The thyroid, a butterfly-shaped gland in the neck, can have a dramatic impact on a huge variety of bodily functions. If you don’t exactly know what the thyroid does and what hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism mean, this article will provide all the answers related to your thyroid health.
What does a thyroid do?
It releases hormones that control your metabolism, i.e. the way your body uses energy. Improper thyroid function adversely affects your metabolism triggering a variety of symptoms that can easily be misdiagnosed. Statistical data show that one in 20 people are affected with some sort of thyroid dysfunction in their lifetime and women are at a higher risk compared to men.
What is the difference between Hypothyroidism and Hyperthyroidism?
These two common thyroid conditions differ in the amount of hormone produced by the thyroid. Hypothyroidism is the reduced activity of the thyroid gland (underactive thyroid) leading to a decrease in circulating thyroid hormones. This slows the metabolic activity within the body. Hyperthyroidism is the increased activity of the thyroid gland (overactive thyroid) resulting in an increase in the level of thyroid hormones circulating in the blood. This speeds up the metabolic activity within the body.
How can you tell if you have either of them?
The signs and symptoms of both conditions are related to the excess or deficiency of circulating thyroid hormones. In case of hypothyroidism you often lack concentration, feel sleepy, gain weight, have dry skin, thinning or coarse hair, muscle pains or cramping, fluid retention and cold intolerance.
In case of hyperthyroidism, you undergo unexplained weight loss, fast heart rate, heat intolerance, insomnia, irritability, nervousness or anxiety, and diarrhea.
Goiter, a large lump on your throat, is also a common symptom of thyroid dysfunction. Iodine deficiency is the major cause of goiter.
What triggers thyroid issues?
The most common causes of thyroid dysfunction include:
- Iodine deficiency
- Heavy metal buildup
- Chronic stress
- Overload of toxins
Other causes include various autoimmune conditions. Even certain conditions that increase thyroid hormone production such as Graves’ disease, subacute thyroiditis, or toxic adenomas lead to hyperthyroidism. On the other hand, conditions that reduce the production of thyroid hormones including Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, thyroid removal, or excessive exposure to iodide or lithium can trigger hypothyroidism.
How can you look after your thyroid and prevent thyroid conditions?
A healthy thyroid, thus a happy metabolism, is best maintained with a healthy lifestyle. In case you have already been diagnosed with a thyroid condition, some changes in your lifestyle can be quite beneficial.
Dr Hyman advises:
Treat the Underlying Causes
It’s of utmost importance to recognize and address the underlying causes of hypothyroidism, and these include food allergies, heavy metals, nutritional deficiencies, and stress. Try avoiding foods that can trigger digestive discomfort, like gluten and dairy.
Optimize Your Nutrition
Stimulate your thyroid with a healthy diet that comprises foods rich in iodine, zinc, omega-3 fats, selenium, and more. Cut off refined flours, sugars and processed foods.
A comprehensive stress management program can do a great deal in reducing your stress. Consider taking up yoga, daily meditation, breathing techniques, and spending more time in nature.
Do thyroid stimulating exercise to improve thyroid function.
Supplements can also stimulate your thyroid, including all the nutrients essential for proper thyroid function. Consult a holistic doctor, naturopath or natural therapist for this matter.
Get rid of stored toxins, which inhibit thyroid function, using saunas and heat.
Support your thyroid using thyroid hormone replacement therapy. Consult your doctor to see what works best for you.
It’s important to have in mind that the power of the body to heal itself when given what it needs is enormous, so do the best you can to provide it with what it needs!