This story originally appeared at LittleThings.
Most of the time, when we feel something a little funny in our bodies, we simply shake it off: “It’s just a cold, allergies, or age,” we tell ourselves.
Sometimes this is true. But more often than we expect, these seemingly innocent problems can indicate bigger medical issues—like how lightheadedness could be a sign of heart disease in women. That’s why it’s so important to pay attention to the messages our bodies send us—such as when we experience issues with our thyroid.
Though it’s a just small gland in our throats, the thyroid is responsible for producing the thyroid hormone (or TH), which regulates your metabolism, temperature, and heartbeat. If a thyroid suddenly gets all out of whack, it can do one of two things: it either becomes overactive, producing too much of the hormone, or it can also slow down and grow sluggish, developing too little of the hormone.
To learn how to spot some of the early warning signs of thyroid issues, scroll down and read these often-overlooked symptoms.
What Does A Thyroid Look Like?
Your thyroid is located in the front of your neck and is shaped like a butterfly, which is highlighted below in red. It’s hard to believe such a tiny thing in your body can have so much influence.
If your thyroid becomes overactive, it produces too much of the thyroid hormone, thus developing hyperthyroidism.
Alternatively, your thyroid can become under-active, developing too little thyroid hormone, thus developing hypothyroidism.
Symptom #1: Feeling Sad or Depressed
According to the Mayo Clinic, an over- or under-active thyroid can completely alter your mood. Too little thyroid hormone can affect the levels of “happy” serotonin in the brain, making you feel unusually blue or even depressed.
On the flip side, too much thyroid hormone can make you feel anxious, restless, or irritable.
Symptom #2: Constipation
If you are suffering from constipation and you can’t kick it, it is likely a disruption in thyroid hormone production has caused a slowdown in digestion.
“This is one of the top three most common symptoms of hypothyroidism,” says integrative medicine specialist Dr. Robin Miller.
Symptom #3: Sleeping Too Much
We all have a hard time getting out of bed in the morning, but when it feels unbearable, it should be a wakeup call, according to Dr. Miller.
A sluggish thyroid can make bodily functions slow to a turtle’s pace, making you feel sleepy even during the day.
Symptom #4: Hair Loss and Dry Skin
Is your skin dry and itchy and it’s not even winter? This may be a symptom of hypothyroidism. The shift in texture is thanks to a slowed metabolism, which can reduce sweating.
Your hair and nails may feel dry and brittle, as well. Your hair may even be falling out. The reason? A lack of thyroid hormone interrupts your hair growth cycle, which results in hair loss.
“Lots of my patients come in and tell me that their hairdresser sent them,” says Dr. Miller. “They’ll say, ‘My hair stylist said I’m losing my hair and I needed to go ask my doctor about my thyroid.’ The hair salons are more aware of thyroid problems than some doctors!”
Symptom #5: Sudden Weight Gain
Though weight gain can be caused by many factors, suddenly weight gain without any changes to your dietary or physical habits could be cause for concern, according to WebMD.
In fact, it’s one of the main reasons people show up in Dr. Miller’s office. “They’ll tell me that they aren’t eating any more than usual, but they’re gaining weight,” she says. “They are exercising, but they are getting nowhere. They can’t lose it.” It’s almost always due to an under-active thyroid, she says.