Thyroid problems: symptoms and treatment
Do you suffer with unexplained fatigue, malaise, difficulty losing weight, hair loss, depression, poor concentration or memory, menstrual problems, infertility, depression, chronic constipation or muscle weakness? You may have an underactive thyroid, which has not shown up on standard blood tests.
You may have been treated for Hashimotos thyroiditis or Graves disease and still do not feel energised and well.
A holistic approach to the diagnosis and management of your thyroid condition is an option worth considering.
Thyroid disease is an increasingly important cause of malaise and illness in Australia. An estimated 10% of the population have thyroid disease diagnosed by abnormal pathology results.
While thyroid disease occurs more commonly in women, than in men, and is more prevalent after middle age, thyroid dysfunction may occur at any age,
The consequences of undiagnosed or untreated thyroid dysfunction are significant and may severely compromise ones long term health and wellbeing.
As the thyroid gland is a master regulatory gland, controlling the growth and function of many different organs and tissues within the body, signs and symptoms of thyroid dysfunction may vary. Common symptoms of an underactive thyroid include general malaise, unexplained fatigue, fluid retention, difficulty losing weight (or inexplicable weight gain), impaired memory or concentration, constipation, hair loss (including from the eyebrows), sensitivity to cold, coarse or aging skin, puffiness around the eyes, depression, muscle weakness or pain, infertility and others.
Symptoms of an overactive thyroid gland include fatigue, a rapid heart rate, palpitations, chest pain, breathlessness, fever, sweating, vomiting, diarrhoea, abdominal pain, weight loss, agitation, restlessness and anxiety.
Thyroid hormones have an important role in controlling the metabolism of fats and sugars within the body, so any impairment of thyroid function may result in elevated blood lipids, including LDL (the so called ‘bad’ cholesterol).
Regulation of gut and kidney function, promotion of integrity of the gut lining and optimal absorption of nutrients are all important roles under the control of the thyroid hormones. As 70-80% of the immune system resides in the gut, any disordered gut function may have far reaching effects.
Regulation of the menstrual cycle and fertility are also under the influence of the thyroid. Women with an underactive thyroid may present with heavy painful periods, irregular or absent periods, premenstrual syndrome, recurrent miscarriage, hyperprolactinemia, progesterone deficiency, or infertility.
There are several causes of thyroid disease and it is always important to look for and treat these causes and not just replace the missing hormones.
The thyroid gland is extremely sensitive to oxidative stress, which acts to decrease production of thyroid hormone. Oxidative stress may also cause direct damage to the DNA and the cells of the thyroid gland.
A number of vitamins and minerals are essential for normal thyroid hormone production. These include vitamins A, B complex and D, and minerals zinc, selenium, tyrosine and iodine.
Iodine deficiency is the commonest cause of an underactive thyroid, worldwide. In developed countries, however, Hashimotos thyroiditis is the commonest cause of an underactive thyroid, with Graves disease being the commonest cause of an overactive thyroid. Both conditions are autoimmune diseases whereby the patient’s own immune system produces antibodies that attack the thyroid gland, or interfere with normal hormone production.
Management of thyroid disease involves not only restoration of thyroid hormone balance, but also investigation and correction of any underlying causes, nutrient deficiencies, biochemical and/or other hormonal imbalances, supporting a healthy gut and especially correction of any immune system dysfunction.
Diet and lifestyle changes, in conjunction with targeted nutritional supplements are an important component of a holistic program to promote clinical improvement and the return to wellness.