The Thyroid

There are hormones involved in every part of our body’s functioning, and one way in which they have an impact is on our energy levels. There are a few ways in which this is the case, but one is because of the gland known as the thyroid.

In particular, if you’re experiencing powerful fatigue for no obvious reason, it may be because your thyroid is underactive and doesn’t produce enough hormones. It’s known as hypothyroidism, and while it has a range of causes, it can make you feel tired, slow your heart rate, weaken your memory, lower your mood and generally cause a lack of energy, both physical and mental. It can also make you gain weight, feel constipated and even reduce your tolerance for colds.

Thyroid problems are particularly worrying during pregnancy, when your thyroid is supposed to grow and produce more thyroid hormones so mother and fetus both receive enough. Hypothyroidism during pregnancy can cause physical and cognitive delays in growth for the baby. It can also contribute to the risk of miscarriage. Women are generally more at risk of hypothyroidism than men.

In the world overall, the most common cause of hypothyroidism is an iodine deficiency. If you’re in America or another country where iodine is often added to salt to ensure you receive an adequate amount, the most likely suspect is the autoimmune condition known as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. This tends to show up somewhere between the ages of 30 and 60. Other causes may include certain medications or physical damage to the glands.

Diagnosis is usually through a blood test. As with other hormone deficiencies, the most obvious treatment is to top up the hormone. It’s an ongoing thing, and you may have to take medication for the rest of your life. If it boosts your energy and improves your general wellbeing as you age, that may be a price worth paying.

The thyroid on its own cannot explain every case of fatigue. Even among the hormones, cortisol and testosterone also have a role to play, and the list of other possible causes is long. It is, however, something it’s important to be aware of as you age. Sometimes tiredness can be dismissed as a natural sign of growing older, and we may not recognize that it can have an actual medical origin.

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