Thyroid Problems – Causes, Symptoms And Treatments
The thyroid gland is located on the front part of the neck below the thyroid cartilage (Adam’s apple). The gland produces thyroid hormones, which regulate metabolic rate (how fast calories are consumed to produce energy). Thyroid hormones are important in regulating body energy, body temperature, the body’s use of other hormones and vitamins, and the growth and maturation of body tissues.
Problems occur when the thyroid gland becomes either underactive (hypothyroidism) or overactive (hyperthyroidism). Thyroid problems are more common in women than men. Cancer may also develop in the thyroid gland.
By Blood Test
Doctor can diagnose hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism by testing the levels of thyroid hormones in your blood. The tests measure hormones from the thyroid itself, as well as thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), a chemical released by the pituitary gland that triggers your thyroid.
When you are hypothyroid, you have higher TSH levels because your body is trying to tell your thyroid to make more hormones. The reverse is true with hyperthyroidism: TSH levels are below normal and thyroid hormone levels are high.
Hypothyroidism And Hyperthyroidism in Pregnancy
Newly diagnosed hypothyroidism in pregnancy is rare because most women with untreated hypothyroidism do not ovulate or produce mature eggs in a regular manner, which makes it difficult for them to conceive.
It is a difficult new diagnosis to make based on clinical observation. The signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism (fatigue, poor attention span, weight gain, numbness, and tingling of the hands or feet) are also prominent symptoms of a normal pregnancy.
Undiagnosed hypothyroidism during pregnancy increases the chance of stillbirth or growth retardation of the fetus. It also increases the chance that the mother may experience complications of pregnancy such as anemia, eclampsia, and placental abruption.
Probably the largest group of women who will have hypothyroidism during pregnancy are those who are currently on thyroid hormone replacement. The ideal thyroxine replacement dose (for example, levothyroxine [Synthroid, Levoxyl, Levothroid, Unithroid]) may rise by 25% to 50% during pregnancy. It is important to have regular checks of T4 and TSH blood levels as soon as pregnancy is confirmed; and frequently through the first 20 weeks of pregnancy to make sure the woman is taking the correct medication dose. It is recommended that the levothyroxine dose be adjusted to keep the TSH level < 2.5 mIU/L during the first trimester of pregnancy and < 3 mIU/L during the last two trimesters of pregnancy. Usually the increase in thyroid hormone needed during pregnancy disappears after the delivery of the baby and the pre-pregnancy dose of levothyroxine can be resumed immediately post-partum.
Newly diagnosed hyperthyroidism occurs in about 1 in 2,000 pregnancies. Graves’ disease accounts for 95% of cases of hyperthyroidism newly diagnosed during pregnancy.
As with hypothyroidism, many symptoms of mild hyperthyroidism mimic those of normal pregnancy. However, anyone experiencing symptoms such as significant weight loss, vomiting, increased blood pressure, or persistently fast heart rate should have blood tests to evaluate whether hyperthyroidism is present.
Mild or subclinical hyperthyroidism defined as a lower than normal TSH and normal Free T4 level is not dangerous to the mother or baby and does not need to treated. Thyroid tests should be checked again in 4 weeks. However, untreated moderate to severe hyperthyroidism does cause fetal and maternal complications including poor weight gain and tachycardia (an abnormally fast heart rate).
There are new recommendations for the treatment of hyperthyroidism during pregnancy Propylthiouracil is used during the first trimester to block the synthesis of thyroid hormone and to bring thyroid hormone levels to borderline or slightly higher than normal levels. Propylthiouracil has a lower risk of some rare fetal malformations compared to methimazole (Tapazole) and is preferred during the critical fetal developmental period during the first trimester. Propylthiouracil is not recommended during the remainder or pregnancy because of the risk of serious hepatitis. During the second and third trimester, propylthiouracil should be switched to methimazole. The incidence rate of side effects for each medication is not increased in pregnancy.
Iodine will cross the placenta, so its use in either a thyroid scan or in treatment with radioactive iodine is prohibited in pregnancy.
One positive note for women with hyperthyroidism is that those with Graves’ disease or Hashimoto’s thyroiditis may have improvement in their symptoms as the pregnancy progesses.
The usual treatment for hypothyroidism is thyroid hormone replacement therapy. With this treatment, synthetic thyroid hormone (e.g., levothyroxine*) is taken by mouth to replace the missing thyroid hormone. Treatment is usually life-long.
Most people who take thyroid replacement therapy do not experience side effects. However, if too much thyroid hormone is taken, symptoms can include shakiness, heart palpitations, and difficulty sleeping. Women who are pregnant may require an increase in their thyroid replacement by up to 50%. It takes about 4 to 6 weeks for the effect of an initial dose or change in dose to be reflected in laboratory tests.
Treatments On Thyroid :
Hyperthyroidism can be treated with iodine (including radioactive iodine), anti-thyroid medications or surgery.
Radioactive iodine can destroy parts of the thyroid gland. This may be enough to get hyperthyroidism under control. In at least 80% of cases, one dose of radioactive iodine is able to cure hyperthyroidism. However, if too much of the thyroid is destroyed, the result is hypothyroidism. Radioactive iodine is used at low enough levels so that no damage is caused to the rest of the body. It isn’t given to pregnant women because it may destroy the thyroid gland of the developing fetus.
Larger doses of regular iodine, which does not destroy the thyroid gland, help block the release of thyroid hormones. It is used for the emergency treatment of thyroid storm, and to reduce the excess production of thyroid hormones before surgery.
Anti-thyroid medications (e.g., propylthiouracil* or methimazole) can bring hyperthyroidism under control within 6 weeks to 3 months. These medications cause a decrease in the production of new thyroid hormones by the thyroid gland. Larger doses will work more quickly, but may cause side effects including skin rashes, nausea, loss of taste sensation, liver cell injury, and, rarely, a decrease of blood cell production in the bone marrow.
Surgical removal of the thyroid gland, called thyroidectomy, is sometimes necessary. It may be required if there are cancerous nodules; if a non-cancerous nodule is causing problems breathing or swallowing; if the person cannot take radioactive iodine or antithyroid medications, or if these do not work; or if a nodule that contains fluid continues to cause problems. Removing the thyroid gland leads to hypothyroidism, which must then be treated with thyroid hormone therapy for the rest of a person’s life.
Sometimes your doctor may recommend other medications to help control symptoms of hyperthyroidism, such as shakiness, increased heart rate, anxiety, and nervousness. However, these won’t cure thyroid dysfunction.
Treatment for thyroid cancers often involves some combination of thyroidectomy (surgical removal of the thyroid gland), radioactive iodine, radiation therapy (less common), anticancer medications, and hormone suppression.
Some Natural Ways For Treating Thyroid :
1. EAT SEA VEGETABLES TWICE A WEEK
Sea vegetables are a good natural source of iodine to support the thyroid. Incorporating some sea veggies into your diet can be as simple as:
Adding a piece of kombu to a pot of beans or soup during cooking
Sprinkle kelp granules over your salads or hot dishes just like you would use salt
Making a nori wrap (this is what’s used to wrap sushi)
For recipes, check out Andrea’s website here or the Integrative Nutrition recipes featuring sea veggies.
2. DON’T BE AFRAID OF BUTTER
“The endocrine system loves butter,” Even if you’re cutting out other forms of dairy like milk and cheese, consider keeping grass-fed butter (like KerryGold butter) in your diet.
3. COOK YOUR KALE
If you have thyroid issues, then raw cruciferous vegetables may not be the best choice. You might want to skip the kale smoothies and salads, and eat your greens cooked instead. The reason is that the cruciferous vegetables contain goitrogens that may disrupt the thyroid if consumed in large quantities. Other cruciferous veggies include cabbage, Brussels sprouts, broccoli and cauliflower.
4. SLOW EATING
The thyroid gland is located in your throat area, so it literally connects the mind and body. When you rush while eating, the food moves so quickly from mouth to stomach that the connection from mind to body is not strong. The mouth doesn’t know what the stomach is doing and vice versa. This is good health advice no matter what: sit down, slow down, savor, breathe and chew your food. Since the thyroid is the master of your metabolism, you want to eat slowly enough so it can record the message that food is entering the body.
5. DO YOGA REGULERLY
During my experience at yoga teacher training, I was astonished and delighted to learn how much the yoga asanas can stimulate and support the entire endocrine system. The shoulderstand (sarvangasana) is especially beneficial for stimulating the thyroid gland.
6. SUPPORT YOUR ADRENALS
The thyroid and adrenal glands work together, so if you are exhausted and depleted you may benefit from adrenal support. In the Be Well store we offer Adaptogens, which are herbs to support the adrenals, as well as an Energy Formula that helps you fight fatigue.