Hypothyroidism has well-known symptoms like slow heart rate, weight gain, depression, fatigue, and intolerance to cold temperatures.
But earlier this year at the annual meeting of the American Association of Clinical Endocrinology, a study presented by researchers from the University of Chicago described another common symptom.
A symptom that alters your brain.
And you definitely don’t want this to happen.
Worse, the traditional hypothyroidism drugs made this brain condition worse.
The researchers surveyed more than 5000 people with hypothyroidism from all over the world. Most of these cases were caused by thyroid surgery, radioactive iodine therapy, or Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, a condition in which the thyroid gland is gradually destroyed by the immune system. Only 20% of cases were caused by an iodine deficiency or by an unknown cause.
The survey included demographic questions on race, sex, age, and so forth. Additionally, it asked respondents about the cause of their hypothyroidism, the onset and frequency of their brain fog, and the symptoms they described as brain fog.
Most importantly, it asked respondents to report the factors that improved or worsened their brain fog and asked some questions about their quality of life.
The survey discovered some interesting facts.
1. 17.1% of the respondents reported experiencing brain fog within a few weeks or months of their initial diagnosis with hypothyroidism.
2. 46% of respondents reported experiencing brain fog even before their hypothyroidism diagnosis.
3. 82% of the subjects who reported experiencing brain fog stated that they experienced it all the time or almost all the time.
4. Brain fog was most common prior to a hypothyroidism diagnosis in subjects with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.
5. Subjects reported that levothyroxine, the go-to drug for hypothyroidism, worsened their brain fog.
So, how exactly did they define brain fog?
They described it as a feeling of fatigue, a lack of energy, sleepiness, forgetfulness, difficulty focusing, difficulty making decisions, depression, and mental confusion.
They reported that their quality of life was most negatively affected by the cognitive symptoms, and this was especially true for people who experienced brain fog very frequently.
Most of the respondents found that relaxation helped alleviate their symptoms; 11% stated that outdoor time and exercise helped.
A few of them reported that a healthy diet was useful, and many suggested that a sugar-rich diet (as well as gluten) worsened their symptoms.
Since many of the respondents experienced brain fog even before their hypothyroidism diagnoses, and since thyroid hormone medications made it worse, the researchers recommended that brain fog should be treated with lifestyle modifications.