The thyroid gland is found in the front of the neck around the Adam’s apple. It secretes a number of hormones (thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3) and affects many of the bodies function including temperature regulation, metabolic rate protein synthesis and others.
The thyroid gland secretes T4 and T3 as a response to another hormone TSH secreted from the pituitary gland. The pituitary gland in turn is under the control of another hormone from the hypothalamus (TRH).
Therefore although problems with thyroid hormones are usually associated with thyroid gland, but sometimes problems in the pituitary or hypothalamus can be the cause.
The gland can either work excessively (hyperthyroidism), or produce insufficient hormone (hypothyroidism).
Excess production of T4 and T3 leads to a number of symptoms including anxiety, emotional lability, weakness, tremor, palpitations, heat intolerance, increase perspiration, weight loss despite a normal or increased appetite. In some conditions (Graves’ disease), the eyes can become very prominent (exophthalmos).
What is Hyperthyroidism ?
Hyperthyroidism is a condition in which an overactive thyroid gland is producing an excessive amount of thyroid hormones that circulate in the blood. (“Hyper” means “over” in Greek). Thyroid hormones include thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). T3 is actually the most active thyroid hormone. Much of the T4 is converted to T3 in the bloodstream.
The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped gland located in the front of the neck. The thyroid gland itself is regulated by the pituitary gland in the brain, and the pituitary gland is regulated by the hypothalamus, another gland in the brain.
Thyrotoxicosis is a toxic condition that is caused by an excess of thyroid hormones from any cause. Thyrotoxicosis can be caused by an excessive intake of thyroid hormone or by overproduction of thyroid hormones by the thyroid gland.
What are the Symptoms of Hyperthyroidism
Hyperthyroidism can mimic other health problems, which can make it difficult for your doctor to diagnose. It can also cause a wide variety of signs and symptoms, including:
- Unintentional weight loss, even when your appetite and food intake stay the same or increase
- Rapid heartbeat (tachycardia) — commonly more than 100 beats a minute
- Irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia)
- Pounding of your heart (palpitations)
- Increased appetite
- Nervousness, anxiety and irritability
- Tremor — usually a fine trembling in your hands and fingers
- Changes in menstrual patterns
- Increased sensitivity to heat
- Changes in bowel patterns, especially more frequent bowel movements
- An enlarged thyroid gland (goiter), which may appear as a swelling at the base of your neck
- Fatigue, muscle weakness
- Difficulty sleeping
- Skin thinning
- Fine, brittle hair
Older adults are more likely to have either no signs or symptoms or subtle ones, such as an increased heart rate, heat intolerance and a tendency to become tired during ordinary activities.
The Causes of Hyperthyroidism
- Graves’ disease is the most common cause of hyperthyroidism, and is an autoimmune disease where the body produces TSH antibodies which stimulate the thyroid gland.
- Toxic nodular goitre – these are benign tumours of the thyroid gland which secrete excessive T3 and T4.
- Iodine induced hyperthyroidism – this is rare but can sometimes follow high doses of iodine contrast used for x-rays, or the prolonged use of iodine rich drugs such as amiodarone.
- Thyroiditis describes a number of conditions where the thyroid gland becomes inflamed and temporarily produces too much T3 or T4. This can happen after viral infections, radiation and some drugs. It can frequently be followed by hypothyroidism.
Risk factors for hyperthyroidism, include:
- A family history, particularly of Graves’ disease
- Female sex
- A personal history of certain chronic illnesses, such as type 1 diabetes, pernicious anemia and primary adrenal insufficiency
Sometimes an uncommon problem called Graves’ ophthalmopathy may affect your eyes, especially if you smoke. This disorder makes your eyeballs protrude beyond their normal protective orbits when the tissues and muscles behind your eyes swell. Eye problems often improve without treatment.
Signs and symptoms of Graves’ ophthalmopathy include:
- Dry eyes
- Red or swollen eyes
- Excessive tearing or discomfort in one or both eyes
- Light sensitivity, blurry or double vision, inflammation, or reduced eye movement
- Protruding eyeballs
Graves’ disease triggers
The triggers for Graves’ disease include:
- radiation to the neck,
- medications, and
- infectious organisms such as viruses.
Graves’ disease can be diagnosed by a standard, nuclear medicine thyroid scan, which shows diffusely increased uptake of a radioactively labeled iodine. In addition, a blood test may reveal elevated TSI levels.
Hyperthyroidism can lead to a number of complications:
- Heart problems. Some of the most serious complications of hyperthyroidism involve the heart. These include a rapid heart rate, a heart rhythm disorder called atrial fibrillation that increases your risk of stroke, and congestive heart failure — a condition in which your heart can’t circulate enough blood to meet your body’s needs.
- Brittle bones. Untreated hyperthyroidism can also lead to weak, brittle bones (osteoporosis). The strength of your bones depends, in part, on the amount of calcium and other minerals they contain. Too much thyroid hormone interferes with your body’s ability to incorporate calcium into your bones.
- Eye problems. People with Graves’ ophthalmopathy develop eye problems, including bulging, red or swollen eyes, sensitivity to light, and blurring or double vision. Untreated, severe eye problems can lead to vision loss.
- Red, swollen skin. In rare cases, people with Graves’ disease develop Graves’ dermopathy. This affects the skin, causing redness and swelling, often on the shins and feet.
- Thyrotoxic crisis. Hyperthyroidism also places you at risk of thyrotoxic crisis — a sudden intensification of your symptoms, leading to a fever, a rapid pulse and even delirium. If this occurs, seek immediate medical care.
Medications for hyperthyroidism treatment
The options for treating hyperthyroidism include, treating the symptoms of the condition with medications, antithyroid drugs, radioactive iodine, and surgery.
Medications that immediately treat hyperthyroidism symptoms caused by excessive thyroid hormones, such as a rapid heart rate, include beta-blockers, for example, propranolol (Inderal), atenolol (Tenormin), and metoprolol (Lopressor).
These medications counteract the effect of thyroid hormone to increase metabolism, but they do not alter the levels of thyroid hormones in the blood. A doctor determines which patients to treat based on a number of variables including the underlying cause of hyperthyroidism, the age of the patient, the size of the thyroid gland, and the presence of coexisting medical illnesses.
There are two main antithyroid drugs available for use in the United States to treat hyperthyroidism, methimazole (Tapazole) and propylthiouracil (PTU). The major risk of these medications is occasional suppression of production of white blood cells by the bone marrow (agranulocytosis). (White cells are needed to fight infection.) It is impossible to tell if or when this side effect is going to occur, so regular determination of white blood cells in the blood are not useful.
Rarely, methimazole or propylthiouracil may cause fever, sore throat, or other signs of infection. If you develop these symptoms, contact your doctor immediately.
Usually, long-term antithyroid therapy is only used for people with Graves’ disease, since this disease may actually go into remission under treatment without requiring treatment with thyroid radiation or surgery.
If treated from 1 to 2 years, data shows remission rates of 40%-70%. When the disease is in remission, the gland is no longer overactive, and antithyroid medication is not needed.
Studies also have shown that adding a pill of thyroid hormone to the antithyroid medication results in higher remission rates. This type of therapy remains controversial, however. When long-term therapy is withdrawn, patients should continue to be seen by the doctor every three months for the first year, since a relapse of Graves’ disease is most likely in this time. If a patient does relapse, antithyroid drug therapy can be restarted, or radioactive iodine or surgery may be considered.
Nutrients and thyroid
In addition to iodine, there are some other vitamins and minerals that you may need to include your regular diet or take as supplements.
- Vitamin A. This vitamin is most often associated with good vision and healthy skin and teeth, but it also plays a role in thyroid hormone metabolism.
- Vitamin D. Research shows that hypothyroidism is often accompanied by vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D supplements or multivitamins containing vitamin D may be appropriate if your diet doesn’t include enough food sources of this important vitamin.
- Selenium. Selenium is an essential mineral that plays several important functions in the body, including the metabolism of thyroid hormones. Maintaining normal levels of selenium in the body is also key to helping to prevent thyroid disease.
- Zinc. A zinc deficiency can adversely affect thyroid function.
- Iron. Sufficient iron levels are also critical to thyroid health. Like selenium and zinc, iron helps the body convert inactive T4 hormone into active T3 hormone.
There’s no such thing as a hyperthyroidism diet, but what you eat matters. Hyperthyroidism—when your thyroid gland produces too much thyroid hormone—can’t be prevented or treated though diet alone. It’s often treated with prescription medication, so see your doctor immediately if you have hyperthyroidism symptoms. But by eating certain foods, you can limit some mild hyperthyroidism symptoms.
From strawberries to blueberries to raspberries—the choice is yours. Berries pack a powerful punch because they’re bursting with antioxidants, which keep your immune system strong. Eat a serving of berries every day.
Broccoli is part of the goitrogen family—foods that can decrease the amount of thyroid hormone your thyroid gland produces. Foods that belong to this group are known as “cruciferous” foods. Not a broccoli fan? Other cruciferous veggies include cauliflower, kale, and cabbage. Eat one or more servings of these veggies a day.
Vitamin D and Omega-3s for Thyroid Health
Salmon contains vitamin D—an essential nutrient that works with calcium to prevent bone loss. Salmon also carries a megadose of omega-3 fatty acids that keep you healthy. Your body doesn’t naturally produce these fatty acids, so you have to get them from food.
If you’re not into fish, get your vitamin D from eggs and mushrooms and your omega-3s from walnuts, olive oil, and flaxseed oil. Eats foods with these nutrients daily.
Turkey is an excellent source of protein—important because your body needs protein for energy and to build and maintain muscle.
Weight loss is a common hyperthyroidism symptom, so eating enough protein can help ensure you stay at a healthy weight. Don’t eat meat? No problem—you can get protein from beans and nuts. Just try to eat protein at every meal.
4 Lifestyle Tips for Hypothyroidism
Having hypothyroidism can make you feel exhausted and sluggish, and it can make it difficult to concentrate, among other things—even when you’re taking levothyroxine (a type of thyroid hormone replacement therapy and the most common treatment for hypothyroidism).
But What Should You Eat?
While there isn’t a hypothyroidism diet, you should focus your meals around veggies, fruits, whole grains, lean protein, and healthy fats. And to keep your energy levels stable, you can eat small meals throughout the day.
Weight gain is a common symptom of hypothyroidism, so eating well can also help you maintain a healthy weight. Some foods (eg, high-fiber foods) and supplements (eg, iron, calcium) can affect how you absorb levothyroxine, so talk to your doctor about these foods and supplements.
Walking, Weight Lifting, and Yoga
You already know how good exercise is for you, but are you doing enough of it? If you are, are you mixing it up enough? Exercise can boost energy, decrease stress, and help you maintain a healthy weight (all important benefits, especially if you have hypothyroidism).
Work in the 3 types of exercises: aerobic (aka cardio), strengthening, and flexibility. Exercises to try: Walking, light weight lifting, and yoga. Talk to your doctor before trying a new exercise program.
From Meditation to Massage
Have you been told to relax lately? If so, you were probably thinking, ‘How can I relax when I have a million things to do?’ Well, it’s time to make yourself a priority.
Having a chronic disease—even if it’s being treated and monitored by your doctor—can be stressful. It can take a toll on your overall health. To combat stress, pencil in a weekly massage or schedule a daily 5-minute session of deep breathing or meditation.
Go to Bed Early Tonight
If you have hypothyroidism, you probably feel tired throughout the day. What helps? Establishing a sleep schedule and sticking to it helps. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day—including weekends. In general, the sweet spot for sleep is between 7 and 9 hours.
If you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, talk to your doctor about other ways to help you drift off into dreamland.
‘Thyroid support’ supplements
In addition to traditional multivitamins or single-item vitamins and supplements, you may see products claiming to be ideal for “thyroid support” or “thyroid strength.”
These thyroid vitamin and mineral supplements may be convenient ways to get enough key nutrients. But many of them also come with herbal supplements, such as ashwaganda.
Be mindful that while some herbal supplements may be safe and actually provide health benefits, supplements are not tested by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or reviewed with the same level of scrutiny as medications.
They may contain ingredients not listed on the label, and it’s not always clear how much of a particular ingredient is contained in each pill.
Many “thyroid support” products also contain synthetic thyroid hormone, which can lead to an imbalance of hormone levels in your body, whether or not you’re taking prescription synthetic hormones.
It’s very important that you speak with your healthcare provider before taking a “thyroid support” supplement or any supplements or vitamins.
Drawbacks and risks of supplements
For people with hypothyroidism, taking a synthetic version of the hormone in pill form can help them achieve healthy hormone levels. However, there are some foods, medications and other supplements that should be avoided when taking your thyroid hormone. Among them are:
- iron supplements or multivitamins containing iron
- calcium supplements
- antacids that contain magnesium or aluminum
- sucralfate (Carafate) and certain other ulcer medications
- certain cholesterol-lowering drugs, including those that contain cholestyramine (Prevalite) and colestipol (Colestid)
- soybean flour
- cottonseed meal
- foods and supplements containing soy
You may still be able to consume these items, but you should take them a few hours before or after taking your thyroid medication. Talk with your doctor about a daily schedule that will help reduce your risk of unhealthy interactions.
Which USANA Products contain selenium, zinc, and vitamin B-12 ?
USANA Cellsentials contains selenium, zinc, and vitamin B-12 which is necessary for your daily diet but USANA Cellsentials contains Idoine. It is not good for Hyperthyroidism patients. But USANA Vita Antioxidant™ has enough vitamins for Hyperthyroidism patients to enhance their immune system.