The thyroid gland, a small butterfly-shaped organ located in the neck, plays a vital role in regulating various bodily functions. Thyroid disease is a broad term encompassing a range of disorders that affect the thyroid’s function and can lead to a multitude of health issues. From hormonal imbalances to metabolic disruptions, thyroid disease has significant implications for the body. In Canada, like many other parts of the world, thyroid disease is prevalent and requires understanding to ensure timely diagnosis and effective management.
What is Thyroid Disease?
Thyroid disease refers to conditions that disrupt the normal function of the thyroid gland, leading to either an overactive or underactive thyroid. The two most common types of thyroid disorders are hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid) and hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid). Additionally, there are other conditions such as thyroid nodules, goiter (enlarged thyroid), and thyroid cancer that can affect the gland’s function. According to estimates, one in ten Canadians suffer from a thyroid disorder. Thyroid disease comes in a variety of forms. However, hypothyroidism (thyroid under-activity) and hyperthyroidism (thyroid over-activity) are the principal diseases present in the majority of thyroid ailments. This is mostly because thyroid disease symptoms can mirror those of other illnesses and have a tendency to develop slowly. In a cohort study of more than 24,000 participants from 1998, 90% of subjects with an unexplained thyroid function impairment who were untreated also had thyroid gland dysfunction and increased serum TSH levels.
Impact on the Body
Hyperthyroidism: An overactive thyroid gland produces excessive thyroid hormones, leading to symptoms like rapid heartbeat, weight loss, anxiety, irritability, and tremors. Graves’ disease, an autoimmune disorder, is a common cause of hyperthyroidism.
Hypothyroidism: An underactive thyroid gland results in inadequate production of thyroid hormones, causing symptoms such as fatigue, weight gain, depression, cold sensitivity, and dry skin. Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, another autoimmune condition, is a frequent cause of hypothyroidism.
Thyroid Nodules and Goiter: These conditions involve the development of lumps or an enlarged thyroid gland. While most nodules are benign, some could be cancerous. A goiter can cause difficulty swallowing, hoarseness, and breathing problems.
Thyroid Cancer: Although relatively rare, thyroid cancer requires prompt diagnosis and treatment. Common types include papillary carcinoma and follicular carcinoma.
Prevalence in Canada
Thyroid disease is prevalent in Canada, affecting a significant portion of the population. According to the Thyroid Foundation of Canada, it’s estimated that over 200 million people globally have thyroid disorders, with women being more susceptible than men. Exact statistics vary, but it’s believed that around 1 in 10 Canadians will experience thyroid dysfunction at some point in their lives.
Diagnosis and Management
Diagnosing thyroid disease involves a combination of medical history, physical examinations, blood tests measuring thyroid hormone levels, and, if necessary, imaging studies such as ultrasound scans. Management strategies vary depending on the specific condition and its severity.
- Medications: For hyperthyroidism, medications like antithyroid drugs or beta-blockers can help control symptoms. Hypothyroidism is commonly treated with synthetic thyroid hormone replacement medication.
- Radioactive Iodine Therapy: Hyperthyroidism can also be treated with radioactive iodine, which destroys thyroid cells that produce excessive hormones.
- Surgery: Surgical removal of part or all of the thyroid gland may be necessary for conditions like thyroid cancer or very severe cases of hyperthyroidism.
What causes Thyroid disfunction?
Thyroid disease can have various underlying causes, ranging from genetic factors to environmental influences. Understanding why thyroid dysfunction occurs involves considering different types of thyroid disorders and their contributing factors:
1. Autoimmune Conditions: Autoimmune disorders, such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and Graves’ disease, are common causes of thyroid dysfunction. In Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, the immune system mistakenly attacks the thyroid gland, leading to inflammation and hypothyroidism. In Graves’ disease, the immune system produces antibodies that stimulate the thyroid gland to produce excess hormones, resulting in hyperthyroidism.
2. Genetic Predisposition: Genetic factors can play a role in the development of thyroid disease. A family history of thyroid disorders increases the likelihood of an individual developing similar conditions.
3. Iodine Deficiency or Excess: Iodine is essential for the production of thyroid hormones. A deficiency or excess of iodine in the diet can disrupt thyroid function. Iodine deficiency can lead to goiter (enlarged thyroid) and hypothyroidism, while excessive iodine intake may cause hyperthyroidism.
4. Radiation Exposure: Exposure to certain types of radiation, particularly during childhood or adolescence, can increase the risk of thyroid dysfunction and thyroid cancer.
5. Pregnancy and Postpartum: Pregnancy and the postpartum period can trigger thyroid dysfunction in susceptible individuals. Conditions like postpartum thyroiditis can lead to temporary shifts between hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism.
6. Medications and Medical Treatments: Some medications and medical treatments can affect thyroid function. For example, certain medications used to treat heart conditions or psychiatric disorders might impact hormone production.
7. Aging: As people age, their risk of thyroid dysfunction increases. Both hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism can be more common in older adults.
8. Stress and Lifestyle Factors: Chronic stress and unhealthy lifestyle habits, such as poor diet and inadequate sleep, can contribute to thyroid dysfunction indirectly by disrupting hormonal balance.
9. Other Factors: Factors such as hormonal imbalances, viral infections, and certain chronic diseases can also contribute to thyroid dysfunction.
It’s important to note that the causes of thyroid dysfunction can be complex and multifactorial. Sometimes, individuals might have a combination of contributing factors that lead to their thyroid issues. If you suspect you have thyroid dysfunction or are at risk, it’s advisable to consult a healthcare professional for proper evaluation, diagnosis, and management.
Anomalies of the pituitary gland
The thyroid gland may fail to produce the right amount of thyroid hormone if the pituitary gland’s appropriate operation is lost.
Pituitary tumours or pituitary surgery can impair the pituitary gland’s ability to function, which can harm the thyroid gland.
The pituitary gland is harmed in Sheehan’s syndrome, a disorder.
The gland may be injured and generate insufficient amounts of pituitary hormones if a woman experiences major blood loss that poses a life-threatening risk or has extremely low blood pressure during or right after childbirth.
Other disfunction related to thyroid disease
You might be inclined to seek treatment for each of these symptoms separately if you have depression, are gaining weight, or are excessively tired. You might not have considered the possibility that they are connected and brought on by hypothyroidism.
Common indications and symptoms of hypothyroidism might also include feeling cold all the time, constipation, dry skin, coarse hair or hair loss, muscle weakness and soreness, in addition to depression, unexplained weight gain, and excessive fatigue. Additionally, some people have trouble concentrating and menorrhagia, which is prolonged menstrual bleeding.
The signs of hypothyroidism are frequently confused with those of other illnesses. For instance, as the illness frequently affects persons over 50 and during menopause, several individuals who experience it just attribute them to aging. Pregnant women and new mothers are also frequently hypothyroid, and they may blame their symptoms on the strain of an impending or recent delivery.
Some adults are more at risk for celiac disease since hypothyroidism is related to it. Adults who have celiac disease, often known as gluten sensitivity, are one in every 100. People of all ages can develop celiac disease, a long-term autoimmune illness of the small intestine. In a multicenter research conducted in 2001 in Italy with 242 patients and 212 controls, those with celiac disease who had not yet started treatment had a threefold higher risk of developing hypothyroidism than the control group.
How to prevent thyroid disease
While it’s not always possible to completely prevent thyroid disease, there are steps you can take to reduce your risk and promote thyroid health. Keep in mind that some thyroid disorders, like autoimmune conditions, might have a genetic component that is beyond your control. However, adopting a healthy lifestyle and being proactive about your health can make a significant difference. Here are some tips to help prevent thyroid disease:
1. Maintain a Healthy Diet: Eating a balanced and nutritious diet is crucial for overall health, including thyroid health. Focus on foods rich in iodine, selenium, and zinc, which are essential for proper thyroid function. Incorporate plenty of whole grains, lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats into your diet.
2. Monitor Iodine Intake: Iodine is essential for thyroid hormone production, but both deficiency and excess can disrupt thyroid function. In regions where iodine deficiency is common, ensure that you’re consuming enough iodine-rich foods (such as seafood and dairy products) or using iodized salt. Avoid excessive iodine intake, as it can also lead to thyroid problems.
3. Manage Stress: Chronic stress can affect hormonal balance and potentially contribute to thyroid dysfunction. Practice stress-reduction techniques such as meditation, yoga, deep breathing, or engaging in hobbies you enjoy.
4. Exercise Regularly: Regular physical activity supports overall health and can help regulate hormone levels. Aim for a combination of aerobic exercises, strength training, and flexibility exercises to maintain a healthy weight and promote metabolic health.
5. Get Enough Sleep: Quality sleep is essential for hormone regulation and overall well-being. Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep each night and establish a regular sleep schedule.
6. Avoid Environmental Toxins: Exposure to environmental toxins, such as certain chemicals and pollutants, can potentially impact thyroid function. Whenever possible, reduce your exposure to such toxins by using natural and non-toxic household products and avoiding polluted environments.
7. Regular Medical Check-ups: Regular medical check-ups allow healthcare professionals to monitor your overall health, including thyroid function. If you have a family history of thyroid disease or other risk factors, discuss this with your doctor so they can perform appropriate screenings.
8. Avoid Smoking: Smoking has been linked to an increased risk of thyroid disorders, particularly Graves’ disease and thyroid eye disease. Quitting smoking is not only beneficial for your thyroid but for your overall health as well.
9. Be Mindful of Radiation Exposure: Excessive exposure to radiation, whether from medical procedures or environmental sources, can increase the risk of thyroid cancer. Whenever possible, discuss radiation exposure risks with your healthcare provider and take appropriate precautions.
10. Maintain a Healthy Weight: Both obesity and severe weight loss can impact thyroid function. Aim for a healthy weight through a balanced diet and regular exercise.
Remember that while these steps can promote thyroid health, some factors, such as genetics, are beyond your control. If you notice any symptoms of thyroid dysfunction, such as unexplained weight changes, fatigue, mood changes, or changes in hair and skin, consult a healthcare professional for proper evaluation and guidance.
What about hypothyroidism natural remedies?
Intake of Probiotic could improve Thyroidism
Probiotics: Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), a condition where bacteria from the colon migrate into the small intestine where they are not ordinarily found, may occur in some hypothyroidism patients.
40 participants in one study had abnormal glucose breath test findings. The test results for 19 subjects were normal one month after consuming the probiotic Bacillus clausii. Probiotics and antibiotics have both been demonstrated to be useful for SIBO.
Additionally, supplements like turmeric (containing at least 500 mg of curcumin) and omega-3 fatty acids may help to reduce inflammation in those with autoimmune and inflammatory thyroid diseases.
Vitamins and minerals are undoubtedly necessary for the thyroid to function properly. However, consuming these supplements won’t treat thyroid problems. Before using these dietary supplements, consult your primary care physician:
Vitamin B-12, Iodine, Zinc, Selenium, and lysine
Some herbs that could be used to treat hypothyroidism include:
Ashwagandha: According to a short study, it helped persons with a mild form of hypothyroidism have better thyroid function.
Gum guggul: This may assist to improve hypothyroidism and boost thyroid function.
A common herbal component in weight-loss pills is coleus forskohlii. Ayurvedic medical professionals think the plant successfully stimulates thyroid hormone production.
To determine whether these treatments are beneficial, more research is still required. Always talk to your healthcare physician about herbal thyroid treatments.
With just a few drops of oil from a little bottle, several essential-oil businesses claim to bring about health and pleasure. Although these essential oils won’t help you manage hypothyroidism, a little lavender may make you fall asleep: