The human body is a marvel with wondrous systems keeping the body in healthy check. One vital area is the endocrine system and glands. The major glands of the endocrine system are the hypothalamus, pituitary, thyroid, parathyroids, adrenals, pineal body, and the reproductive organs.
Thyroid health is important since the gland is responsible for releasing hormones directly into the bloodstream which in turn enable your body to regulate many important biochemical reactions, including protein synthesis, enzymatic activity, and are critical determinants of your bodies metabolism.
However, an over or underactive thyroid gland can lead to many symptoms and health issues. Discover the types, symptoms, treatment for hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism.
Types of Thyroid Disorders
Hypothyroidism: is an underactive thyroid which results in an inability to produce hormones at the levels required. Women over 60 are especially susceptible to hypothyroidism.1
Hyperthyroidism: is the result of an overactive thyroid gland that over produces the hormone thyroxine. Hyperthyroidism can accelerate your body's metabolism significantly, causing sudden weight loss, a rapid or irregular heartbeat, sweating, and nervousness or irritability.2
How to Diagnose Thyroid Symptoms
Hypothyroidism symptoms rarely show up in the early stages, but eventually can lead to obesity, joint pain, and heart disease. Common symptoms of hypothyroidism include1:
- slow heart rate
- cold sensitivity
- hair loss
- dry skin
- pain and stiffness in joints
- memory impairment
- weight gain
Hyperthyroidism symptoms are often the opposite of hypothyroidism and can include2:
- raised heart rate
- increased blood pressure
- hair loss
- vision problems
- sweating and aversion to heat
- weight loss
An additional symptom of hyperthyroidism, albeit more rare, is an eye condition called Graves' ophthalmopathy. Graves disorder is when your eyeballs bulge past the eye orbits caused by swollen tissues behind your eyes.
Symptoms of Graves' ophthalmopathy include:
- protruding eyeballs
- swollen eyes
- excessive tears and blurry vision
- light sensitivity
What Causes Thyroid Disorder?
The causes of thyroid disorder are currently unknown but some factors are known such as:
- pituitary dysfunction
- hypothalamus dysfunction
- iodine deficiency
- gastrointestinal dysfunction and liver disease
- cellular resistance
What Science Tells Us:
The Pituitary gland plays an important role in stimulating the thyroid gland to produce thyroid hormones. Any form of pituitary disorder will impact thyroid hormone production. Commonly, the disorder is the result of a benign tumor but can also occur from any head injuries or even medications.3
Hypothalamic dysfunction is a disorder of the brain’s hypothalamus. The hypothalamus regulates the pituitary gland and any trauma can impair pituitary function. The causes of hypothalamic dysfunction are surgery, brain injury, tumors, eating disorders, iron build up and more.3
Iodine deficiency while uncommon in North America, is a global health problem often occurring from low iodine levels in the soil resulting in low iodine in food. Without enough iodine in the body, the thyroid has problems making thyroid hormone.4
The gastrointestinal (GI) tract and beneficial bacteria helps in reaching optimal thyroid health. Your thyroid for proper functioning, needs a healthy GI tract so your body can convert T4 into T3, and 20% of this hormone conversion occurs in the intestines. Any GI problems and an imbalance of bacteria ratio of good and bad bacteria may lead to low thyroid function.5
The Liver plays a role in metabolizing thyroid hormones and regulates the endocrine system. Any disorder of the thyroid can impair liver function.6
Cellular resistance or thyroid hormone resistance is a genetic disorder that occurs in 1 of 40,000 births. People born with the genetic mutation may show symptoms of hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism.7
Treatments for Thyroid Disorders
There are various treatments for hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism. The best treatment depends on factors such as your age, health, or severity of your disorder.
Treatments for Hyperthyroidism Include:
Radioactive iodine. Oral radioactive iodine is a safe method used to treat hyperthyroidism by shrinking the thyroid gland. Symptoms will decrease and results may show within three to six months. Radioactive iodine treatment causes thyroid activity to slow which may require medication to replace thyroxine, the main hormone produced by the thyroid gland.8
Anti-thyroid medications. Treatment with these medications (propylthiouracil and methimazole) prevents your thyroid gland from producing excess hormones. Symptoms will improve over six to 12 weeks. Anti-thyroid medications can cause serious liver damage and some patients may be allergic.
Beta blockers. This treatment is more for symptoms associated with hyperthyroidism to decrease elevated heart rate and prevent palpitations. Side effects can include fatigue, headache, upset stomach, constipation, diarrhea or dizziness.8
Surgery. In some cases of hyperthyroidism, surgery called thyroidectomy may be an option if you're pregnant or can't tolerate medications.8
Treatment for hypothyroidism is limited to oral treatment with the synthetic thyroid hormone levothyroxine. This drug will restore your hormone levels while reversing the symptoms of hypothyroidism. Treatment with levothyroxine is lifelong and your doctor will need to check your Thyroid-Stimulating Hormone (TSH) level annually.
Absorption of levothyroxine can be affected by certain medications, supplements or foods. Talk to your doctor if you eat high amounts of soy, high-fiber or medications, including:9
- Iron supplements
- Aluminum hydroxide
- Calcium supplements
Questions to Ask Your Medical Doctor (MD) or Healthcare Partner
Before you visit your doctor or health care provider, consider the following questions to ask.10
1. What labs will you run to determine if my thyroid is functioning appropriately?
2. Will you use TSH for diagnosing and determining whether thyroid levels are optimal?
3. What is the lab’s normal range for thyroid tests and what range would be optimal for me?
4. Will you consider the presence of absence of my symptoms when dosing not just the labs?
5. What thyroid replacement drug will you be prescribing?
6. How often will you run tests to check my thyroid levels?
7. After we have my levels adjusted to the optimal level, how often do you suggest I get tested?
Questions Your Doctor May Ask You
1. Your doctor may ask you a number of questions, including:
2. What are your symptoms, and when did you begin experiencing symptoms?
3. Have your symptoms been continuous or occasional?
4. Have you noticed changes in your energy level or your mood?
5. How severe are your symptoms?
6.What, if anything, seems to improve your symptoms?
7. What, if anything, appears to worsen your symptoms?
8. Do you have a family history of thyroid disease?11
Guggul - Natural Ingredient that Aids in Thyroid Health
Nature offers a natural health ingredient called Guggul that can aid in managing your thyroid disorder. Guggul (also called Guggulipids) is a shrub most commonly found in India.
The active ingredient in Guggul extract is known as Guggulsterone. It has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years. The Guggul plant enhances hormone production, lowers inflammation, and manages cholesterol levels.
Studies have shown Guggul supplements can help regulate thyroid function and aid in treatment of hypothyroidism. The active ingredient can increase simulation of the thyroid gland and aid in converting T4 thyroid hormone into its more active T3 form. This also aids in weight loss and fat burning. This can help increase metabolism, lower cholesterol, and burn fat.12
One major interaction and warning of Guggul is it can increase the side effects of estrogen and estrogen medications such as premarin, estradiol and others.13
Helpful Thyroid Books for Self-Education
- The Thyroid Connection, by Amy Myers, MD
- Stop the Thyroid Madness, by Janie A. Bowthorpe
- Hypothyroidism: the Unsuspected Illness, by Broda Barnes
- Overcoming Thyroid Disorders, by David Brownstein
- Living Well With Hypothyroidism: What Your Doctor Won’t Tell You, by Mary J. Shomon
Thyroid disorders can disrupt your life and health. Being aware of the types, diagnosis and treatments will help better manage your health. Remember to work with your health provider for the best means for your thyroid disorder management.
We would love to hear about your experiences with thyroid disorders. Share with the LifeSeasons community and support our belief that knowledge is power and our community is our life source.
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