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February 13, 2023 8 min read

When it comes to thyroid disorders, there's a lot of confusion about what symptoms to look out for and how to treat them. But one thing we should all be aware of is the potential for hypothyroidism to cause high blood sugar levels. It may come as a surprise, but a thyroid disorder like hypothyroidism can lead to elevated levels of blood sugar, which in turn can cause a host of other health issues.

If you're struggling to keep the levels of your blood sugar balanced, this article will explain how hypothyroidism could be involved and how you can manage both conditions.

First thing first: Thyroid hormones

The thyroid and its hormones are an important component of the body's endocrine system. It has an important role to regulate metabolic rate, body temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure. The hormone is actually made up of two primary hormones: thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). It's produced by the thyroid gland in the neck and released into the bloodstream, where it travels to organs throughout the body, such as the brain and muscles. When it enters your bloodstream, it helps to control how quickly cells use energy from food (metabolism). It also helps to regulate growth and development in young people by helping with digestion and other bodily functions.

Without a healthy level of the thyroid hormone, many aspects of your daily life could be affected. When something goes wrong with this powerful hormone, it can cause either hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism.

Hypothyroidism occurs when not enough thyroid hormone is released into your bloodstream. On the other hand, hyperthyroidism is when you have too much thyroid hormone in your bloodstream. Both conditions can lead to serious health risks such as weight gain or loss, fatigue, heart problems, and more.

What is hypothyroidism?

Hypothyroidism, also known as the underactive thyroid gland, is one of the most common thyroid diseases. It affects millions of people all around the globe. The condition occurs when your thyroid gland doesn't produce enough hormone.

Since the hormone of the thyroid is important for your body's metabolism and proper functioning, not having enough of it can lead to a host of physical and mental health issues. Some of the most common symptoms of hypothyroidism are as follows:

  • Fatigue

  • Sensitivity to cold

  • Dry skin

  • Brittle hair

  • Unexplained weight gain

  • Low blood pressure

  • Slow heart rate

  • Depression

  • Anxiety

  • Slower reflexes.

The most common causes of hypothyroidism are autoimmune illnesses, thyroid removal surgery, and radiation therapy.

Doctors diagnose hypothyroidism with a thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) test and a Free T4 test. TSH is a hormone produced by the pituitary gland that regulates the thyroid's hormone production. When you have low levels of thyroid hormone, the pituitary gland will release more TSH to trigger your thyroid to produce more hormone. Therefore, high TSH level indicate hypothyroidsim.

Treatment for hypothyroidism

While hypothyroidism is mainly not curable, it can be treated with thyroid hormone replacement medications. These medications work by replacing the hormones your body is lacking. There are two common thyroid medications available: synthetic and natural.

Synthetic thyroid medication includes levothyroxine (synthetic T4) and liothyronine (T3). Levothyroxine, also known for its brand names Synthroid and Unithroid, is the standard treatment for hypothyroidism. On the other hand, liothyronine, such as Cytomel, is not as widely used.

The natural opt

Can hypothyroidism cause high blood sugar levels?

ion, known as natural desiccated thyroid (NDT) or desiccated thyroid extract (DTE), is made of dried pig thyroid glands. Unlike levothyroxine and liothyronine, which only contains 1 type of thyroid hormone, NDT contains both T4 and T3. That's why it's considered more effective by many people. Some popular NDT brands include Armour Thyroid, WP Thyroid, and VitaliThy.

What is high blood sugar?

High blood sugar, or hyperglycemia, is a condition that occurs when there's an excessive amount of sugar (glucose) in your blood. Glucose is a type of sugar you get from the food you eat, as well as your body's main source of energy.

Normally, the levels of glucose in the blood are regulated by the hormone insulin produced by the pancreas. However, if the body doesn't produce enough insulin or doesn't use insulin effectively, the levels of glucose in the blood can rise, resulting in elevated blood sugar. This condition is a common problem for people with diabetes, including type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes, as well as pregnant women with gestational diabetes.

High glucose levels can be caused by several factors, including poor diet, lack of physical activity, stress, illness, and certain medications. In rare cases, elevated blood sugar may be caused by thyroid disease.

If your glucose levels are too high, you may not always feel sick. However, the following symptoms may indicate that you have high glucose levels:

  • Have a lack of energy and strength

  • See things hazily

  • Indulge in more frequent restroom breaks

  • Your mouth is constantly dry

  • Feel thirsty

  • Dry skin

  • Experience sickness and throw up.

Is there a link between hypothyroidism and blood sugar levels?

The thyroid plays a crucial role in regulating your body's metabolism, which includes the way your body uses and stores glucose. When your thyroid hormones are out of balance due to hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism, it can impact your glucose levels in a variety of ways.

For people with hypothyroidism, the problem can be compounded by the overcompensation of the adrenal glands with high levels of cortisol and adrenaline, which directly decrease insulin sensitivity. Taking thyroid hormone medicine that includes T3, such as NDT, may cause cortisol levels to drop rapidly, leading to faster glucose use and potential blood sugar imbalances. It's important to ensure that you are fueling your body with enough carbohydrates to meet its energy needs as well.

On the other hand, people with hyperthyroidism often have a voracious appetite and may consume large amounts of carbohydrates. While their insulin clearance time is faster, so is their glucose utilization. However, if they don't eat enough carbs to fuel their metabolism, they may experience temporary high cortisol levels and be less insulin sensitive.

Regardless of whether you have hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism, uncontrolled glucose levels can increase your risk of developing diabetes. This is why it's crucial to work with your doctor to manage your thyroid condition and monitor your blood sugar levels regularly. By doing so, you can ensure that you are doing everything possible to keep your glucose levels in a healthy range and reduce your risk of developing diabetes or other related health issues.

Thyroid and insulin

Problems with your thyroid also impact the production of insulin, which controls glucose levels in your bloodstream.

When you have hyperthyroidism, your metabolism increases. This causes your body to eliminate insulin faster than usual, leading to elevated glucose levels and a higher risk of type 2 diabetes. People who already have diabetes and hyperthyroidism may need higher doses of insulin shots.

Hypothyroidism, on the other hand, slows down your metabolism. With a slower metabolism, insulin can linger in the bloodstream, causing glucose levels to drop dramatically. For individuals who are taking diabetes medication, the drop in glucose levels can sometimes be severe, leading to symptoms like dizziness, disorientation, and even unconsciousness. Therefore, they may need a lower dose of insulin.

So why do I have high blood sugar levels with hypothyroidism?

The answer is insulin resistance. Research suggests that there's a connection between insulin resistance and both hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism.

Insulin resistance occurs when your body doesn't respond to the hormone insulin in the way it should. Insulin works to help cells take in glucose from the bloodstream, and this helps regulate your glucose levels. When you have too much glucose in your system, it can cause serious health problems like type 2 diabetes and heart disease. So, if you're resistant to insulin, it makes it harder for your body to keep glucose levels under control.

But what is the connection between insulin resistance and hypothyroidism?

The interplay between hormones of the thyroid and insulin is a fascinating subject. T3 can greatly impact how receptive your cells are to insulin. A low T3 level can increase your chances of developing insulin resistance, but surprisingly, a high T3 level can have the same effect. This means that without the right amount of thyroid hormone, whether too high or too low, you are at an increased risk of insulin resistance.

The relationship between insulin and thyroid hormones is bi-directional, which means that both play important roles in regulating each other.

Is there a link between hypothyroidism and type 1 diabetes?

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that occurs when the body's immune system mistakenly destroys cells in the pancreas responsible for creating insulin.

Certain types of thyroid disease, such as Hashimoto's thyroiditis, are also autoimmune. Hashimoto's thyroiditis occurs when your immune system mistakenly attacks the cells of your thyroid gland, eventually causing hypothyroidism.

People with autoimmune conditions are more prone to developing other autoimmune diseases. According to several studies, individuals with type 1 diabetes are at an increased risk of developing Hashimoto's disease.

Is there another possible link between the thyroid and blood sugar levels?

The interplay between the hypothalamus, pituitary gland, and adrenal glands plays a crucial role in regulating the balance of insulin and thyroid hormones in the body. These organs form the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis work together to control the body's response to stress by regulating cortisol levels, a stress hormone.

Disruptions in the functioning of any of these organs can result in an imbalance of cortisol. Low cortisol levels may cause hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), while high cortisol levels may lead to hyperglycemia (high blood sugar).

How to treat high blood sugar due to hypothyroidism?

Maintaining a healthy body weight is a crucial factor in protecting against the development of diabetes or thyroid disorders, especially if you have already been diagnosed with either condition. It's important to keep both glucose levels and thyroid hormone levels within the normal range to ensure optimal health. Plus, it might be a good idea to add more healthy carbs to your diet.

However, when thyroid dysfunction is combined with insulin resistance, it can be challenging to maintain normal blood glucose levels. To prevent the onset of diabetes or thyroid problems, it's necessary to manage insulin resistance through a combination of medication, dietary adjustments, regular blood tests, and physical activity.

For those with hypothyroidism, both diet and exercise can be helpful in managing the condition, but medication, particularly thyroid replacement therapy, is often the most effective treatment.

When considering treatment options for hypothyroidism, it is important to choose thyroid medications that don't contain gluten, as this can lower the patient's risk of developing type 2 diabetes. One treatment option to consider is gluten-free natural desiccated thyroid (NDT), such as WP Thyroid and VitaliThy. Aside from being gluten-free, they are also lactose-free and don't contain any ingredients that can trigger common allergies. In addition, adding T3 to your treatment regimen may be beneficial if you experience high blood sugar due to hypothyroidism.

Conclusion: Hypothyroidism and high blood sugar

Hypothyroidism is more often associated with low levels of glucose. However, the condition can also cause high glucose levels since it increases your risk of insulin resistance. Hypothyroidism and insulin resistance can be difficult to manage, but there are steps you can take to make life easier.

If you're looking for ways to fight back against hypothyroidism and insulin resistance, you can start by talking to your doctor about lifestyle changes that will help manage both conditions. Eating a balanced diet with plenty of whole foods like fruits and vegetables is essential for good health; however, it's also important to limit processed foods.

Additionally, regular exercise is key in managing both hypothyroidism and insulin resistance—try something fun, like a dance class or taking a walk with friends! Getting enough restful sleep also helps your body stay healthy and regulated; aim for at least 8 hours each night.

But lifestyle changes won't be enough if you have hypothyroidism. In most cases, you'll also need thyroid replacement medication, such as natural desiccated thyroid (NDT), to improve your thyroid function. This medicine is made from pig thyroid glands and contains T4 and T3 hormones, which can help control your metabolism more effectively than other thyroid treatments.

The only drawback of NDT is that it's hard to find. One great option is VitaliThy, a natural desiccated thyroid you can buy online. Aside from having a complex composition of hormones, it's also gluten-free and lactose-free.

Wojciech Majda
Wojciech Majda

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