Is It Just Winter Or Is Your Thyroid Calling For Help?

Winter doesn’t exactly make anyone feel their healthiest. Maybe it’s the chilly temperatures, the marathon of holidays or the lack of daylight that makes staying healthy during the winter months feel so darn hard. Who can turn down a warm brownie while you’re snuggled up on the couch—right? 

While most of us assume winter health hurdles, like rough dry skin, weight gain, stress, low energy, are only temporary, could they actually be something more? Well, as it turns out, your thyroid may be sending out an SOS. Now you’re probably thinking, how could one little gland be responsible for all these different symptoms?


As the largest endocrine gland in the body—you have 9 endocrine glands total— it helps to regulate everything from energy levels and metabolism to body temperature, heart rate and more. When this gland isn’t up to snuff, which is the case for more than 25 million people, it could signal a common condition, like hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism.

Hyper vs. Hypo

To complete its lengthy list of tasks, the thyroid partners up with the pituitary gland. When the pituitary gland releases thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), your thyroid responds by producing T3 and T4 hormones, which is where the magic happens. When your thyroid is able to release enough T3 and T4 hormones, everything functions normally.

However, when your thyroid releases too much—it’s overactive—this is known as hyperthyroidism. On the other hand, if your thyroid releases too little—it’s underactive—which is known as hypothyroidism.

Seasonal or Significant?

Unfortunately, your thyroid doesn’t always make it easy to uncover an issue. Luckily, Rashmi Kulkarni, MD, a primary care provider with GMG’s Covenant Family Medicine, has provided an investigative cheat sheet for all of those subtle symptoms. Here are the key signs your thyroid is having trouble:

1.    Sensitive skin. This time of year can wreak havoc on your skin. Those dry, rough patches of skin could be the result of hypothyroidism, which slows down skin cell turnover. On the other hand, if you notice skin that’s sensitive to the touch, as well as redness on your face and hands, hyperthyroidism may be the cause.

2.    Changes in weight. All those holiday treats don’t do your waistline any favors. However, if you do notice weight gain along with a decreased appetite, this may be due to hypothyroidism. While increased appetite, along with weight loss may signal hyperthyroidism.

3.    Discomfort. It’s normal to feel like a chilly nilly during the winter months, but if you’re always feeling cold—even with layers of blankets—this could signal hypothyroidism. However, if you’re burning up, and not because of that big wool sweater, it may be due to hyperthyroidism.

4.    Feeling off. Less daylight, cold temps and seasonal stress can spur on Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which causes symptoms similar to depression. However, if you notice those symptoms along with forgetfulness and other cognitive issues, hypothyroidism may be culprit. Whereas hyperthyroidism may generate feelings of anxiousness, emotional swings and restlessness.

5.    Lethargy. Sometimes it seems like the winter months were made to stay inside, get cozy and watch movies. However, if that’s all that you want to do, day after day, you may have either hypo- or hyperthyroidism. Whether you’re fatigued after a full day of relaxing or a full day of going nonstop, with a thyroid condition, the result is the same = exhaustion.

6.    Digestive distress. All those festive treats may feel like heaven for your tastebuds, but the same can’t be said for your stomach. So if you’re backed up, regardless of what you eat, hypothyroidism could explain it. But if your colon feels more like a freeway, it may be hyperthyroidism.

Put it to the test.

Now, just because you’ve had one or more of these symptoms, there isn’t necessarily cause for concern. After all, it is winter. However, if 2 or more sounded all too familiar, it may be time to talk with your healthcare provider. The best—and only—way to really know the health of your thyroid is to have testing done.

Nestled in the heart of your community, GMC Health Park-Hamilton Mill offers a one-of-a-kind health care experience. From primary care and gastroenterology to orthopedic and imaging services, you and your family will receive complete care for all of your health needs. 

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