Apart from the common symptoms of fatigue and tiredness, weight-loss resistance, brain fog and poor focus, low thyroid states affect the cellular function of each different tissue type in the body. Part 1 listed the following as less recognized symptoms of hypothyroidism including headaches, arthritis –pain, heart problems, sleep apnea -sleep problems, diabetes, low blood pressure, depression, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s like diseases, miscarriage, difficulty falling pregnant, pre-mature birth, and pregnancy complications. Let’s take some of these one by one and look at how the lack of thyroid hormone can cause them.
Many different things cause headaches. Several things to consider include muscle and nerve disfunction causing tension-type headaches. When muscle and nerve cells don’t receive the proper amount of thyroid hormone the cells become dysfunctional resulting in cramping, spasms, nerve over-excitability and thus, tension. This tension occurs in the upper shoulders, neck and even the muscles under the scalp. Another way low thyroid causes headaches is related to thyroid’s influence on hormones. Migraine headaches are sometimes caused by imbalances in the core hormones such as estrogen, progesterone and nor-epinephrine/epinephrine (the adrenal hormones also known as nor-adrenaline/adrenaline). Imbalances in these also cause a whole host of other issues as I will discuss below, but the following premise is the same: you must balance/correct thyroid before it’s possible to balance the core hormones.
Why would low thyroid cause joint, or arthritis pain? One of the main jobs the cells in our joint capsules have is to make a lubricating fluid to help keep our cartilage smooth and mobile. When these cells are healthy, they make plenty of this fluid and ease the pressure and friction for freer movement in our joints. When there is not enough thyroid present, these cells don’t function as they should; they produce less of the lubricating fluid resulting in pressure build up with more friction of movement. Certain joints are affected in different people for other reasons.
What about heart problems and low thyroid? Heart muscle cells are very specialized and complex cells. To make this brief, the heart cell’s function can be affected in many ways with low thyroid. Coronary artery spasms can occur,for the reasons I explained above with muscle cell function and low thyroid, in the smooth muscle cells that help our arteries “push” blood along. Dysfunction in these cells can lead to angina and heart attack. Palpitations, or racing heart, skipped beats, heart block, and even heart failure can all be the result of heart muscle cell dysfunction when they don’t get enough thyroid hormone input.
Insomnia is a known symptom of low thyroid. When the cells of our sleep center in our brains aren’t getting the proper thyroid stimulation, they will not make the proper chemicals needed to induce sleep or help us maintain sleep through the night. When these cells lack thyroid input, this also reduces our brain cells’ ability to utilize oxygen affecting these same chemicals needed for sleep. As a result, you get non-restorative sleep, you wake up tired and ready to go back to bed. Another factor possibly at play is the respiratory center of our brains which help our lungs involuntarily take in oxygen in exchange for carbon dioxide. If the cells of this center lack thyroid input, our breathing at night (or really anytime) can be erratic and the oxygen delivery to our brain cells will decrease which also affects the right chemicals being produced in our brains. This lack of oxygen during sleep is called sleep apnea. The lack of oxygen over time can also cause dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, thus another result of a chronic low thyroid state.
Type II diabetes is another chronic condition you wouldn’t necessarily consider to be directly related to a low thyroid state. When your liver cells–which store glucose as glycogen, a process requiring insulin–do not receive the proper thyroid stimulation, their function decreases. This causes these cells to be more and more insulin resistant. When it gets bad enough that glucose, which cannot be stored properly as glycogen, spills back into the blood stream where it is toxic, this is what type II diabetes is. Glucose in the blood causes “end-organ damage” by then “glycating” or sticking to the cells of different tissues, including blood cells, causing damage in myriad different ways: blindness, glaucoma, Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, high blood pressure, weight gain, renal (kidney) failure, decreased immune function leading to deeper infections often times leading to amputations, autoimmune conditions, and many more.