Glandular Problems and Eating Disorders: One of The Lesser Known Side Effects

One of the lesser-known potential consequences of an eating disorder is hypothyroidism, a condition caused by disrupted functioning of the thyroid gland. The thyroid gland is the messenger and control center for your body’s endocrine system, the system responsible for producing and distributing hormones around your body’s circulatory system. In this article, we’ll examine the link between eating disorders and increased risk of glandular problems in the thyroid.

Eating Disorders and Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism, not to be confused with hyperthyroidism, is a condition characterized by under-activity in the thyroid gland. Without treatment, hypothyroidism can cause low hormone production and irregular metabolic responses.

People with eating disorders are particularly vulnerable to hypothyroidism if their disorder is associated with restrictive eating habits or frequent purging, such as anorexia or bulimia nervosa. Over time, these habits will cause an individual to become both underweight and severely starved of energy resources. This state of deprivation forces the body to conserve energy by slowing key organ systems. The thyroid gland’s response to these energy conservation signals is to reduce the secretion of hormones into the bloodstream, leading to a rapid slowdown in metabolism.

What are the Symptoms of Hypothyroidism?

Hypothyroidism-related disruptions in your body’s regular hormone levels will affect a lot of major organ systems. As a result, hypothyroidism tends to manifest in many different ways, something that can make the condition initially quite difficult to diagnose.

Here’s a brief list of possible symptoms in a person with a slow-functioning thyroid gland:

  • Hashimoto's disease
  • Fatigue and exhaustion
  • Brain fog and inability to concentrate
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Sudden weight gain
  • Eating in the night
  • Cold shivers
  • Insomnia
  • Constipation or bloating
  • Gas or loose stool
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Disrupted menstrual cycles
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome
  • Dry skin
  • Thinning hair or hair loss
  • More frequent herpes outbreaks
  • More frequent yeast infections

Treatment Options for Glandular Problems

If your glandular problem is caused by an eating disorder, there’s a good chance that your endocrine system will recover once you begin implementing non-restrictive eating habits. For long-term treatment and prevention of anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa, experts will recommend a customized program of gradual refeeding, nutritional planning, and dietary therapy.

If your endocrine glands haven’t returned to normal after you’ve recovered from your underlying eating disorder, your doctor may prescribe some form of hormone regulation medication, such as a synthetic thyroid hormone levothyroxine. Getting more sleep and consuming a diet rich in adaptogens can also help reboot and re-regulate a slow-functioning endocrine system.

Sources: Empower Your Health, Mind Body Green, The Recovery Village

Photo: Pixabay

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