Thyroid Problems and Restless Legs

A fellow sufferer wrote that her thyroid was working too fast and that she had been treated for it. She also said she thinks her thyroid problems are related to her restless legs.

I had already read that there is a link between thyroid disease and restless legs. Thyroid complaints often seem to go hand in hand with RLS. How this works exactly and how this can be done is something I would like to know more about.

Before I can say more about it, I need to get a better picture of the functioning of the thyroid gland. In this blog I will therefore discuss the function of this organ and what problems can arise with it. Then I make the link with restless legs.

How does a thyroid work

The thyroid is an organ located at the bottom of the neck, below the larynx. It is like a shield around the trachea. Another word for thyroid is thyroid.

The thyroid gland produces thyroid hormones. These hormones are transported through your blood to all tissues and organs in your body.

Two small organs in the brain regulate the thyroid gland: the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland. These organs ensure that the right amount of thyroid hormones is produced.

The thyroid gland needs iodine and tyrosine to make thyroid hormones. Iodine is in food. You can find it in bread, milk, fish and eggs, for example. Tyrosine is an amino acid and can be found in protein-rich foods. Think of milk, dairy products, meat, fish, nuts and legumes.

You need your thyroid to regulate your body temperature and your energy use. In children, this organ is responsible for the growth rate.

Overactive thyroid

Another word for an overactive thyroid is hyperthyroidism.

When the thyroid gland works too fast, the system goes haywire. Too much thyroid hormones are produced. Usually this disruption has to do with your immune system. In that case it is an autoimmune disease.

The name of this condition is Graves’ disease. You can find out if you have thyroid disease with blood tests.

Symptoms include palpitations, tremors, sweating a lot, restlessness and irritation, fatigue, diarrhea, weight loss, bulging eyes, enlarged thyroid gland and irregular periods. You are more likely to develop thyroid disease if you are a woman or older, after childbirth or if it runs in the family.

There are three possible treatments for an overactive thyroid: drugs, radioactive iodine or surgery.

The fellow sufferer I mentioned at the beginning of the blog also had an overactive thyroid. She was treated with radioactive iodine. This is quite a radical approach to destroy some of the overactive thyroid hormones. After a few weeks, the radioactivity has worn off.

If I remember her story correctly, she said that her restless legs got worse especially after this treatment.

Underactive thyroid

A thyroid gland can also work too slowly. Too few thyroid hormones are produced. Your metabolism is not going well and you therefore have less energy. Another word for this is hypothyroidism.

There is also a problem with the immune system here. Like an overactive thyroid, it is an autoimmune disease.

This usually concerns Hashimoto’s disease.

Symptoms of underactive thyroid include fatigue, feeling cold quickly, gaining weight, constipation, hair loss, dry/cold/pale skin, thick eyelids & thick face, enlarged thyroid, altered voice, irregular periods.

Also for this variant, you have a greater chance of this condition if you are a woman or if you are older or if it runs in the family. There is also an increased risk in the first year after pregnancy.

There are medicines. It also helps a healthy diet and regular exercise.

I know someone who has Hashimoto’s disease. She has suffered from restless legs for a long time. A very high dose of magnesium helped her. I think she was taking 400mg twice a day.

She also had a huge range of complaints, including fibromyalgia and an irritable bowel. I’ve sometimes thought that her irritable bowel could be related to that enormous amount of magnesium. My gut wouldn’t be able to tolerate that, I guess.

Restless legs

When I read about a possible connection between restless legs and thyroid disease, the most common mention is an underactive thyroid.

I also read about a possible link between an underactive thyroid and problems with the absorption of vitamin B12 and iron. Those two could again be linked to symptoms of RLS.

I do not know exactly what the effects of (a certain treatment or medication for) an overactive thyroid gland are. In any case, there are people who experience (extra) complaints. More and specific research into this would be good.

Hormones and metabolism are the basis of many things in your health. The thyroid seems to me to be a very essential ‘little machine’ in this whole. It doesn’t surprise me at all that disruption of this ingenious system could have an effect on a condition like restless legs.

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