There are a lot of questions surrounding thyroid health. What does the thyroid do? What does it mean when your Doctor tells you have hyperthyroidism, or even more common, hypothyroidism? And what’s the difference? We’ve answered all of your top questions about thyroid health right here!
What does a thyroid do?
The thyroid gland secretes hormones to regulate many metabolic processes, including growth and energy expenditure. If the thyroid gland is overactive or sluggish, the metabolism will be affected, leading to a variety of symptoms that are easily misdiagnosed. Around one in 20 people will experience some form of thyroid dysfunction in their lifetime. Women are more susceptible than men.
What is the difference between Hypothyroidism and Hyperthyroidism?
The big difference between the two is the hormone output from the thyroid. Hypothyroidism means your thyroid gland isn’t making enough thyroid hormone for the body’s needs, where hyperthyroidism means your thyroid is making too much.
How can you tell if you have either of them?
The symptoms of hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism vary greatly due to the different changes in hormone output. With hypothyroidism you’re usually feeling sluggish, lacking concentration, have dry skin, thinning or coarse hair, muscle pains or cramping, fluid retention and sensitive to cold temperatures.
People with hyperthyroidism, on the other hand, tend to have unexplained weight loss, accelerated heart rate, sensitivity to heat, sleeping difficulties, irritability, nervousness or anxiety, and diarrhea.
You may also have a large lump on your throat, which is called a goitre. This means your thyroid is working too hard or you have a significant iodine deficiency.
What triggers thyroid issues?
Three of the main triggers for thyroid conditions are lifestyle related:
- Chronic stress
- Overload of toxins
- Iodine deficiency
- Heavy metal build up
The other main triggers are various autoimmune conditions. Hyperthyroidism can be caused by conditions that increase thyroid hormone production such as Graves’ disease, subacute thyroiditis, or toxic adenomas. Whereas hypothyroidism is usually triggered by conditions that reduce the production of thyroid hormones including Hashimoto's thyroiditis, thyroid removal, or excessive exposure to iodide or lithium.
How can you look after your thyroid and prevent thyroid conditions?
Leading a healthy lifestyle is the key to maintaining a healthy thyroid and a happy metabolism. If you have already been diagnosed with a thyroid condition, a little extra care can really make a difference.
Dr Hyman suggests:
- Treat the Underlying Causes — Identify and treat the underlying causes of hypothyroidism, like food allergies, heavy metals, nutritional deficiencies, and stress. Eliminate the foods that cause you digestive distress, most commonly gluten and dairy.
- Optimize Your Nutrition — Support your thyroid with optimal nutrition, including foods that contain iodine, zinc, omega-3 fats, selenium, and more. Eliminate refined flours, sugars and processed foods.
- Minimize Stress — Eliminate adrenal exhaustion and minimize stress by engaging in a comprehensive stress management program. Think yoga, daily meditation, breathing techniques, spending more time in nature, more often.
- Exercise — Engage in thyroid stimulating exercise, which boosts thyroid function.
- Supplement — Use supplements to help enhance thyroid function, including all the nutrients needed for proper thyroid metabolism and function. Speak with a holistic doctor, naturopath or natural therapist for appropriate suggestions.
- Heat Therapy — Use saunas and heat to eliminate stored toxins, which interfere with thyroid function.
- Thyroid Hormones — Use thyroid hormone replacement therapy to help support your thyroid gland. Speak with your doctor to find out what will work for you best.
Whilst it may seem like an unruly gland, there are many things you can do to help improve the health of your thyroid and reduce your risk of many common problems. If you’re having thyroid troubles currently, just remember to never underestimate the power of your body to heal itself when given what it needs!