
- Anxiety attacks
- Brain fog
- Dry, coarse and/or itchy skin
- Dry, coarse and/or thinning hair
- Feeling cold, especially in the extremities
- Constipation, indigestion
- Muscle cramps
- Increased menstrual flow
- More frequent periods
Is having thyroid nodules something I should worry about?
- Nodules and enlargements of the thyroid can indicate a hormonal imbalance called estrogen dominance which has been linked to the development of thyroid cancer. I wrote a detailed, medically-referenced article about this.
- Nodules and enlargements of the thyroid can indicate high toxicity in your life coming from food, skincare products, air, water consumption, etc. The thyroid is a sponge for toxins. For example, women in the Ukraine and Poland suffer even today from thyroid nodules and cancers caused by their thyroid glands absorbing radioactive toxins released long in the past.
One thing I recommend right away is for you to stop spraying commercial perfumes (no matter how big and expensive the brand is) on your neck (or anywhere for that matter)! They contain endocrine disruptors called phthalates which can contribute to thyroid nodules.
If your doctor is advising you to remove your thyroid (or part of it) due to benign nodules, seek a second opinion, especially from a holistic doctor who knows the thyroid.
You can also try eating to reverse estrogen dominance (the leading cause of thyroid nodules and cancer – but also breast lumps and even breast cancer). I cover the topic in this free workshop called How to Use Food to Rebalance Your Hormones. This is an important resource for combating thyroid problems in women.
In the past, I’ve also suffered from estrogen dominance, and I’ve managed to reverse it. I talk about it in this article.
What are some of the credible thyroid resources I could use?
My favorite and credible resources (addressing thyroid problems diet, thyroid problems in women, and other topics) are:
1. Dr. Izabella Wentz, the Thyroid Pharmacist, and her book The Root Cause
2. Dr. Kharrazian and his book Why Do I Still Have Thyroid Symptoms?
3. Chris Kresser’s blog – well researched and presented
4. Janie Bowthrope and her book Stop The Thyroid Madness
5. Dr. Osansky’s website – especially good for people with hyperthyroidism
Where do I find good doctors who understand thyroid, hormones, and autoimmune conditions?
One more great trick I want to offer you: if you are still having no luck finding a doctor, go to your local compounding pharmacy and ask them for a list of doctors who are their customers. We find that often times, doctors who are willing to work with compounded (meaning: custom-made for you) thyroid replacement therapy are more open-minded and progressive.
What questions can I ask my doctor to assess his/her knowledge of the thyroid?
Here are 3 questions you might want to ask, along with the answers you would want to hear.
- Your Question: What do you test for if I suspect having hypothyroidism?
- Answer You Want To Hear: TSH, free T3, free T4, reverse T3, TPO (thyroperoxidase) and anti-TGB (thyroglubolin) antibodies and vitamins and minerals (for details see above). Potentially your adrenals too, if we suspect adrenal fatigue.
- Your Next Question: Apart from Synthroid and other synthetic hormones, what other medications are you open to working with?
- Answer You Want To Hear: I’m open to working with whatever will work for you. Not one patient responds the same to thyroid medication/hormone therapy. I’m open to working also with natural thyroid hormones such as Armour, Nature-throid or compounded hormones (designed for your specific needs).
- Hint: Doctors who insist on treating you only with Synthroid should be avoided.
- Your Next Question: I might be suffering from adrenal fatigue; what would you suggest testing for?
- Answer You Want To Hear: I’m happy to test you for 4-point cortisol levels (from saliva not blood) and DHEA as a starting point.
- Hint: If your doc tells you there is no such thing as adrenal fatigue, move on to the next physician.
What are the things I should be asking for in my thyroid blood tests?
If you suspect you have a thyroid condition and want to bypass your doctor or avoid trying to convince them what tests to order, there’s the option to order your thyroid testing through me via Direct Labs. For more information, click here.
Why are TSH and T4 not enough to determine your thyroid’s health?
You can read and download information on what ranges to use (This is really important.), what complete thyroid lab tests to order, and more in this article.
Why should I test for thyroid antibodies?
What does it mean when my thyroid antibodies are high?
High TPO antibodies (see above) show the degree of the inflammation. Your antibodies should be below 30. Anything above 300 means serious inflammation – and above 500 a severe inflammation. 70% of people with hypothyroid have elevated TPO antibodies. My TPO antibodies were over 1,000, and I managed to bring them all down after adopting a thyroid problems diet and making sound lifestyle changes.
People with hyperthyroid and Graves’ Disease are also likely to have TSI (thyroid stimulating immunoglobulins) antibodies elevated. It’s not uncommon, though, to have TPOs elevated too.
If you’ve never had your thyroid antibodies tested before, we can provide the test for you right here.
What if the doctor does not want to test me for a full thyroid panel you recommend here?
I’ve put together a list of directories that might help you find a supportive and knowledgeable practitioner in your area. They do exist!
How can I order a thyroid test myself?
Could it be that I have a thyroid problem even though my blood tests are normal?
TSH and FT4 are widely used, alone, as the ONLY indicators of thyroid heath; they are, however, highly deceptive. Firstly, the range is a disputed issue; many people feel sick even though they have a “normal” TSH. Secondly, TSH and FT4 are indirect measures of the thyroid’s health. To make a proper diagnosis and help you, your doctor needs to do a full thyroid panel test which includes free T3, and – most importantly! – he or she needs to look at your symptoms and your health history to give a conclusive diagnosis.
Why are thyroid conditions so often misdiagnosed or undiagnosed?
If you suspect you have a thyroid condition, don’t despair. You can bypass a doctor so you don’t have to convince them what tests to order or pay expensive doctor appointment fees. You can order testing through me via Direct Labs. To learn more click here. From this list, you will also learn what to test for so you can ask your doctor to order these tests for you if you choose.
I need help. What can you do for me, Magdalena?
Don’t worry; I’m here to help. If you’ve been struggling with your own thyroid crisis and nothing you’ve tried has worked, I am here to empower you with the right knowledge and action plans and to point you toward the right resources to regain your thyroid health. (P.S. I’ve done it, and so can you!)
I can offer you a few things to get started. Pick whatever works best for you:
1. Watch Thyroid Diet Videos. (They are free.)
2. Download the Thyroid Diet Starter Kit. (The kit is free if you sign up as member.)
3. Listen to the Hormone Community Calls podcasts. (Yes, they’re free too.)
4. Enroll in a free workshop on “How to Use Food to Rebalance Your Hormones” to learn how to cook for thyroid health and create your own thyroid problems diet.
Don’t hesitate to email if you have any questions.
I no longer offer one-on-one coaching programs; however, I do offer online group coaching at the www.CookingforBalance.com program.
How do I check if I have other hormone problems?
1. low thyroid + estrogen dominance
2. low thyroid + adrenal fatigue (stage II or III)
3. low thyroid + low estrogen (like menopause)
4. low thyroid and PCOS
You can take an online hormone quiz to get an indication of what other hormonal imbalances could be at play.
What is the difference between Hashimoto’s Disease and hypothyroidism?
You might not be aware that most thyroid problems in women (and men) are in fact NOT caused by a thyroid disease but by an autoimmune disorder in which your own immune system gets mutated and starts attacking your own thyroid tissue. This attack can then cause the thyroid to start under-producing the thyroid hormones (mainly T4).
An autoimmune disease is very hard to treat, as modern medicine professes not have a cure for it today. This is also why it’s so important to measure your antibody levels to understand the degree of the disease. Sadly, hardly any doctor will run these tests. Doctors may prescribe medications like Synthroid, Levoxyl, Cytomel, etc., which are synthetic versions of the thyroid hormone that your thyroid is not sufficiently producing; however, these drugs do not address the real cause of your low-thyroid function: the killer antibodies produced by your immune system.
As much as western allopathic medicine is not equipped to deal with autoimmune conditions like Hashimoto’s and Graves’, the good news is that there is absolutely hope to be found by changing your diet, improving your sleep, and supporting your body’s detoxification process. Check out my information on creating a thyroid problems diet!
Further resources and inspiration:
What is Hashimoto’s Disease treatment?
3. Stories of other people with thyroid issues.
Why is it key for me to fix my adrenals when I have a thyroid problem?
When thyroid hormones are prescribed for hypothyroidism, the metabolism of the body is increased. This will stimulate the adrenals to play along, but when the adrenals are not able to produce sufficient hormones they can get completely overloaded – this can even cause failure of the adrenal glands.
Treating thyroid without treating the adrenals will not produce good results and in some cases will even make the patient feel worse.
Have you ever had your thyroid hormones tested? If not, we can provide testing right here.
What are the symptoms of adrenal fatigue?
- Excessive fatigue and exhaustion
- Feeling rundown or overwhelmed
- Difficulty concentrating, brain fog
- Poor digestion
- Low immune function
- Food or environmental allergies
- Premenstrual syndrome or difficulties that develop during menopause
- Extreme sensitivity to cold
In contrast, the symptoms listed below are unique to adrenal fatigue and are not symptoms of hypothyroidism:
- Not feeling rested even after having slept 10 hours
- Feeling overwhelmed by or unable to cope with stressors
- Craving salty and sweet foods
- Feeling most energetic in the evening
- Feeling the day does not start till 10am or after 2 cups of coffee
- Feeling really tired after exercise
- Being slow to recover from injury, illness, or stress
- Consistent low blood pressure and lightheadedness when getting up
- Dark circles under the eyes
- Frequent sighing
What is adrenal fatigue, and how is it connected to the thyroid?
It’s not only for people working on Wall Street or in advertising. 70% of homeless people suffer from adrenal fatigue, too. This means anybody can who sustains chronic stress, pain, or ordeal can develop adrenal fatigue.
The adrenal glands kick in in times of stress. When we need to run from danger, they mobilize our energy and give us a sugar high to escape. This condition is supposed to be temporary in nature. Unfortunately, for many people such states become frequent occurrences that wear out the adrenals, making them become under- or over-active.
The adrenals have four key functions:
1. Modulate our immune system
2. Balance out our sugar levels
3. Help us deal with any form of stress
4. Modulate blood pressure
There are many things to be said about the adrenals and thyroid connection. The key issue is that over- or under-active adrenals can’t support the immune system sufficiently. Given that most people have Hashimoto’s disease (an autoimmune disorder), this is not good news.
The other problem is that poor adrenal function will interfere with the T4 to T3 hormone conversion. This is a common cause of thyroid problems in women.
Do you suspect you are suffering from adrenal fatigue? You can do two things:
1. Take an online quiz to see if you have low or high adrenals. (This link will take you to my other website, called Hormones Balance, that focuses on hormonal imbalances other than thyroid imbalance).
2. Order an adrenal test kit (testing via saliva) or ask your functional doctor to order the test for you. My favorite labs are Labrix and ZRT Labs. Conventionally-trained doctors sometimes want to test the morning blood cortisol, but it’s not a reliable adrenal test when blood is used.
I suffer from a sugar problem/addiction (hypoglycemia or insulin resistance). Does it impact my thyroid?
Many people do not realize they have a problem with sugar. The symptoms you should be looking for are:
- Feeling shaky, weak, unfocused, and/or moody when hungry
- Carrying belly fat that won’t go away
- Feeling that you can still eat after a full meal (feeling hungry even when full)
- Feeling the meal is not complete without something sweet at the end
- Feeling tired after a meal
- Craving sugar
- Waking up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom
- Having difficulty concentrating, brain fog, and lethargy
If you find yourself ticking two or more items from the above list, I recommend getting your suspicions confirmed with a functional physician. Ask your doctor to test your fasting glucose levels but also HA1C and insulin. You can also order them right here. It important that for fasting glucose, you compare your results to the functional range of 74-84 mg/dL and not 65 – 99 mg/dL, which is too wide a range to be considered healthy. Also strive for your HA1C to be in the range of 4.8 – 5.1% to be considered healthy – not 4.8 – 5.6%, which is sometimes stated as acceptable.
The other connection to sugar and thyroid is candida – an yeast overgrowth. 70% of women I work with have a candida problem. Craving sugar is one of the many symptoms of candida. The problem with candida is that it inhibits the conversation of T4 to T3 thyroid hormone and it also contributes to the development of leaky gut. Candida should be one of the first things to treat and address in your thyroid diet and healing protocol.
I’ve developed a workshop called How to Use Food to Rebalance Your Hormones, where I teach how to change your breakfast, as the first and easiest way to change your relationship with sugar and rebalance your sugar levels.
How is the gut connected to my immune system?
Why is it important for me to fix my immune system?
The second thing is this: often times an autoimmune disease (such as Hashimoto’s or Graves’) mutates into something else. 60% of fibromyalgia patients suffer from thyroid issues too. Other conditions like lupus and rheumatoid arthritis are also autoimmune conditions often connected to the thyroid.
Is my hypo- or hyper-thyroid condition caused by an autoimmune disorder?
Thyroid problems in women are more frequent than in men, with about a 7:10 ratio of prevalence for men to women.
In the case of hypothyroidism, the autoimmune disorder is called Hashimoto’s Disease, and in hyperthyroidism – Graves’ Disease.
Why has my doctor never explained this to me? Why were my antibodies never tested?
- Modern Western medicine is most often focused on treating the symptoms, not the root cause of any disease.
- There is no medication, apart from steroids, to lower the inflammation of the body.
- Doctors were never taught nutrition in medical school, hence they can’t really advise on what thyroid problem diet foods should be.
- Western medicine does not recognize chronic inflammation as a medical condition.
Why are there so many thyroid problems in women today?
An ordinary physician would tell you “we don’t know why this is happening.” If you are a little analytical, well-read, and observant, you will start connecting the dots, namely:
1. We suffer from nutritional deficiency.
- Our aggressive agricultural practices deplete the soil, fruit, and veggies of nutritional value.
- We eat lots of processed food, which – nutritionally speaking – is “dead food.” This includes food like protein shakes and powders marketed as healthy food.
2. We suffer from toxicity, found in:
- The environment
- Food, especially non-organic food
- Water (chlorine, fluoride)
- Household cleaners
- Personal skincare products
3. We suffer from overuse of antibiotics, which kill both good and bad bacteria in the gut, leaving it highly damaged and vulnerable to diseases, including autoimmune disorders.
Why are women more impacted than men? Why do we see more thyroid problems in women? Because our hormonal balance is much easier to disrupt than men’s. There are many hypotheses as to why that is, and one that appeals to me goes back to our ancestry. As women, we used to be home makers, nurturers, and supporters. Men were the ones who hunted and fought, so their endocrine (as well as muscular and neurological) systems developed to handle more adversity than women. In today’s world, as women, we often fight and hunt in our own modern ways, but the question is: how well are our endocrine systems designed to handle this pressure?
What is a Thyroid Problems Diet?
Step 1: REMOVE what is detrimental and toxic to your health. This means sugar, food addictions, thyroid foods to avoid, food intolerances, toxicity in your gut and life. To get the complete list of Food In and Out Guide, please sign up for the free Thyroid Diet Starter Kit.
Step 2: ADD what your thyroid and your body need to start healing. This means the right food for your thyroid, herbs, supplements, vitamins, and minerals. Let’s not forget about also adding some grounding/de-stressing techniques, movement, and good old fun. You can find out about the foods you should add to your diet in the free Thyroid Diet Starter Kit.
Step 3: BALANCE based on your bio-individuality; no one plan works for everybody, as each person has a unique way of healing. For example, sauerkraut can be a highly healing food, but if a person has a histamine intolerance, sauerkraut (and any fermented foods for that matter) may cause the person to develop psoriasis, anxiety attacks, headaches, and many other symptoms. The Thyroid Diet Starter Kit I’ve referenced above will give you more ideas what balancing looks like.
How soon will I feel the results of the Thyroid Problems Diet?
When I adopt the Thyroid Problems Diet, can I start reducing my medication dose?
Many of my clients have experienced this and some have even managed to get off thyroid medication (or hormone replacement, we should say). Whether or not you will be able to get off your medication will depend on the degree of damage your immune system has done to your thyroid gland. If your immune system has been attacking your thyroid over the past 10 years, then the chances of your thyroid going back to functioning well are slim. Having said that, you should not be discouraged from making dietary and lifestyle changes. Many of my clients do experience dramatic improvements after going on a thyroid problems diet. Most people who make these changes start feeling like themselves again, which – in my view – is the most important thing!
Will I ever be able to get off medication or heal completely?
- The earlier you catch your thyroid problem and make changes, the better your chances are of making a complete recovery. (Like in the case of this author!)
- It will depend on the condition of your thyroid gland and the degree to which it can start producing T4 and T3 hormones on its own again. No one will be able to tell you what the effects of diet and lifestyle changes upon your T4 and T3 hormones will be until you try it. In any case, you will feel significantly better when you adopt the Thyroid Problems Diet.
- Even if your thyroid is significantly compromised or you have lost it to cancer, the Thyroid Problems Diet will still benefit you. The thyroid problems diet will help with converting T4 to T3 hormones more effectively in your liver and gut (meaning less medication), and it will help you reduce the inflammation in your body (meaning more energy, weight loss and less fatigue). The thyroid problems diet I recommend will also help prevent you from developing additional autoimmune conditions and sensitivities in the future.
Why should I eliminate gluten?
What is gluten? It’s a protein found in wheat, rye, barley, spelt, couscous, and kamut grains. As you can see, since it’s found in wheat, this means you would need to avoid: pasta, bread, cakes, cookies, pizzas, etc.
Many doctors and patients are dismissive of gluten intolerance — which is different from a gluten allergy. (A gluten allergy is an immediate negative reaction, whereas a gluten intolerance is a delayed reaction occurring anywhere from 20 minutes to 2 days later.) Just because a person tests negative for Celiac’s, it does not mean they do not have a gluten intolerance. Many doctors have a limited perspective on this topic, and it’s important that you read the paragraphs below to fully understand it and manage your health.
There are two main wheat protein compounds: gliadins and glutenins. (They are the ones that give bread its elasticity and ability to rise.) Within the gliadin class, there are four different types we know of: alpha-, beta-, gamma- and omega-gliadin. When we eat food containing gluten, our digestive tract produces enzymes called tissue transglutaminases (tTG) to help to break down the wheat protein.
Now, for people with Celiac disease’s, we know that they react to one specific type of gliadin, alpha-gliadin, and a specific type of transglutaminase, tTG-2, and this what the conventional lab tests check for. However, people with wheat and gluten intolerance (including the ones with Hashimoto’s disease) can also have a reaction to the other types of gliadins. The Celiac’s tests do not test for them. This is why many of us are told that as long as you test negative for Celiac’s, you can eat gluten. This is a very dangerous and inaccurate piece of advice.
Many people experience an understandable reluctance – perhaps even denial – about giving up gluten. They can’t imagine living without it! Let me assure you that it is possible to experience a wonderful and complete life without gluten, once you give yourself the permission to give it up for just a couple of weeks in order to see how you feel. I recommend for you to do an Elimination Diet (I cover it in the www.CookingforBalance.com free workshop.) by removing gluten together with dairy, eggs, corn, soy, and sugar for just three weeks. You will then re-introduce them one by one to see how you feel. Your body will never lie. Most people with autoimmune conditons and thyroid problems who reintroduce these foods report symptoms ranging from feeling tired, depressed, and anxious to having poor sleep and putting on weight.
The bottom line is: most people experience significant improvement in their health when they reduce or eliminate gluten.
There are many substitutes available today like rice pasta, gluten-free breads, crackers, etc. Even mainstream chains like McDonald’s and Subway are now offering gluten-free menus. Having said that, many of these products are loaded with additives and sugar, so watch the product labels. It is best to transition to a whole food diet consisting of real food.
Speak to a nutrition coach to help you develop a transition plan complete with meal plans and shopping lists. You will be on your way to establishing a healthy and nurturing thyroid problems diet!
Do I need more iodine if I have hypothyroidism?
Interestingly, however, if you have Hashimoto’s (which is approximately 90% of the people with hypothyroidism), iodine can create even more havoc in the body; it’s like adding fuel to the fire. Integrative doctors are split in their opinions on this topic, but the majority lean towards the “no iodine with Hashimoto’s” approach. In my own practice, I’ve worked with many women who were put on iodine supplements (including kelp pills) which resulted in their TPO antibodies shooting up and them feeling worse. I do not recommend iodine for thyroid problems in women with Hasimoto’s.
You can find many medical studies that support this approach.
Without a doubt, we need iodine to function properly. In fact, the breast tissue has the highest concentration of iodine, and it’s important for us not to be deficient in iodine if we are to maintain good breast health. In my approach, I recommend for clients to first bring down the TPO antibodies to under 100. (You can read about how to do it with a proper thyroid problems diet here.) Only then should clients bring up their daily dose of iodine through supplements or food like kelp and seafood.
What thyroid foods to avoid in hypothyroid / Hashimoto’s Disease?
In my practice, I have met people who have developed thyroid problems after going on a “health kick” and juicing a bunch of kale everyday for 3 months. I have also met many newly converted vegans and vegetarians who have relied heavily on soy-based products to replace meat protein and developed thyroid symptoms after months of following their new “healthy diet.”
I am therefore a proponent of moderation which means:
1. Not eating excessive crucifers in raw form. In cooked form, they are great for us; see reasons below.
2. If you eat raw crucifers like raw arugula salad, limit your intake to 2 servings per week.
3. Don’t get rid of all fermented foods. Fermented foods like sauerkraut are still raw crucifers. Does that mean you should cut them out? No. Since 90% of thyroid problems occur for autoimmune reasons, our attention should be on resorting the health of our immune system through our gut, rather than on obsessing about cutting out all crucifers. I recommend 2 servings of ferments per day as part of your gut-restoration protocol, and they should be varied and rotated between ferments that are crucifer-based and ones that are not crucifer-based, like miso (if you can tolerate fermented soy), dill pickles (lacto-fermented, not in vinegar), coconut water kefir, coconut milk yoghurt, and a strong probiotic supplement.
Many people have great results when they limit their intake of goitrous food. This is how to go about it:
Foods To Avoid in Raw Form (No More Than 2 Servings Per Week):
- Bok choy
- Brussel sprouts
- Mustard greens
- Soy milk
- Soybean oil
- Soy lecithin (often used as a filler in vegetarian food)
Foods to Go Easy On in Raw Form (No More Than 3-4 Servings Per Week):
- Bamboo shoots
- Pine nuts
- Sweet potatoes