If you have a subclinical hypothyroid disorder, it flies beneath the radar because it isn’t recognizable enough to most medical professionals. For example, you might visit your doctor and say, “I feel tired all the time, I’m gaining weight, and I don’t feel like myself. I’ve heard that maybe it could be my thyroid, can you please check it for me?” Your doctor then orders a few blood tests called “TSH, T3, and T4” to assess the situation. The results from your blood work don’t show anything obvious. Your TSH is slightly elevated but T3 and T4 are normal, so your doctor says, “Everything looks good, maybe you just aren’t getting enough sleep?” But you know something isn’t right. Time goes on, you feel like you’re dragging through each day. You might feel depressed, constipated, and like your brain is in a constant “fog.” You can’t think clearly and feel unfocused.
Subclinical hypothyroidism is extremely widespread—and, like most hormonal disorders today, it is often caused by a polluted environment full of hormone disruptors. But being subclinical, meaning not severe enough and its signs are not easily detectable by a physical exam or laboratory test, it may go undiagnosed unless the physician/specialist in question knows their stuff and is smart enough to pay closer attention to not only the numbers on your blood work but on your symptoms as well.
Considering subclinical hypothyroidism is an early form of hypothyroidism, it may go undiagnosed and completely ignored for years, which may negatively affect your health.
One major consequence of leaving subclinical hypothyroidism untreated is coronary artery diseases. But the most common side effect is its progression into full hypothyroidism. In fact, 27% of those with subclinical hypothyroidism progress to full-blown hypothyroidism within six years of initial diagnosis.
In fact, it is estimated today that some 3 to 8% of the general population suffer from subclinical hypothyroidism and that number goes up to 20% in women over age 60.
Subclinical hypothyroidism can sometimes present with absolutely zero symptoms or with symptoms such as:
· dry skin
· poor memory
· slow thinking
· muscle weakness
· muscle cramps
· cold intolerance
· puffy eyes
· puffy face
· aches, tenderness and stiffness
· heavier than normal or irregular menstrual periods
· slowed heart rate
· impaired memory
· low libido
What happens in the body when someone has subclinical hypothyroidism?
Subclinical hypothyroidism is a mild form of hypothyroidism. The thyroid gland underperforms to the point that there are noticeable impacts on energy, happiness, weight, and other health aspects but a thyroid test looks normal.
With subclinical hypothyroidism, as Harvard Health notes,
Subclinical hypothyroidism frequently describes a situation where, on a blood test, the thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) level is elevated but free T3 and free T4 hormones are in the normal reference range. This means that the thyroid gland is trying to overcompensate.
What are normal reference ranges for thyroid tests?
The general consensus says that a “normal” TSH level is 0.5-4.5. However, recent studies have suggested that this be narrowed to 0.5-2.
What are the consequences of living with clinical hypothyroidism?
The consequences of untreated hypothyroidism are quite severe and, often, the damage is irrevocable or deadly. Hypothyroidism, untreated, can cause:
Birth defects: Thyroid hormones are crucial to the development of an unborn fetus and babies can be born with severe mental and physical defects if a mother births a baby with an underactive thyroid gland.
Myxedema: this disorder is extreme hypothyroidism, the consequence of an inactive thyroid gland for far too long. As one medical researcher notes,
Goiter: When the thyroid is forced to try to produce thyroid gland but cannot meet the body’s demands, the excessive stimulation can cause the thyroid gland to enlarge and cause a goiter—a large, ugly mass on the neck.
Heart problems: Hypothyroidism—even in its mildest forms—hypothyroidism can affect the health of your heart. An underactive thyroid can increase your risk of developing heart disease because it increases levels of “bad” cholesterol. Too much bad cholesterol can lead to atherosclerosis, aka hardening of the arteries, which can increase your risk of heart attacks Pericardial effusion, excess fluid built up in a sac around the heart, is another health problem that hypothyroidism can cause.3
Low thyroid hormone can ruin a woman’s chance of conceiving a child by preventing ovulation, much like birth control pills do. Once the damage to the thyroid is done, if left untreated, fertility may be forever compromised and even medication might not or thyroid hormone replacement therapy might not be enough to right the system again.4
Mental health issues
Again, left untreated, hypothyroidism wreaks negative impacts on the entire body, including the gut and the brain, where serotonin is chiefly manufactured, one of the chief hormones causing depression. Studies show that even fledgling forms of hypothyroidism can cause mild to severe depression.5
What are the causes of Subclinical Hypothyroidism?
Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, an autoimmune disease, is the most common cause of subclinical hypothyroidism. Hashimoto’s is caused by the body attacking its own tissues, specifically tissues of the thyroid gland. In those with subclinical hypothyroidism, many people test positive for antibodies although their thyroid hormone levels appear to be normal. This means their immune systems are destroying thyroid cells/tissue but it hasn’t advanced enough to show a marked decrease in thyroid hormone production. In fact, 80% of subclinical hypothyroidism cases evidence antithyroid antibodies, meaning Hashimoto’s is the primary underlying cause of subclinical hypothyroidism.
However, other causes of subclinical hypothyroidism are also prevalent, especially if a person is being given radioiodine or radiation therapy for cancer.
Other causes include:
· Leaky Gut Syndrome. This can cause subclinical hypothyroidism in several ways. First, toxins form the gut leach into the system, causing the body to attack its own tissues as if they were a pathogenic invader. When this happens, the immune system is weakening and sets off a domino-cascade effect wherein the thyroid tissues are impacted and one can end up with subclinical hypothyroidism or even Hashimoto’s disease.
· Granulomatous thyroiditis. Subacute granulomatous thyroiditis is the most common cause of a painful thyroid gland. It is a transient inflammation of the thyroid, the clinical course of which is highly variable. Most patients have pain in the region of the thyroid, which is usually diffusely tender, and some have systemic symptoms such as thyroid dysfunction and/or subclinical hypothyroidism and other thyroid disorders.
· Lack of iodine. Iodine is essential for the manufacture of thyroid hormone, so declines in this mineral can cause hypothyroidism. However, iodine deficiency is rare in developed countries since iodine is now added to our foods.
· Pregnancy and post-delivery. Changes in sex hormones during pregnancy affect the complex symphony of our hormonal system at-large, meaning the thyroid is impacted as well, possibly causing hypothyroidism or other thyroid disorders.
· Nutrient deficiencies. Certain nutrients, vitamins, and minerals are crucial for thyroid function. Some of the most important ones to stimulate thyroid function are selenium and iodine, but vitamins A, B2, magnesium and protein are also important.
· Lack of sleep. A lack of quality sleep can throw cortisol into overproduction, and pumping out all this cortisol wears out the adrenals and causes adrenal fatigue and hormone imbalances of several kinds, including thyroid hormone imbalances.
What Can You Do to Heal from Subclinical Hypothyroidism—Naturally and Without Synthetics?
You don’t ever want to let hypothyroidism go untreated. Medication is safe, acts quickly, and is inexpensive, and works to immediately regulate the thyroid gland. But like all synthetic medications, prescription hypothyroid medications only mask the symptoms and regulate hormones temporarily, they don’t fix the underlying problem that is causing the imbalance.
The Most Effective Natural Remedies for Subclinical Hypothyroidism
1. Remedy vitamin and mineral deficiencies
As. I mentioned earlier, subclinical hypothyroidism sufferers tend to run low on protein, vitamin A, B2, selenium, magnesium, and iodine. Why? Gut issues from irritable bowel syndrome to leaky gut syndrome affect our ability to absorb nutrients. Low stomach acids can also inhibit
nutrient absorption as well. It’s always best to find a functional medicine practitioner who is able to help you discover any deficiencies you may have and show you how to fix them. This sometimes involves testing.
2. Get serious about healing leaky gut syndrome
Again, I urge you to find a functional medicine practitioner who is able to help you. This sometimes involves testing.
3. Lower your exposure to thyroid-destroying toxins in your environment
Certain pollutants and toxins in our environment have proven to be especially damaging to the thyroid gland and to inhibit its performance As Mark Hyman notes,
4. Practice stress reduction
Stress, as I mentioned earlier, is one major cause of hypothyroidism and subclinical hypothyroidism. Chronic stress can contribute to cortisol imbalance, which causes other hormones to not remain in balance. Hormones, even in a different area of the body, act as seesaws. When one rises above normal, the other hits the ground. Try meditation, yoga, and other stress reduction techniques.
5. Get lots of high-quality sleep
Get some rest so that you can manufacture more growth hormone, which heals tissues, even the gut, and helps manufacture and balance hormones, which you do during a phase of sleep after REM called “slow-wave sleep.”
If you have trouble sleeping, start a whole new sleep protocol. Don’t use devices at least one hour before bed. Make sure there is no interfering light in your room, even from an alarm clock. Any kind of blue light, the light that emits from all electronics, acts as a signal to your brain, telling you to get up, get energetic, and go get ‘em!
If you suffer with subclinical hypothyroidism or think you might have another form of thyroid disorder, I encourage you to try some of my remedies above and have your thyroid tested by a functional medicine practitioner.
1Fatourechi, V. (2009). Subclinical hypothyroidism: An update for primary care physicians.
Mayo Clinic Proceedings, 84(1): 65-71.
2Berber, E. Complications of hypothyroidism. EndocrineWeb.
4Maraka, S. et. al. (2018). Subclinical Hypothyroidism in Women Planning Conception and During Pregnancy: Who Should Be Treated and How? Journal of the Entomology Society, 2(6): 533-46.
5Zhao, T. Subclinical hypothyroidism and depression. Translational Psychiatry, 8: 239.
6M. Hyman. A comprehensive, 6-step strategy to heal your thyroid.
Are you enjoying “Subclinical Hypothyroidism: What You Should Know“… If so, you might enjoy my free report called “3 Hormones Imbalances You Can Fix Naturally to Lose Weight“. Click on the image below to download.