Why thyroid symptoms worsen in winter? Know what increases risk of the disorder | Health - Hindustan Times
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Thyroid Awareness Month 2024: Why thyroid symptoms worsen in winter? Know what increases risk of the disorder

By, New Delhi
Jan 18, 2024 05:43 PM IST

In winter, cold temperatures, reduced sunlight and changes in diet can influence thyroid function. Know what may raise risk of the disorder.

Winters can throw your thyroid levels out of gear. This happens because the cold temperature may increase metabolism signalling the thyroid gland to produce more of hormones to regulate metabolic activity. People who do not have a pre-existing thyroid issue may experience slightly elevated TSH levels or subclinical hypothyroidism in winter. This can result in symptoms like constipation, depression, slow movements, brain fog, aches and pains, fatigue and feeling too cold. In winter, reduced sunlight and changes in diet can also influence thyroid functions. Winter diseases and depression may cause changes in hormones. Limiting processed food and consuming wholegrains and seasonal vegetables and fruits can benefit thyroid function and help you feel better. (Also read | Anti-rheumatic medicines may be able to prevent thyroid illness: Study)

Cold temperatures prompt the body to increase metabolic activity to maintain internal warmth. This heightened metabolic rate can stimulate the thyroid gland to produce more hormones(Freepik)
Cold temperatures prompt the body to increase metabolic activity to maintain internal warmth. This heightened metabolic rate can stimulate the thyroid gland to produce more hormones(Freepik)

What is hypothyroidism

"Hypothyroidism in simple terms means your thyroid gland isn't making enough thyroid hormones. Think of the thyroid as a car engine – if it doesn't produce sufficient fuel (thyroid hormones), your body's processes slow down. Common symptoms include fatigue, weight gain, feeling cold, and sluggishness. It's like your body's energy thermostat is set too low," says Dr Anu Gaikwad, Consultant Diabetologist & HOD Geriatric Medicine, DPU Super Specialty Hospital, Pimpri, Pune

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Why do thyroid hormones increase during the winter season?

During winter, thyroid hormone levels can rise due to various factors.

"Cold temperatures prompt the body to increase metabolic activity to maintain internal warmth. This heightened metabolic rate can stimulate the thyroid gland to produce more hormones, particularly thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3), which regulate metabolism. Reduced sunlight exposure in winter may also impact the body's circadian rhythm, influencing thyroid function. Seasonal changes in diet, with potential alterations in nutrient intake, can further contribute to thyroid fluctuations. Additionally, winter illnesses and stressors may trigger hormonal adjustments as the body responds to environmental challenges. While these factors collectively influence thyroid hormone levels, individual responses can vary," says Dr Gaikwad.

Who is at a risk of being most affected by thyroid?

Thyroid disorders can affect anyone, but certain factors may increase the risk. Women are more prone than men, especially as they age. Dr Gaikwad shares more reasons behind thyroid trouble.

  • Individuals with a family history of thyroid conditions face a higher risk, indicating a genetic component.
  • Autoimmune diseases like Hashimoto's or Graves' disease can elevate susceptibility.
  • Iodine deficiency, prevalent in some regions, is a risk factor.
  • Radiation exposure, certain medications, and neck or thyroid surgeries may also contribute. Pregnancy and postpartum periods increase the likelihood, as do stress and other health conditions.
  • Regular check-ups are advisable, especially for those with risk factors, to monitor thyroid health.

Side effects of hypothyroidism

Having hypothyroidism can potentially make you more prone to other health issues or side effects. If not properly managed, it may lead to complications such as heart problems, high cholesterol, and weight gain.

"Hypothyroidism can also affect fertility and increase the risk of pregnancy complications. Additionally, it may contribute to conditions like depression and cognitive issues. Regular monitoring and appropriate treatment, usually involving thyroid hormone replacement medication, are crucial to manage hypothyroidism effectively and reduce the risk of associated health concerns. If you suspect thyroid issues or experience symptoms, consulting a healthcare professional is important for accurate diagnosis and tailored treatment," adds Dr Gaikwad.

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