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Feeling Hormonal?

Persistent Fatigue

Sure, we all have those days when we'd give anything for a midday nap — even if it meant crawling under our desks. But if you struggle daily with feeling sluggish and having zero energy — particularly if you've gained 10 to 20 pounds that you just can't shake no matter how little you eat — you could be suffering from a lack of thyroid hormone, a condition called hypothyroidism. Thyroid hormones control the body's metabolism, and when supplies are short, all systems slow down, including heart rate, mental functioning, and digestion. That's why hypothyroidism can leave a person feeling exhausted, drained, mentally foggy, even constipated. It's thought to affect at least 15 million adults nationwide, targeting 10 times more women than men, according to psychiatrist Louann Brizendine, M.D., director of the Women's and Teen Girl's Mood & Hormone Clinic at the University of California, San Francisco. And up to two thirds of cases go undiagnosed for several years because the symptoms are often dismissed as a side effect of stress.

To restore balance: Ask your doctor about getting your thyroid hormone levels checked, and be proactive about getting thyroid hormone replacement therapy if you need it. "There is some disagreement among doctors about treating subclinical hypothyroidism, since in past generations thyroid hormone was overprescribed, and too much of it can aggravate any underlying heart conditions," says Brizendine. "But in my experience, if you have symptoms of fatigue, depression, and anxiety that coincide with abnormal thyroid levels, you should seek treatment." Finding a doctor who will take these (and any other) mysterious symptoms seriously can deliver much-deserved relief.


Originally published on March 1, 2007


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