Information on hyperthyroidism symptoms and coping with an overactive thyroid.
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- Symptoms of Hyperthyroidism
- What Causes Hyperthyroidism?
- Help for Hyperthyroidism
- Foods to Avoid for Those with Hyperthyroidism
What is Hyperthyroidism?
Hyperthyroidism means your thyroid, a small butterfly-shaped gland in the neck, is too active. An overactive thyroid makes too much thyroid hormone.
The thyroid influences many bodily functions, including metabolism, physical growth and development, puberty, organ function, body temperature and fertility. How well the thyroid regulates these functions depends on the production of two specific hormones, called T3 and T4. When the level of thyroid hormones drops too low, the pituitary gland in the brain produces Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) which tells the thyroid gland to produce more hormones.
When the thyroid gland produces too much of these hormones, our bodies use energy faster than they should. Because the thyroid controls vital body systems, overactive thyroid symptoms can affect many different parts of the body.
Symptoms of hyperthyroidism can look like many other health problems. If you’re experiencing overactive thyroid symptoms, always see your health care provider for a proper diagnosis. A blood test is the best screening method for hyperthyroidism. The blood test measures the levels of T3 and T4 (the thyroid hormones) as well as levels of TSH in your blood.
The blood test will give your health care provider an accurate picture of how your thyroid is functioning. If your doctor feels further testing is necessary, they may recommend a thyroid ultrasound to check for thyroid nodules, or a thyroid scan with radioactive iodine.
Symptoms of Hyperthyroidism
Hyperthyroidism symptoms can mimic a variety of other health issues, sometimes making it difficult for doctors to diagnose.
Overactive thyroid symptoms can include:
- Impotence in Males
- Muscle Spasms, Cramps, Twitching & Tremors
- Eye Twitch
- Hair Loss
- Anger , Mood Swings or Feeling Anxious
- Stomach Problems
- Low Sex Drive
- Body Temperature Changes
- Diarrhea or Experiencing more bowel movements than usual
- Rapid heartbeat
- Difficulty breathing
- Sweating more than usual
- Hair becoming brittle
- Losing weight regardless of the amount of food you eat
What Causes Hyperthyroidism?
The most common causes of hyperthyroidism include:
- Graves’ disease – An autoimmune disorder caused when the body's natural immune system attacks the thyroid gland. An antibody overstimulates the thyroid, and the thyroid fights back by making too much thyroid hormone. This condition occurs most often in young to middle-aged women and tends to run in families.
- Thyroid nodules - The thyroid may sometimes develop lumps and cysts called nodules. These nodules can secrete too much thyroid hormone. Most nodules are generally harmless, but if you feel a lump it is best to have it checked by a health professional.
- Thyroiditis – Occurs when the thyroid becomes irritated, causing it to temporarily become overactive. This can lead to the release of excess amounts of thyroid hormones, which can then cause the thyroid to become underactive.
- Excessive iodine intake – In rare cases, eating too many iodine-rich foods or taking medications containing iodine may cause the thyroid to produce either too much or too little hormone.
- Eating Disorders (e.g. Bulimia) - The thyroid gland can change its regular behavior as a result of decreased nutrition from eating disorders.
Who is at Risk for Hyperthyroidism?
A variety of factors may make someone more likely to experience symptoms of hyperthyroidism, including:
- Being a woman
- Being age 60 or older
- Having a personal history of past thyroid problems
- Having a family history of overactive thyroid symptoms or other thyroid problems
- Having type 1 diabetes or other certain conditions
- Being pregnant or giving birth within the last 6 months
Help for Hyperthyroidism
Thyroid disorders are very common. With appropriate treatment, troublesome hyperthyroidism symptoms can be alleviated and balanced. There are a number of options for hyperthyroidism treatment. Because everyone is different, it is important to explore the options that work for you.
The aim of hyperthyroidism treatments is to decrease the amount of thyroid hormone made by the thyroid gland, so that excess amounts do not get into the bloodstream. The most common conventional treatments for overactive thyroid symptoms include radioactive iodine, beta-blockers, anti-thyroid medications and surgery (thyroidectomy).
Your health care professional may refer you to an endocrinologist, a doctor who specializes in body hormone systems.
How to Treat Hyperthyroidism Naturally
Alternative treatments offer a wide variety of ways to treat hyperthyroidism naturally. Natural treatment for hyperthyroidism includes methods to help maintain an overall balance in the body: acupuncture, physical medicine and massage. Natural hyperthyroidism treatments have been used for centuries, and the Western community is embracing this holistic approach to healthcare more than ever before.
A whole-body approach to hyperthyroidism treatment can address not only the symptoms of hyperthyroidism, but also tackle the root cause and underlying problems. It is best to discuss natural treatment for hyperthyroidism with your doctor or consult a homeopath or naturopath for advice. Also, it is important to incorporate a healthy diet, exercise, meditation and other mind-body therapies for maximum benefit.
Drug Therapies for Hyperthyroidism
Conventional medications for mild hyperthyroidism include anti-thyroid drugs such as methimazole (Tapazole) or propylthiouracil (PTU). For advanced hyperthyroidism, conventional methods such as radioactive iodine treatment (RAI) are commonly used.
These medications can have unwanted side effects, so you should be closely monitored while taking them. An incorrect dosage or choice of drugs can make symptoms worse or cause other distressing symptoms. Research these drugs thoroughly so you can make an informed decision.
If conventional drug therapy for an overactive thyroid is unsuccessful, your doctor may recommend thyroidectomy (surgical removal of the thyroid). After this procedure, the body no longer produces thyroid hormones. Instead, the hormones are supplemented by synthetic hormones or hormones of animal origin.
Achieving the correct balance of supplemented hormones can be difficult, and many people suffer from symptoms of hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) after a thyroidectomy.
Recommended Diet for Hyperthyroidism
Those with hyperthyroidism should eat foods high in protein, B vitamins and iron, such as whole grains and fresh vegetables. Add in antioxidant-rich foods such as blueberries, cherries, tomatoes, squash and bell peppers. Hyperthyroidism can cause bones to become brittle, increasing the risk for osteoporosis, so talk with your doctor about taking vitamin D and calcium supplements during and after hyperthyroidism treatment.
Foods to Avoid for Those with Hyperthyroidism
Since hyperthyroidism can be the result of too much iodine in the body, limit intake of iodine-rich foods such as iodized salt, kelp, seafood, sea salt and some dairy products. Foods with nitrates, such as lunch meat, can cause your thyroid to absorb too much iodine. Avoid processed and refined foods like white bread, pasta and sugar, along with trans fats in commercially cooked foods like fried foods and margarine. At home, choose olive oil or vegetable oil instead of high-fat cooking oils.
Supplements to Avoid with Hyperthyroidism
Along with the foods to avoid with hyperthyroidism, certain dietary supplements can worsen an overactive thyroid. Avoid taking iodine, selenium or kelp if you have hyperthyroidism.
Tips for Coping with Hyperthyroidism
We can always take steps to empower ourselves and manage our health. To alleviate and reduce hyperthyroidism symptoms, these small measures may help.
- Reduce stress by listening to music, taking a long bath or meditating in a quiet place.
- Avoid caffeine and other stimulants, as they may worsen certain overactive thyroid. symptoms such as fast heartbeat, nervousness, or concentration difficulties.
- Place ice packs on the throat to help reduce inflammation.
- Eat certain foods that can help depress the thyroid, such as leafy greens and cruciferous
- vegetables like cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli and brussels sprouts.
- Stay away from refined foods, shellfish, wheat, dairy products and alcohol.
- Avoid food and supplements containing iodine.
- Products such as ThyroSoothe™ promote endocrine system balance and thyroid gland health.
The better we take care of our bodies, the better they will take care of us. Remember that healthy eating habits, adequate sleep and regular exercise will go a long way in sustaining good health and wellbeing!
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