The thyroid is an integral component to many systems of the body. Perhaps the most influential of which is the metabolism. Temperature regulation falls under the jurisdiction of the metabolism and therefore, the thyroid.
A frequently overlooked indicator of thyroid dysfunction is intolerance to warmer conditions. Typically, this symptom presents itself in hyperthyroid patients. However, any form of thyroid dysfunction, especially those related to autoimmune dysfunction, can cause a person to suffer from poor temperature regulation.
Recognizing the lesser-known symptom of heat intolerance and its relation to thyroid function is an important step in identifying and treating thyroid dysfunction.
The Thyroid and Temperature Regulation
When functioning correctly, the thyroid actively responds to changes in temperature by appropriately adjusting basal metabolic rate (BMR) and releasing hormones to promote cellular release or retention of heat. This action keeps the body at a comfortable and functional temperature. However, when the thyroid is not at its best, the body loses much of its capacity to regulate temperature.
Intolerance to cold or an inability to stay warm is a common indicator of hypothyroidism. Alternatively, hyperthyroidism causes overactive cell function resulting in multiple symptoms including sensitivity to heat. Those who have difficulty managing heat levels and don’t do well in hot weather may be suffering from thyroid disease.
Autoimmunity and Hashimoto’s
Several hypothyroid patients suffer from some degree of autoimmune dysfunction resulting in multiple issues including heat intolerance.
Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is a common autoimmune disorder. Hashimoto’s causes the body’s defenses to attack its own thyroid tissue. Symptoms of Hashimoto’s manifest differently depending on the patient. There are multiple symptoms associated with Hashimoto’s but the intensity and frequency of such symptoms can be drastically varied. Symptoms typically begin mild and then continue to intensify over time if inflammation and the malfunctioning immune response is not resolved.
Common symptoms of Hashimoto’s include:
- Weight gain
- Altered mood, particularly malaise and depression
- Difficulty maintaining focus
- Dry skin or lips, rashes, and brittle hair
- Fluid retention leading to bloating in the face and lower extremities
- Hoarseness or difficulty speaking
- Inability to sweat or reduced perspiration
- Heat sensitivity
- Changes in menstruation
- Joint and muscle pain
Hashimoto’s Hormone Spikes and Hot Flashes
Patients with Hashimoto’s experience a range of symptoms alternating between hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism. This is caused by the damage being done directly to the thyroid that limits hormone production resulting in a net loss of thyroid hormone. However, as portions of the thyroid are destroyed, there is a temporary release of thyroid hormones that can elevate hormone levels. A spike in thyroid hormone such as this can cause symptoms related to hyperthyroidism, including extreme susceptibility to heat and hot flashes. This can occur even though the patient’s thyroid production indicates hypothyroidism.
Temporary hormone spikes can cause episodes of fatigue, hot flashes, anxiety, jitteriness, and weight fluctuations. Furthermore, patients can suddenly become incapable of cooling down when they previously could not stay warm. This can be highly jarring for those with hypothyroidism.
Over-medicated hypothyroid patients experience issues similar to Hashimoto’s-related hormone spikes. Over supplementation of thyroid hormones may push a hypothyroid patient into hyperthyroid states resulting in many symptoms including heat intolerance.
Triggered Symptom Flares
Hashimoto’s symptoms can alter over time and periodically flare-up or temporarily worsen because of different triggers. Flares exacerbate current symptoms.
If a patient is experiencing Hashimoto’s related symptoms such as sensitivity to heat, a flare-up can abruptly worsen their already reduced ability to regulate body temperature. Usually, autoimmune flare-ups have an external trigger.
Those with autoimmune disorders have a highly sensitive and reactive immune system. This means that even minor changes in diet, activity level, stress, allergen exposure, and others can trigger an immune response resulting in increased symptom intensity.
A Hashimoto’s-related flare-up may be identified through the following symptoms:
- Abrupt worsening of fatigue
- Unexplained weight gain
- Malaise or depression
- Sudden worsening of joint pain, muscle pain, and weakness
- Anxiety, jitteriness, and racing heart
- Abrupt onset of brain fog and difficulty concentrating
- Digestive issues or changes in gastrointestinal function
- Hot flashes or difficulty regulating body temperature
Regardless of the symptoms that manifest, it’s most important to identify what started the response. Recognizing the trigger allows patients to avoid and minimize future autoimmune and inflammatory responses, which helps reduce symptom occurrence and intensity.
Common autoimmune triggers include:
- Physiological or emotional stress
- Physical trauma including sport-related injury, car accident, etc.
- Chronic nutrient deficiencies
- Viral infections
- Hormone imbalances
- Food allergies or sensitivities
- Lack of sleep
Tips to Keep Cool
Staying comfortable at the correct temperature can be challenging for those with an autoimmune thyroid condition. Cooling off when the body can’t do it for itself may seem like a great undertaking. However, by using the following tips you can help keep your body nice and chill.
Start a Nightly Routine
Preparing for bed to combat nighttime warmth is an effective way of keeping the body comfortable during the night. Before bed, try to take a cool shower to remove any lingering sweat or residue that can contribute to heat. Cooling your bedsheets by placing them in the fridge or freezer for a few minutes, or spritzing them with cold water right before heading into bed, can also help keep the body cool throughout the night.
Hydration is a critical component of health and temperature regulation. Ensuring that you are drinking plenty of water, possibly with the addition of ice, helps keep the body at a moderate temperature.
Cooling Down the House
Fans are a relatively inexpensive way to improve the temperature in your home. To boost the effectiveness of these affordable tools, try placing bottles of frozen water in front or behind them to create cooler airflow.
Beating the Heat
Thyroid dysfunction presents an array of symptoms that can be confusing and often frustrating. Those with an autoimmune condition besides thyroid dysfunction are at greater risk of experiencing a larger spectrum of symptoms with occasional bouts of increased intensity. Hashimoto’s is a significant contributor to symptoms including heat intolerance.
To learn even more about thyroid function and proper thyroid support, read our Thyroid 101 e-book!
At Holtorf Medical Group, our physicians are trained to provide you with cutting-edge testing and innovative treatments to properly diagnose and treat your thyroid condition, optimize your health and improve your quality of life. If you have been diagnosed with hypothyroidism, but aren’t getting the treatment you need or if you have symptoms associated with thyroid dysfunction, contact us to see how we can help you!