Have you recently noticed weight gain that you just can’t explain? Did this come along with feelings of lethargy, moodiness or fatigue?
Or are you on the other end of the spectrum and are experiencing rapid sudden weight loss mixed with feelings of irritability, sweating or heart palpitations?
If either of these descriptions rings a bell for you, you might be suffering from a thyroid issue.
Weight gain, moodiness and fatigue are symptoms of hypothyroidism.
Weight loss, irritability and heart issues could mean hyperthyroidism.
Learning that you have thyroid problems can be a confusing and worrying time, no matter which condition you have – but it doesn’t have to be.
The first step is to get diagnosed by your doctor. Diagnosis is usually straightforward – all you need is a blood test. The good news is there are many effective treatment options. There are even some natural ways to enhance your thyroid function.
If you are just beginning your journey into the world of thyroid disease, this article should help you understand the role played by this vital organ. Understanding how and why a thyroid condition develops and what symptoms you can expect along the way will help remove some of the mystery and stress that comes with a new diagnosis.
I will also share some natural and herbal remedies that may bring you some relief. Not all herbs for thyroid are created equal so I’m going to help you separate fact from fiction.
What Exactly is the Thyroid?
The thyroid is a gland that sits directly below your Adam’s apple and is often described as being shaped like a butterfly.
The thyroid gland secretes a couple of hormones that help control a lot of critical functions in your body. When your thyroid is not releasing hormones as it should be, you run into a host of issues.
What Does the Thyroid Do?
As I mentioned, the thyroid’s job is to secrete hormones throughout the body – namely thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). T4 plays the biggest role in thyroid conditions.
The thyroid doesn’t work alone. It co-operates with other glands and body systems such as the pituitary gland. These hormones play a huge role in regulating your body temperature, metabolism, growth and development.
Thyroid hormones are especially important during infancy and early childhood as the brain develops.
What Is Hyperthyroidism?
Hyperthyroidism is a condition where your thyroid gland becomes overactive and produces too much thyroid hormone. As mentioned previously it can lead to weight loss, elevated blood pressure, heart palpitations and increased sweating.
Endrocrine Web lists some additional symptoms of hyperthyroidism:
- Hand tremors
- Mood swings
- Trouble sleeping
- Skin dryness
- Increased frequency of bowel movements
- Lighter periods or extended time between periods
Hyperthyroidism can also lead to the development of a condition called goiter. A goiter is an enlarged thyroid gland which becomes evident as a large swollen lump on the front of the neck.
The most frequent cause of hyperthyroidism is Graves’ Disease. Graves’ Disease is an autoimmune disorder that causes overproduction of the antibody TSI (thyroid-stimulating immunoglobulin).
TSI prompts the thyroid to make too much thyroid hormone. Graves’ Disease occurs more often in women and tends to run in families.
Other causes of hyperthyroidism are thyroiditis (inflammation of the thyroid), excessive iodine intake and something called toxic nodular goiter, (nodules in the thyroid).
What Is Hypothyroidism?
Wikipedia states that hypothyroidism is a “common disorder of the endocrine system in which the thyroid does not produce enough thyroid hormone.” As mentioned previously, this can lead to fatigue, weight gain, depression and moodiness.
If hyperthyroidism goes untreated during a women’s pregnancy it can cause developmental and growth issues with the fetus so it’s important to know what to look out for.
There are two major causes of hypothyroidism, the most common being Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis is inflammation of the thyroid caused by your own immune system.
The other big cause is medical treatments. Often thyroid conditions need to be treated by removing part, or all, of the gland. This is most common with thyroid cancer. If the segment of the thyroid remaining in the body is not enough to meet the needs or your body, you’ll develop hypothyroidism.
Thyroid Malfunction in Women
Women are more likely than men to develop thyroid disease. According to WomensHealth, 1 in 8 women will experience thyroid disease in their lifetime.
Along with the usual symptoms of thyroid disease, women face additional problems such as disruption of the menstrual cycle and difficulties with pregnancy.
Since the thyroid helps control a woman’s menstrual cycle, having too much or too little of thyroid hormone can stop periods completely or cause very heavy or very light flow.
If your body’s immune system is causing your thyroid condition, it can affect your ovaries or lead to early menopause.
As I’m sure you’ve already guessed, addressing possible thyroid conditions early on will give you your best chance of success at keeping yourself healthy.
Medicinal Treatments for Hyperthyroidism
Once your physician discovers your thyroid condition, there are plenty of solutions available.
Treatments for hyperthyroidism include:
- Radioactive iodine
- Anti-thyroid medications
- Beta blockers
Radioactive iodineAnti-thyroid medicationsBeta blockersThyroidectomy
Radioactive iodine is an oral medication that helps your thyroid gland shrink and reduces symptoms within 3 to 6 months. Anti-thyroid medications help prevent your thyroid gland from producing too much hormone.
Beta blockers are used for high blood pressure, so while they won’t change the condition or your hyperthyroidism they will help with the heart palpitations that come along with it.
A last resort would be a thyroidectomy, something you’d only want to consider as a last option as it involves the removal of most of your thyroid gland. This procedure can cause issues with your vocal chords as well as creating the requirement for lifelong medication to help regulate your thyroid. This might be the only option in the case of thyroid cancer.
Medicinal Treatments for Hypothyroidism
The Mayo Clinic states that the go-to treatment for hypothyroidism is synthetic thyroid hormone levothyroxine. This will replace the thyroid hormones you’ve stopped making and reverse the effects and symptoms of hypothyroidism.
These can also be used to prevent thyroid cancer from returning. Popular brands include Levothroid and Synthroid.
You should feel relief within 1-2 weeks but your dosage will likely have to change over time as your doctor monitors your progress and levels.
Natural Solutions for Thyroid Disease
While you should always consult your physician if you think you have a thyroid condition, natural herbs for thyroid can be part of your treatment plan if you’re a fan of alternative remedies.
Please bear in mind that thyroid malfunction is a serious illness and you should never try to treat it yourself or discontinue prescribed medicines in favour of herbs for thyroid. You must always have clearance from your doctor who knows what’s best for you and your body.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Autoimmune disorders often are exacerbated by a poor diet, especially a diet high in gluten or processed foods or a lack of good fat intake.
In order to keep your gut in balance and healthy, probiotic foods such as apple cider vinegar can help promote healthy gut bacteria. Probiotic foods also help increase your metabolism and energy levels.
Check out this YouTube video to discover plenty of ways apple cider vinegar is good for your health:
Fish oils contain omega-3 fatty acids which we don’t create internally and must get from food. According to this Livestrong article, “omega-3 fatty acids help decrease inflammation, increase immunity, and may affect gene expression.”
You have likely heard that fish oils are great for your cardiovascular health. However there’s recently been some evidence that fish oil may help with hypothyroidism as well.
Livestrong goes on to tell us that the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry did a study with rats in 2010 and found that “thyroid hormone receptors and enzyme levels involved in thyroid hormone uptake were higher in the fish oil group.” Fish oil is also known to reduce inflammation which is a cause of hyperthyroidism.
A study conducted in 2013 found that vitamin D levels are often lower in patients with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. This is especially apparent in women, who had even lower levels than men with the same condition.
As you can imagine, getting your daily dose of vitamin D is integral to thyroid health.
Wake up early and spend approximately 15 minutes in the early morning sunshine. You can also take vitamin D supplements if approved your doctor.
Kelp is a type of seaweed that is rich in iodine. If you are suffering from hypothyroidism due to an iodine deficiency then kelp could be a great all-natural tactic for you. However if you are suffering from an autoimmune-induced thyroid condition, steer clear of kelp. It might worsen the condition.
Many dietary oils that we consume every day can be detrimental to thyroid health. These include vegetable oils, soybean oil and polyunsaturated oils.
According to Dr. Ray Peat, polyunsaturated oils interfere “with the function of the thyroid gland. Unsaturated oils block thyroid hormone secretion, itsmovement in the circulatory system, and the response of tissues to the hormone.”
None of that sounds very good, does it? Instead, coconut oil is a saturated fat full of medium-chain fatty acids or triglycerides. These acids are known to positively affect your metabolism and encourage weight loss.
This article provides a full-blown synopsis of how polyunsaturated fats are affecting our systems and how eliminating those from your diet and adding coconut oil can truly help your thyroid function and overall health.
Herbs for Thyroid Health
There are a few herbs out there that might help your thyroid conditions.
Adaptogenic herbs such as Ashwagandha are great for improving thyroid function.
Scientists don’t quite understand the intricacies of how adaptogens work but it’s been found that they can be extremely beneficial at balancing hormones.
The best part about this herb is that it can help sufferers of both hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism. According to Dr. Josh Axe, ashwagandha “has been shown to support a sluggish thyroid for people diagnosed with Hashimotos, and has been shown to improve the health of those with an overactive thyroid or Graves’ Disease.
The mission of adaptogenic herbs is to get your body back into a balanced state. So many things we do on a daily basis can get our body and our hormones out of whack. Herbs like ashwagandha are said to re-harness that balance for you.
Dr. Axe goes on to say that “ashwagandha may benefit thyroid function because it greatly reduces lipid peroxidation by promoting scavenging of free radicals that cause cellular damage.”
Tulsi, or Holy Basil, is another great herb to research if you are experiencing thyroid issues. This herb is also an adaptogen which works to balance out your hormones. Tulsi can be ingested in capsule form or through herbal teas.
If you are pregnant or trying to become pregnant, you should avoid herbal-based food and drinks as they can affect your hormones negatively during those times.
The Last Word
As you’ve learned, thyroid conditions can be very detrimental to your health. Whether your thyroid is overactive or underactive, there are plenty of ways to get your hormones back in balance and under control.
If you are feeling the symptoms of either disease, be sure to see your physician right away. Untreated thyroid issues, especially during pregnancy can be damagingl to your health and the health of your little one.
Luckily for us health nuts, there are ways to do some naturally as well. Depending on your specific condition some of these solutions include:
- Fish oils
- Vitamin D
- Coconut oil
- Herbs such as Tulsi or Ashwagandha
Are you currently suffering from a thyroid condition? How did your physician suggest you treat it? If you are taking prescribed medication, are you also supplementing with any natural products?
I’d love to hear from you in the comments below. Thyroid disease affects millions of people and it often goes underdiagnosed. By us sharing with each other, we can hopefully bring hope and relief to others.