Why is having low iron levels a problem for those with hypothyroid, and why do many with hypothyroid, struggle with iron anemia? The slide into low iron can be symptomless, and when one starts to notice particular changes, this is the precursor to being anemic. By the time anemia is confirmed through lab work (iron saturation & serum iron), you may already have symptoms, which actually mimic hypothyroid, making it seem like your thyroid medication has stopped working, or your dose needs to be increased.
Heart palpitations, shortness of breath, exhausted/easy fatigue, pale face
Light-headed, brain fog, anxious, irritable and depression
Achy, burning, cramping in legs, weakness in arms, and hand numbness
Pressure behind eyes, nausea, decrease appetite, and diarrhea.
What causes low levels of iron to those with hypothyroid? Well, the thyroid regulates metabolism function, which can result in a lowered production of stomach acid, causing the malabsorption of iron. Additionally, this condition can result in heavier periods for women, which causes more iron loss.
Inflammation feeds on iron, so ferritin (storage iron) goes up, and serum iron goes down. Gluten can cause inflammation for those with Hashimoto's, but those with plain old hypothyroid, can have chronic inflammation in their joints also.
Iron, along with iodine, selenium and zinc, are essential for normal thyroid hormone metabolism. Insufficient iron levels can affect the first two of three steps in thyroid hormone synthesis, altering and reducing the conversion of T4 to T3. Additionally, low iron levels cause an increase of circulating concentrations of TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone), making one think their thyroid medication is not working, or needs to be increased. So those of you with a hypo functioning thyroid, next time your doctor runs labs, ask them to check your iron levels too.