Can Depression Be Caused By Low Thyroid? – Dr. Martin Rutherford

Today, we delve into the connection between depression and a low thyroid with Dr. Martin Rutherford. Depression affects millions of Americans, and Dr. Rutherford will discuss how thyroid disorders, particularly Hashimoto’s, can play a role in this growing trend. He explains that while most low thyroid cases are related to Hashimoto’s thyroid disease, hypothyroidism can also contribute to depression by slowing down brain function and affecting blood pressure, adrenal function, and blood sugar management. In addition, Hashimoto’s further decreases blood supply to the brain and increases inflammation in the frontal lobe, leading to increased symptoms of depression. This informative video by Dr. Rutherford aims to provide valuable insights into the link between depression and low thyroid, emphasizing the importance of seeking professional medical advice for any concerns regarding one’s health.

Can Depression Be Caused By Low Thyroid? - Dr. Martin Rutherford


Depression is a prevalent mental health disorder affecting millions of people in the United States. This article aims to explore the potential connection between depression and thyroid disorders, specifically focusing on hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. We will examine the definition and prevalence of depression, as well as the impact of thyroid disorders on brain function and their role in the development of depression. Additionally, we will discuss the effects of low thyroid levels on cognitive function, blood pressure, adrenal function, and blood sugar regulation. Moreover, we will explore the relationship between depression and low thyroid levels, common symptoms experienced by individuals with low thyroid, and factors contributing to depression in these individuals. Finally, we will delve into various treatment options, including conventional and alternative approaches, and the importance of addressing underlying causes through functional medicine. The article will conclude by highlighting the importance of comprehensive diagnosis and treatment for individuals experiencing both depression and low thyroid levels, and the future directions of research and treatment in this field.


Depression is a widespread mental health condition that affects a significant portion of the U.S. population. In a given year, approximately 17.3 million American adults, accounting for about 7.1% of the population aged 18 and older, suffer from depression (National Institute of Mental Health, 2017). The causes of depression are complex and multifactorial, with various biological, psychological, and environmental factors contributing to its development.

Definition of Depression

Depression is a mood disorder characterized by persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and a loss of interest in activities. It often interferes with a person’s daily functioning and can manifest in physical symptoms such as changes in appetite, sleep disturbances, and fatigue. While everyone experiences feelings of sadness or grief from time to time, depression is different as it persists for an extended period, typically lasting for weeks, months, or even years.

Prevalence of Depression

Depression is a prevalent mental health condition with a significant impact on individuals and society as a whole. The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that approximately 7.1% of American adults experience a major depressive episode in a given year. Depression affects people of all ages and can have severe consequences for physical health, productivity, and quality of life.

Connection between Depression and Thyroid Disorders

Research suggests a potential link between depression and thyroid disorders, particularly hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. The thyroid gland, located in the neck, produces hormones that regulate metabolism, energy levels, and mood. Thyroid disorders, such as hypothyroidism, involve an underactive thyroid gland, resulting in a decrease in thyroid hormone production. This imbalance can disrupt numerous bodily functions, including brain function and the regulation of mood.

Understanding Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism is a condition characterized by an underactive thyroid gland, leading to a decreased production of thyroid hormones. This hormonal imbalance results in a slowdown of bodily functions, affecting various organ systems, including the brain.

Definition of Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism is a medical condition in which the thyroid gland fails to produce an adequate amount of thyroid hormones. This hormonal deficiency can disrupt the body’s metabolism, affecting almost every organ and bodily function.

Causes of Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism can have various causes, including an autoimmune condition called Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, thyroid surgery, radiation therapy, certain medications, and congenital factors. Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, the most common cause of hypothyroidism, occurs when the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks and damages the thyroid gland.

Symptoms of Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism can present with a range of symptoms, including fatigue, weight gain, dry skin, hair loss, intolerance to cold, muscle weakness, and constipation. These symptoms can manifest gradually over time and may be mistaken for other health conditions. Additionally, individuals with hypothyroidism may experience changes in mood and cognitive function, which connect to the potential development of depression.

Effects of Hypothyroidism on the Brain

Hypothyroidism can have a significant impact on brain function due to the crucial role thyroid hormones play in regulating neural activity. When thyroid hormone levels are low, various cognitive functions may be affected, including memory, attention, and concentration. These changes in brain function have the potential to contribute to the development of depression.

Depression and Hypothyroidism

Research suggests a relationship between hypothyroidism and depression, particularly in individuals with underlying autoimmune conditions like Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. Hypothyroidism can result in altered brain function, affecting neurotransmitter levels and compromising mood regulation. Understanding this connection is crucial for proper diagnosis and treatment of both conditions.

Relationship between Hypothyroidism and Depression

Hypothyroidism and depression often coexist, with each condition potentially exacerbating the other. Hypothyroidism can lead to depressive symptoms due to its impact on brain function, neurotransmitter levels, and metabolism. Conversely, depression can negatively affect thyroid function, disrupting the body’s ability to regulate thyroid hormone production. This bidirectional relationship between hypothyroidism and depression creates a complex interplay between the two conditions.

Impact of Hypothyroidism on Brain Function

Hypothyroidism can significantly impact brain function due to its effects on neurotransmitters, neural activity, and energy metabolism. The brain requires an adequate supply of thyroid hormones to perform critical functions such as mood regulation, cognitive processing, and memory formation. When thyroid hormone levels are low, these processes may become compromised, potentially leading to the development of depressive symptoms.

Common Symptoms of Depression in Hypothyroid Patients

Individuals with hypothyroidism may experience both typical depressive symptoms and symptoms specific to the condition itself. Common symptoms of depression in hypothyroid patients include persistent feelings of sadness, loss of interest or pleasure in activities, changes in appetite and weight, sleep disturbances, fatigue or lack of energy, difficulties with concentration, and feelings of worthlessness or guilt.

Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis

Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is an autoimmune condition characterized by inflammation of the thyroid gland. It is the most common cause of hypothyroidism and is often associated with the development of depression.

Definition of Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis

Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is an autoimmune disorder in which the immune system attacks the thyroid gland, leading to chronic inflammation and damage. Over time, this inflammation can impair the thyroid’s ability to produce hormones, resulting in hypothyroidism.

Prevalence of Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis

Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is a prevalent autoimmune disorder, affecting a substantial number of individuals worldwide. It is more common in women than men and often develops during middle age. The exact prevalence of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis varies among different populations but is estimated to affect 5-15% of the general population.

Connection between Hashimoto’s and Hypothyroidism

Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is closely linked to the development of hypothyroidism, as the autoimmune attack on the thyroid gland damages its tissue, leading to decreased thyroid hormone production. The majority of individuals diagnosed with hypothyroidism have underlying Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.

Can Depression Be Caused By Low Thyroid? - Dr. Martin Rutherford

Effects of Hashimoto’s on Brain Function

Hashimoto’s thyroiditis can have significant effects on brain function due to its impact on thyroid hormone production. The autoimmune attack on the thyroid gland leads to a decrease in thyroid hormone levels, impairing neural activity and mood regulation. Inflammation within the frontal lobe, the region of the brain associated with depression, is also observed in individuals with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.

Low Thyroid and Its Effects

Thyroid hormones play a crucial role in brain health and overall well-being. Low thyroid levels, whether due to hypothyroidism or other underlying conditions, can have profound effects on various aspects of cognitive function, blood pressure regulation, adrenal function, and blood sugar regulation.

The Role of Thyroid in Brain Health

Thyroid hormones are essential for proper brain development and function. They regulate neural activity, neurotransmitter production, and synaptic plasticity, all of which are vital for cognitive processes such as memory, attention, and learning. Low thyroid levels can disrupt these functions, leading to cognitive impairment and an increased risk of depression.

Effects of Low Thyroid on Cognitive Function

Low thyroid function can impair cognitive function, resulting in difficulties with memory, attention, concentration, and problem-solving. These cognitive deficits can affect daily life activities, work performance, and overall quality of life.

Impact of Low Thyroid on Blood Pressure

Thyroid hormones play a role in regulating blood pressure by influencing cardiac output and vascular resistance. Low thyroid levels can lead to decreased blood pressure, causing symptoms such as fatigue, dizziness, and lightheadedness.

Low Thyroid and Adrenal Function

The thyroid and adrenal glands work closely together to regulate various bodily functions, including stress response and energy metabolism. Low thyroid function can disrupt adrenal function, leading to decreased production of cortisol and adrenal fatigue. This imbalance can contribute to symptoms of depression and fatigue.

Low Thyroid and Blood Sugar Regulation

Thyroid hormones play a crucial role in the regulation of blood sugar levels. Low thyroid function can lead to insulin resistance and impaired glucose metabolism, resulting in fluctuations in blood sugar levels. These fluctuations can contribute to mood swings, fatigue, and difficulties in managing emotions.

Depression and Low Thyroid

The link between depression and low thyroid function is well-established, with numerous studies highlighting their association. Depression is a common symptom in individuals with low thyroid levels, and addressing thyroid imbalances is essential for effective treatment.

The Link between Low Thyroid and Depression

Low thyroid function can lead to depressive symptoms due to its impact on brain function and neurotransmitter levels. Thyroid hormones affect the production and function of neurotransmitters such as serotonin and norepinephrine, both of which are involved in mood regulation. When thyroid levels are low, these neurotransmitters may become imbalanced, contributing to the development of depression.

Can Depression Be Caused By Low Thyroid? - Dr. Martin Rutherford

Common Symptoms of Depression in Low Thyroid Patients

Individuals with low thyroid function may experience symptoms of depression, including persistent sadness, feelings of hopelessness or emptiness, loss of interest in activities, changes in appetite and weight, sleep disturbances, fatigue or lack of energy, difficulties with concentration and decision-making, and thoughts of self-harm or suicide.

Contributing Factors to Depression in Low Thyroid Patients

Several factors can contribute to the development of depression in individuals with low thyroid function. These include neurotransmitter imbalances, disruption of brain function, hormonal imbalances, inflammation, and the overall impact of thyroid dysfunction on physical and emotional well-being.

Effectiveness of Depression Treatment in Low Thyroid Patients

Proper diagnosis and treatment of low thyroid function are essential for effectively managing depression symptoms. Addressing the underlying cause of thyroid dysfunction can lead to improvements in depressive symptoms and overall well-being. Treatment options may include hormone replacement therapy, lifestyle modifications, and addressing underlying factors through functional medicine.

Treatment Options

Diagnosis of Low Thyroid and Depression

Accurate diagnosis of low thyroid function and depression requires a comprehensive evaluation of symptoms, medical history, and laboratory tests. Blood tests that measure thyroid hormone levels, thyroid antibodies, and mood-related neurotransmitters can help identify underlying imbalances contributing to depressive symptoms.

Conventional Treatment Approaches

Conventional treatment for low thyroid function involves hormone replacement therapy with synthetic or natural thyroid hormones. Medications such as levothyroxine are commonly prescribed to restore thyroid hormone levels and alleviate symptoms. In cases where depression is a significant symptom, antidepressant medications may also be prescribed.

Alternative Treatment Approaches

Alternative treatment approaches for depression and low thyroid function may include dietary and lifestyle modifications, nutritional supplementation, stress management techniques, and other complementary therapies such as acupuncture and herbal medicine. These approaches focus on addressing underlying imbalances and promoting holistic well-being.

Addressing the Underlying Causes through Functional Medicine

Functional medicine takes a comprehensive approach to address the underlying causes of both depression and low thyroid function. This approach involves identifying and treating factors such as nutrient deficiencies, chronic inflammation, gut health issues, adrenal dysfunction, and other imbalances that may contribute to symptoms. By adopting a personalized and integrative approach, functional medicine aims to restore overall health and well-being.

Addressing Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis

Management of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis involves a combination of conventional and functional medicine approaches. While conventional treatment focuses on hormone replacement therapy, functional medicine addresses underlying autoimmune factors, inflammation, and lifestyle modifications to reduce symptom severity and improve overall health.

Importance of Lifestyle Modifications

Lifestyle modifications play a crucial role in managing Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and its associated symptoms. These modifications may include adopting a nutrient-dense diet, regular exercise, stress management techniques, and adequate sleep. These lifestyle changes can help reduce inflammation, support hormone balance, and improve overall well-being.

Nutritional Support for Hashimoto’s Patients

Proper nutrition is essential for individuals with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, as certain nutrients play a role in thyroid hormone production and immune function. Nutritional support may involve specific dietary adjustments to support thyroid health and reduce inflammation. Additionally, targeted supplementation may be recommended to address nutrient deficiencies and optimize overall health.

The Role of Stress Management in Hashimoto’s

Stress can worsen symptoms of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis by increasing inflammation and compromising immune function. Adopting stress management techniques such as mindfulness meditation, yoga, and relaxation exercises can help reduce stress levels and support overall thyroid health.

The Impact of Thyroid Treatment on Depression

Improvement in Depression Symptoms after Thyroid Treatment

Studies have shown that treating thyroid dysfunction, particularly hypothyroidism, can lead to improvements in depressive symptoms. Restoring thyroid hormone levels through hormone replacement therapy can help alleviate the psychological and cognitive symptoms associated with depression.

Factors Affecting the Effectiveness of Thyroid Treatment

The effectiveness of thyroid treatment for depression can be influenced by various factors. These include the dose and type of thyroid medication, underlying autoimmune conditions, hormonal imbalances, lifestyle factors, and individual variations in treatment response. Ongoing monitoring and adjustments may be necessary to achieve optimal results.

Combining Different Approaches for Optimal Results

For individuals experiencing both depression and low thyroid levels, combining different treatment approaches may be the most effective strategy. A comprehensive approach that includes medication, lifestyle modifications, stress management techniques, and addressing underlying causes through functional medicine can yield optimal results in terms of symptom relief and overall well-being.


Understanding the link between depression and low thyroid function is crucial for accurate diagnosis and effective treatment. The complex relationship between these two conditions highlights the importance of comprehensive evaluation and personalized approaches to address underlying imbalances. By addressing both depression and low thyroid function, individuals can experience improvements in their overall quality of life and well-being. Continued research and advancements in treatment approaches will further enhance our understanding and ability to manage these conditions effectively.

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