Winter weather may interfere with thyroid diagnosis. Under-functioning of the thyroid gland is often misdiagnosed when the weather is cold. Though the body may be healthy, the diagnostic tests will more likely show hypothyroidism.
In conclusion, from the studies done, it can be said that healthcare professionals can often misdiagnose thyroid function during the cold seasons. As we all experience a rise in thyroid hormone in winter.
People under thyroid medication may encounter some adverse winter effects such as depression, and cold hands and feet.
Let us understand the importance of the thyroid gland before understanding the effect of temperature on thyroid hormones.
The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped small gland located in front of the neck. A routine blood test helps determine the level of thyroid hormone in the body.
- Controls the speed of metabolism hence affecting weight gain and weight loss
- Important for the development of the brain in infants
- Regulates the calcium level in the body
- Slows down or speeds up the heart rate
- Affects the movement of food through the digestive tract
- Controls muscle contraction
- Affects the body temperature
Underactive or overactive thyroid hormone causes a problem in the body. Hypothyroidism or underactive hormone is the most common condition. It slows the metabolism, makes you feel always tired, there is weight gain and the body is not able to tolerate the cold temperature. Dysfunction of the thyroid gland affects the overall health of the body hence it is important to take care of thyroid glands.
Thyroid glands and body temperature
The imbalance of thyroid hormones can cause a rise and fall in body temperature. People with overactive thyroid glands often feel hot whereas people with underactive thyroid glands often feel cold. This is the result of the thyroid gland’s control of the dilation of blood vessels that determine the amount of heat escaping from the body.
Thyroid gland and cold weather
When the thyroid functions normally, there is a rise in the secretion of thyroid hormone. A rise in thyroid secretion constricts the blood vessels which lowers the amount of heat escaping from blood vessels. Any problem in the thyroid gland can affect the body’s ability to adapt to cold temperatures.
A person with a thyroid problem may not be able to distinguish between the symptoms of thyroid problems and the effect of winter. As symptoms of an imbalance of thyroid hormone are much related to cold weather effects.
Intolerance to cold
An underactive thyroid has a symptom of intolerance to colds. The hands and feet feel cold. Such people are prone to develop thyroid slumps that occur due to cold temperatures. It increases especially with advancing age
The seasonal affective disorder is a condition that affects the mood of an individual due to changes in season. It is a type of depression that is a result of short days and long nights. The sign and symptoms of the seasonal affected disorder include –
- Lack of energy
- Not able to focus properly
- Excessive sleeping
- Overeating and weight gain
- Craving for high-calorie foods
- The person tends to avoid social gathering
- Feeling lethargic
When hypothyroidism occurs due to an autoimmune disorder it can probably result in Raynaud’s syndrome. The syndrome affects the flow of blood to the extremities (fingers and toes), ears, and nose. This makes a hypothyroid person sensitive to cold during winter. A person with Raynaud’s syndrome may have signs and symptoms that include –
- Swelling, numbness, and tingling sensation on toes, fingers, ears, and nose
- Extremities turn white or blue when exposed to cold
Dryness in hair and skin
One of the symptoms of under-reactive thyroid hormone (hypothyroidism) includes dryness of hair and skin. Winter air is cold and dry. Such a condition can worsen the condition of people who have a low level of thyroid hormones.
If you experience too much dryness of hair and skin even after applying moisturizer, you must give it thought to get your thyroid checked up.
Winter may increase your craving for high-cholesterol foods or foods with high sugar content. It is easy to gain weight during winter. An imbalance of thyroid hormones has weight gain as one of the symptoms.
Effect of seasonal changes on thyroid hormone
Post winter effect
After the winter season is over, low levels of thyroid hormone symptoms may correlate with allergic reaction symptoms.
Summers may make you feel better. People with under-reactive thyroid glands (hypothyroidism) may feel too much warm or overheated.
Tips for thyroid patients during winters
Some of the ways that can help people with thyroid problems during winters are –
Keep the thyroid level under check
During winter the body needs more thyroid hormone. As a result, the level of thyroid hormone can decrease. In hypothyroid patients, the sign and symptoms of low levels of thyroid hormone may worsen. One may require medical help in such situations.
Get some sunlight in winter
Getting some sunlight during short days can have a positive effect on hormones. Exposure to sunlight can help you get rid of depression and tiredness. Also getting vitamin D plays an important role in thyroid function.
Keep yourself physically active
Cold weather may make you feel lazy and people generally spend more time sitting on the couch. Keeping yourself physically active can relieve stress and help prevent weight gain during winter.
Take sufficient sleep
On average 7-8 hours of sleep is recommended for a healthy person. With the imbalance of thyroid hormones, the person may find it hard to get up from bed. It is recommended to avoid late-night binge-watch or any activities that keep you awake and shorten your sleeping hours. Getting sufficient sleep can also be a stress reliever that can promote health in all.
Stop yourself from eating unnecessary
In winter you may crave high-carb foods, tea, coffee, etc. It is important to keep a check on what you eat and choose to drink. Include healthy foods in your diet and keep yourself hydrated.
Eat foods that keep you warm
Foods such as pepper, saturated fats, coconut oil, etc are some of the foods that can keep you warm during winter and also help lose weight.
Winter has arrived. Brace yourself with the given tips and enjoy the cold weather without being harsh on your body.