12 Physical Signs of Thyroid Disorders
I know it's common to talk about symptoms of thyroid disorders like fatigue and feeling cold, but did you know that there are physical signs of thyroid dysfunction as well?
Today we are going to be going through 12 different physical signs of thyroid dysfunction, so you can be on the lookout for any potential and imbalances. Let's jump in.
Hello everyone. My name is Katie Creche and I am a gut health functional medicine dietitian at Oswald Digestive Clinic, where we help people improve and eliminate bothersome gut issues like gas, bloat, diarrhea, constipation, and more.
So today's topic is all about some of the physical signs that can occur when the thyroid isn't functioning properly. But before we jump in, I want to do a quick overview of what the thyroid gland is and why it's so important.
The thyroid gland is located in our neck under the voice box and it's butterfly-shaped. It secretes three hormones, calcitonin, T3, and t4, all of which play a large role in the regulation of many body processes.
Calcitonin is involved in calcium and bone metabolism. T3 and T4 are the actual thyroid hormones that are involved in metabolism, heart rate growth, cholesterol levels, blood sugar regulation, digestion, and reproductive health.
T3 is the active thyroid hormone, and T4 is the inactive thyroid hormone, which can be converted to T3 as needed. Now, T3 influences our metabolic rate by stimulating nearly every tissue in our body to produce proteins and also by increasing the amount of oxygen that we use.
As you can see, our thyroid gland is a key player in our health, and if thyroid disorders go untreated, we can experience things like feeling cold and tired, having weak nails, or having trouble losing weight.
Serious consequences can occur as well, such as cognitive impairment, dyslipidemia, which is alterations in our cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, infertility, neuromuscular dysfunction, and in the most extreme cases, a coma.
12 Physical Signs of Thyroid Disorders
So what are some of the physical signs of thyroid disorders to be on the lookout for?
Number one is alopecia. So that is hair thinning, hair loss, and thinning of the outer third of the eyebrow. And this can occur because T3 is a large driver in hair growth.
So if your levels are low, then the body simply has trouble keeping up on proper hair growth and this can appear as bald spots or overall thinning on the head. And also thinning of the outer third of the eyebrow is also a common sign of that thyroid dysfunction.
Thankfully, this type of hair loss is typically not permanent and regrowth can occur once the underlying thyroid dysfunction has been corrected.
Physical sign number two is called Carino DMA. Now keratin derma is characterized by skin that has a yellow or orange pigmentation due to high keratine levels in the blood, and it often can be confused with jaundice.
While this condition can certainly occur from excessively eating foods high in keratin like carrots, but hypothyroidism can also be a cause, and that's because thyroid hormone is an antagonist to vitamin A and controls its rate of breakdown.
Therefore, if someone has insufficient amounts of t3, t4, they'll be less able to convert keratin to vitamin A resulting in keratin building up in the body.
Physical sign Number three is dry skin. Our skin, like our hair capillary flow and sweat glands, are highly regulated by our thyroid hormones.
So when thyroid hormones are running low, dry skin becomes a common complication. The skin can even become rough with fine scales, which can extend to the palms and the soles of the feet.
Number four is per-orbital edema. So per orbital edema is a condition where there's swelling around the eyes, and this can occur in up to 25 to even 50% of individuals who have graves hyperthyroidism.
And this manifests as an autoimmune inflammatory disease of the eye and surrounding tissues via stimulation of orbital fibroblasts.
Physical sign number five is exophthalmos. So this is another eye condition that's associated with Graves hyperthyroidism, but it's different in that exophthalmos exhibits an as bulging or protrusion of one eye or both eyes from the eye socket.
And this occurs due to inflammation and accumulation of fluid behind that eye causing displacement of the eyeball forward.
Number six is follicular hyperkeratosis. This is a skin condition that is caused by keratin buildup around those hair follicles, which creates small raised red or dark-colored bumps on the skin.
And this occurs similarly to physical sign number three, which was dry skin in that our thyroid hormones play a big role in our skin health. So when thyroid hormones are running low, our skin starts to suffer.
Physical sign number seven is goiter. So goiter is a classic sign of thyroid trouble. Goiter occurs when the thyroid gland grows in size and starts to protrude from the neck. The entire thyroid can grow larger or can develop lumps called nodules.
Now, goiter can occur in both hypo and hyperthyroidism but typically occurs in autoimmune thyroid diseases like Graves Disease or Hashimotos. In both of these conditions, the inflammation in the thyroid gland is what causes it to grow larger.
Another common cause of goiter is iodine deficiency. Iodine is essential for producing thyroid hormones, so if someone has a deficiency, the thyroid grows and makes more cells to try to increase its capacity for making more thyroid hormones.
While iodine deficiency is actually very common worldwide, it's very rare in the United States due to the use of iodized salt. So definitely don't run out and buy an iodine supplement unless indicated by your health provider.
Physical sign number eight is macroglossia. Macroglossia is a condition where the tongue becomes large enough that it protrudes beyond the teeth during resting posture and is often seen in cases of hypothyroidism. The tongue can also become fid or have cracks.
Physical sign number nine is mixed edema. Mixed edema is defined as swelling of the skin and underlying tissues resulting in a waxy consistency, and this typically occurs in cases of severe hypothyroidism.
The swelling can beat in the face such as the lips, the eyelids, and the tongue, or it can be anywhere on the body really, especially the lower legs. And this occurs due to low thyroid hormone levels driving the deposition of sugar molecules into the skin, which then attracts water and leads to swelling.
Physical sign number 10 is paraesthesia. So paraesthesia is the feeling of tingling or pricking or that pins and needle sensation. And while this is common, if you fall asleep on your arm wrong, this is not normal if it is occurring all the time and with no clear cause.
Paraesthesia typically occurs in hypothyroidism, which causes fluid buildup, swelling, and pressure on the nerves in the arms and the legs, and then this is what leads to that tingling feeling.
Physical sign number 11 is thin brittle nails or even plumber's, nails. Again, the thyroid hormone is very involved in tissues like our skin, hair, and nails. So nail issues can definitely be a sign of thyroid dysfunction.
Thin, slow-growing and brittle nails are typically a sign of low thyroid hormones. Now, a plumber's nails are a severe manifestation of nail abnormalities where the end of the fingernails actually starts to separate and lift from the nail bed, and the shape is generally concave in nature and white and the ring finger seems to be particularly affected.
The plumber's nails occur as a result of hyperthyroidism. So the complete opposite of the thin and brittle nails example. Okay, we've made it to the last one.
Physical sign number 12 is the scalped tongue. So a scalped tongue looks how it sounds. So it's scalloped along the edges with indentations from pressing on the teeth. And this occurs as a result of physical sign number eight, which was macroglossia with a large tongue. So when the tongue swells in size, it presses against the teeth causing those indentations.
All right, so we've made it through the top 12 physical signs of thyroid disorder. So what's next?
If you've noticed any of these symptoms or if you suspect that you have a thyroid imbalance, be sure to check with your healthcare provider and ask for a full thyroid panel, not just the standard TSH that's typically ordered.
A full thyroid panel includes TSH, t4, free t4, t3, free t3, reverse t3, and thyroid antibodies. Unfortunately, you'll find that conventional providers are often unable or unwilling to order this full panel.
So if you're encountering this, encourage you to seek out a functional medicine provider, which can include us at Oswald Digestive Clinic, and we have access to many functional labs and would love to help you uncover and solve any thyroid issues.
Now, before we close, I want to offer some things that you can do to keep your thyroid gland happy. Now, before we jump in, I just wanna state that this is not medical advice and I do not know your unique medical history.
If you have any concerns, please discuss these with your provider.
How to keep your thyroid gland happy and healthy
So the first thing that we can consider is reducing exposure to endocrine disruptors such as BPA bowels and flame retardant compounds. Studies have found that BPA can disrupt thyroid dysfunction and the ability to transport thyroid hormones through multiple mechanisms.
So if you're still eating and drinking outta plastic cups and Tupperware, it's time to switch over to a safer alternative such as glass or stainless steel.
Definitely make sure to look up your beauty and cleaning products on the environmental working groups database or EWG as well, and you'll be surprised by how many toxins are hidden in those products. You can find a link to this database in the notes below.
Thing number two that you can try is reducing stress and inflammation. Cortisol is our body's stress hormone, and when it's high, it can suppress thyroid hormones and promote inflammation.
A 2018 randomized double-blind study showed that the subjects who were given ashwagandha for eight weeks had improved TSH, T3, and T4 compared to the placebo group. So if you're looking for a great stress-relieving supplement that includes ashwagandha, I have my favorite one linked in the notes below.
Ashwagandha/stress supplement: https://flussonutrients.nutridyn.com/...
Another great way to reduce that stress and inflammation is getting into a daily routine of incorporating stress relieving techniques, and this is something that I commonly include in my work with my clients.
There are a lot of different techniques out there like meditation, yoga, and deep belly breathing, and you may need to try a few of them until you're able to find one that works well for you. Stress relieving techniques are a lot like exercise.
Someone might prefer jogging while another one prefers weightlifting, yet another prefers Pilates. You might have to try out a few until you find one that's a good fit that you enjoy and can be consistent with.
Inflammation can also come from the food that we eat. The standard American diet or the SAD diet is typically filled with inflammatory foods such as processed carbohydrates, simple sugars, gluten, inflammatory seed oils, artificial colors, and many more.
Food sensitivities are also becoming more and more common due to poor gut health and consuming foods that you're sensitive to can also trigger inflammation.
So where do we start to reduce inflammation?
A great place to start is shopping the perimeter of the grocery, so avoid those tempting center aisles, cook from scratch and focus on quality, healing whole foods, eliminating things like gluten and sugar in inflammatory seed oils like soybean oil, canola oil, or cottonseed oil to name a few are a great place to start.
I'd like to challenge you to take a peek at the items in your fridge and pantry, and I'm sure you'll find that most of them have some form of gluten sugar, or inflammatory oils in them. They are very common additives, unfortunately, in processed foods that we find everywhere at the grocery store today.
So things like chips and crackers, and even things like salad dressings and mayo. Instead, we want to focus on high-quality meats, so things that are organic, pasture-raised, grass finish, wild cut as much as possible, organic produce, and healthy fats like whole avocados, grassed, GE coconut oil, cold pressed olive oils and nuts and seeds.
And what this would look like in action is having organic paste-raised eggs with a vegetable hash for breakfast, having a kale salad with your favorite chop veggies and blueberries, and a homemade olive oil dressing and thinly sliced organic grass-fed steak for lunch, followed by roast roasted sweet potatoes and bell peppers with baked salmon for dinner.
Yum. Eating whole foods is a great way to reduce inflammation and improve your health, including that important thyroid gland of yours.
Number three we can try is ensuring that you're eating a diverse diet with adequate intakes of iodine, iron, selenium, and zinc, iodine and iron help with thyroid hormone synthesis where selenium and zinc help convert that inactive T4 into active t3.
Now, high-iodine foods include things like seaweed, fish, shellfish, dairy, eggs, beef, liver, and chicken. However, most of our intake in the US typically comes from iodine, salt, Excess iodine intake can actually harm your thyroid as well.
So definitely don't add an iodine supplement unless specifically specified by your provider. High-iron foods include things like beef or chicken, liver, mussels, oysters beef, and sardines. These forms contain heme iron, which is highly absorbable.
Non-heme iron sources which are less absorbable but still helpful are beans, tofu, dried apricots and seeds like pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, and squash seeds. High selenium foods include Brazil nuts, fish, pork, shrimp, Turkey, beef, liver, eggs, and chicken.
And lastly, high-zinc foods include beef, pork and chicken, shellfish, legumes, mushrooms, dairy, nuts, and seeds.
The fourth thing that we can do is take care of our gut. Research has shown that more than half of patients with hypothyroidism have cbo, so that small intestinal bacterial overgrowth.
At Oswald Digestive Clinic, we are experts at balancing gut issues and battling inflammation. So if you feel like you have some gut and or thyroid issues, we would love to help you. We can even run comprehensive testing like stool tests or food sensitivity tests to get to the bottom of your symptoms.
You can get in touch with us by making an initial appointment. I hope this information about the 12 physical signs of thyroid disorders was helpful to you and you are now feeling confident about identifying any imbalances and know where to go if you have concerns.
If you'd like to explore any of this information further, do some lab testing or obtain an individualized nutrition plan, you can schedule an appointment at our clinic. We also take insurance and some of our clients get full coverage, which is great, or you can just start by downloading our free guide.
Thank you and I hope you have a great rest of your day.
If you'd like to explore any of this information further or obtain an individualized nutrition plan, you can schedule an initial appointment at our clinic. We also take insurance and some of our clients get full coverage, which is great.
Or you can just start by downloading our FREE GUIDE: 5 WAYS TO IMPROVE GUT HEALTH