What is thyroid disease?
Thyroid disease is a blanket term for dysfunction of the thyroid. The thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped gland located in the front of the neck. It is responsible for producing the hormones tetraiodothyronine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3), which control how your cells use energy. It regulates the metabolism and affects nearly every part of the body, including the brain, heart, muscles and skin. When there is dysfunction in the thyroid, it will produce either too much (hyperthyroidism) or too little (hypothyroidism) of the thyroid hormones.
What is a hypothyroidism?
Hypothyroidism is a condition in which the thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormone. The thyroid hormone is responsible for, among other things, the body’s metabolism, which affects heart rate, body temperature, and how well the body burns calories.
The most common type of hypothyroidism is known as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, also known as lymphocytic thyroiditis or autoimmune thyroiditis. This autoimmune disorder is an inflammation of the thyroid gland. It causes the body to product antibodies which attach and sometimes destroy the thyroid gland. Hashimoto’s disease is usually treated with a hormone replacement.
What are the symptoms?
The thyroid hormones are responsible for regulating the body’s metabolism. When the thyroid is not producing sufficient amounts of the hormone, the metabolism slows. Many of the symptoms of hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s are related to a slow metabolism.
Symptoms vary and generally come on slowly, getting worse over the years, making them difficult to detect. People often mistake the symptoms, such as fatigue and weight gain, as normal signs of aging, but as the thyroid continue to degrade, the symptoms will continue to become more and more severe.
Symptoms may include:
- Weight gain
- Pain and swelling of the joints
- Muscle aches and pains
- Dry skin
- Sensitivity to the cold
- High cholesterol
- Irregular menstrual cycles
- Slowed heart rate
- Thin hair or balding
- Poor memory
What causes hypothyroidism?
Hypothyroidism can be caused by a variety of factors, including certain medications, congenital thyroid agenesis (being born without a thyroid) and radioactive iodine (a common treatment for hyperthyroidism and thyroid cancer). Genetic defects and tumors or abnormal growths can also affect the thyroid. There are disorders, such as sarcoidosis, which can cause the growth of inflamed tissue throughout the body, including in the thyroid.
One of the most common causes of hypothyroidism is the treatment of other thyroid conditions. Oftentimes, a portion or the entirety of the thyroid gland will be surgically removed. This can leave the patient with an insufficient number of thyroid hormone-producing cells left to meet the body’s needs, aka hypothyroidism.
Another common cause is inflammation of the thyroid, or Hashimoto’s. Hashimoto’s is an autoimmune disorder, meaning that the immune system begins attacking the thyroid, as if it were an invading virus. This kills or damages the thyroid cells, leaving it unable to produce a sufficient amount of the hormone. While it is not entirely clear what causes this type of immune response, those with an existing autoimmune disorder are at a higher risk for developing the condition.
What is hyperthyroidism?
Hyperthyroidism, sometimes called ‘overactive thyroid’, is a condition which causes the thyroid to produce more thyroid hormone than the body can use. The hormones released by the thyroid effect nearly every part of the body, including the brain, the skin, and the muscles. They are responsible for regulating how the body uses energy (the metabolism) and how calories are burned.
What are the symptoms?
The thyroid regulates the body’s metabolism, so overproduction of the hormones can result in a high metabolic rate. Many of the symptoms are related to this ‘hypermetabolic state’. In some, this condition may also cause an arrhythmia, which can lead to strokes and possibly heart failure.
Symptoms also include:
- Swollen or inflamed thyroid gland (visible on the front of the neck)
- Rapid weight loss
- Elevated blood pressure
- Irregular or elevated heart rate
- Shaking hands
- Excessive sweating
- Frequent bowel movements
- In women, Irregular menstrual cycles
- Nervousness, restlessness
- Trouble sleeping
- Hair loss or thinning hair
- Vomiting and nausea
- Increased appetite
- Inability to concentrate
- In men, breast development
If you experience dizziness, irregular heartbeat, shortness of breath or loss of consciousness, seek medical attention immediately.
What causes hyperthyroidism?
The most common cause of hyperthyroidism is Grave’s disease, an autoimmune disorder which causes the immune system to make an antibody called thyroid-stimulating immunoglobulin (TSI). This antibody causes the thyroid to overproduce the thyroid hormone. Grave’s disease is genetic and usually affects younger women.
Those with an existing autoimmune disorder are at higher risk for hyperthyroidism. Some autoimmune disorders can cause the immune system to attack the thyroid, wreaking havoc on its ability to function properly.
Another cause of hyperthyroidism is thyroiditis, or inflammation of the thyroid. The thyroid can become inflamed as a result of an autoimmune disorder or a virus, causing the hormones to spill into the blood.
The growth of one or more nodules on the thyroid can also cause hyperthyroidism.
Prescription thyroid medication
Taking more than prescribed of a prescription medication for a thyroid disorder can damage the thyroid and cause hyperthyroidism.
Exposure to high levels of iodine can result in hyperthyroidism. Iodine is used by the thyroid to make hormones, so unusually high levels of iodine in the body can result in overproduction. Kelp or seaweed supplements and some prescription heart medication can contain high amounts of iodine.
Traditionally, thyroid disease treatment has aimed to restore proper hormone levels using medication and possibly surgery. Different medication and treatments will be used depending on the specific thyroid condition. Hyperthyroidism treatment aims to lessen the amount of hormones that the thyroid produces, while hypothyroidism treatment will usually include a synthetic hormone to supplement the thyroid lessened production. As with any medication, there will be side effects and other concerns associated with the suppression or disruption of the natural function of the body.
Medication may also be prescribed to suppress the symptoms of the conditions, such as increased heart rate and nausea. Radioactive Iodine (known as radioactive ablation) may be prescribed to selectively destroy the thyroid tissue in cases where hyperthyroidism is not responding to other medication.
At the Magaziner Center for Wellness, we use a functional medicine model to treat thyroid disease naturally. Whereas conventional healthcare focuses on the use of medication or other methods that suppress symptoms or block the natural function the body, we use natural therapies that work in conjunction with the body. Our treatments work by facilitating, enabling and assisting normal physiologic reactions. In other words, rather than fighting the body and its natural function, we support it, giving it the tools it needs to heal itself.
We try to identify factors that may be adversely affecting the thyroid gland such as environment chemicals or heavy metals, and look for nutrient imbalances or food sensitivities. We then treat these areas to build up the body’s innate healing mechanisms. Since the thyroid is part of the endocrine system and many chemicals contribute to dysfunction of these glands, we educate our patients about exposure to environmental factors that may impair thyroid function. We also assess and treat for bio-energetic weaknesses that can also help to improve thyroid function.
Search Our Site
From Our Blogs
Probiotics and Weight Loss A high intake of yogurt has been found to be associated with a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes, according to research published in open access journal BMC Medicine. This highlights the importance of having yogurt as part of a healthy diet. Eating Healthy for Your Brain Cutting calories and eating foods that make up a healthy diet may be a simpler way to prevent memory loss as we age Food Additives and ObesityArtificial sweeteners, promoted as aids to weight loss and diabetes prevention, could actually hasten the development of glucose intolerance and metabolic disease; and they do it in a surprising way: by changing the composition and function of the gut microbiota...