What is Thyroid Diease?
The thyroid gland, situated in the front of the neck, is responsible for producing hormones which control our metabolism.
Common symptoms of an underactive thyroid gland – known as hypothyroidism are:
- Weight gain
- Low body temperature
- Hair loss
- Dry flaky skin
- Fluid retention
- Slow reflexes
- Rapid aging
- Slowness of thought and cognition
- Goitre (enlarged thyroid) – not always present
- Loss of interest in sex
- Carpel tunnel syndrome
- Puffiness around the eyes
Hypothyroidism is commonly the end result of autoimmune disease, usually Hashimoto’s thyroiditis or due to shrinkage or degeneration in the thyroid gland due to aging or poor nutrition.
A goitre is an enlargement of the thyroid gland. A goitre may be associated with increased, decreased or normal levels of thyroid hormone, depending on the cause. Some causes of goitre include Graves’ disease, Hashimoto’s disease, viral infection, iodine deficiency, pregnancy, puberty and tumors within the thyroid gland. Nodular changes producing multiple cysts in the thyroid gland is a common cause of goitre. Goitres may sometimes reach very large sizes and compress the trachea (wind pipe) or oesophagus causing difficulty breathing or swallowing.
Various ways of treating an underactive thyroid gland
Overactive thyroid gland – known as hyperthyroidism
Thyroid dysfunction and menopause
Thyroid problems are very common, especially in women around the time of the menopause. The most common type of thyroid problem is underactivity of the gland (hypothyroidism). In this disorder the thyroid gland is not able to manufacture sufficient amounts of thyroid hormone. Thyroid hormone controls the metabolic rate of the body, speeding up the rate at which the cells convert food energy into physical energy.
How toxins affect the thyroid gland
Tests of the Thyroid Gland
Thyroid function tests are used to:
Diagnose an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) and an over active thyroid (hyperthyroidism). Evaluate thyroid gland activity. Monitor the response to thyroid therapy. These tests include the thyroid stimulating hormone test (TSH), the thyroxine test (T4), the triiodothyronine test (T3). The blood tests for thyroid gland function should ideally measure the following three hormones –
Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) 0.5 to 4.0 mU/L
Free T 4 9.0 to 24.0 pmol/L or 4-11 ug/dl
Free T 3 2.2 to 5.4 pmol/L or 110-230
Abnormal thyroid function results may be due to:
- Acute thyroiditis (inflammation of the thyroid gland)
- Thyrotoxicosis (acute severe elevation of thyroid hormones)
- A tumor (benign or malignant) within the thyroid gland that produces large amounts of thyroid hormone (toxic thyroid adenoma)
- Thyroid failure in infants (cretinism)
- Underactivity of the thyroid gland (Hypothyroidism)
- Overactivity of the thyroid gland (Hyperthyroidism)
- Kidney failure
- Endemic deficiency of minerals such as iodine and selenium
- Autoimmune disease – known as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. This is an autoimmune condition where the body’s own immune system is attacking the thyroid gland. All autoimmune conditions have a basis in poor liver function, as a poorly functioning liver causes hyperstimulation of the immune system which then turns on itself.
- Viral infection of the thyroid gland
- Genetic factors – there is often a family history of thyroid diseases
- Contrast X rays using iodine
- Medications such as Heparin, Heroin, Lithium, Phenytoin, Estrogen therapy, Propranolol, Oral contraceptives, Anabolic steroid drugs or male hormones.
The latest News in Medicine on thyroid cancer
Thyroid cancer is the most common cancer of an endocrine gland, (hormone producing gland). It usually arises out of a lump or nodule in the thyroid gland. The vast majority of thyroid nodules are not cancerous, but a small percentage are. There are a few different types of thyroid cancer; luckily the majority are readily curable.
Thyroid cancer affects approximately 15 000 people in the USA each year. In Australia in 1997 there were 860 new cases diagnosed and 71 deaths from thyroid cancer. In Australia it is the sixteenth most common type of cancer. Women are two to three times more likely to develop thyroid cancer than men. Unfortunately the incidence of thyroid cancer is rising, particularly along the east coast of Australia and Tasmania. Between 1980 and 1999 Tasmania experienced a whopping 273.4 percent increase in thyroid cancer. This is believed to be largely due to aerial spraying of plantation forests in Tasmania. The pesticides used end up in drinking water and are strongly linked to the development of this cancer.
Thyroid cancer often goes undetected because it may produce no symptoms at all; thyroid hormone levels are usually normal. If the cancer goes undetected for too long, it may spread to other areas of the body. Exposure to radiation is the biggest risk factor for thyroid cancer, along with exposure to some pesticides and deficiency of the minerals iodine and selenium.
The sooner you detect any cancer, the better the outcome. You should become familiar with what your thyroid gland looks and feels like; that way you can pick up any changes in its size, or feel lumps at an early stage.
The Thyroid Neck Check
This is a test you can do yourself at home which is advocated by the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists. It will help you to pick up changes in the appearance or texture of your thyroid gland at an early stage.
To perform this test you will need a glass of water and a hand held mirror.
1. Hold the mirror out in front of you so you can clearly see the area of your neck just below your Adam’s apple and above your collarbone.
2. Tip your head back, while continuing to look at this area.
3. Take a sip of water and swallow.
4. Look at your neck while swallowing. Check for any lumps or bulges while you swallow. Don’t focus on your Adam’s apple; your thyroid gland is located further down your neck, closer to your collarbone. Take a few sips of water and repeat this process.
5. If you see or feel any lumps or bulges in this area, see your doctor straight away. A thyroid nodule is likely to move when you swallow.
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- Doses range from 1 to 2 capsules daily.
- One application twice daily rubbed into skin of the inner upper arm, inner upper thigh.
- Take 2 tablets twice daily or 1 teaspoon twice daily – Selenium is vital for the conversion of thyroxine (T4) thyroid hormone to its more active T3 form.
- Take 1 teaspoon twice daily in water or juice, or take 2 capsules twice daily to improve the step 1 and 2 detox pathways in the liver to break down fat-soluble toxins. In cases of thyroid disorders it is vital to improve the liver function to reduce the amount of potentially toxic chemicals that may damage the thyroid gland.
- Take 1 teaspoon daily or 2 – 4 tablets daily – It is particularly beneficial in cases of thyroid gland over activity (hyperthyroidism). Kelp and other seaweeds (such as arame, wakame, nori etc.), are an excellent source of iodine and other trace minerals to support thyroid function. Sea salt is high in minerals.
Orthodox medical treatment
There are various ways of treating an over active thyroid gland. The drug carbimazole may be used. This drug blocks the synthesis in the thyroid gland of thyroid hormone. Beta-blocking drugs are sometimes used to relieve some of the symptoms of thyrotoxicosis such as tremor and a rapid heart beat. Another option is surgery in which part, or all of the thyroid gland is removed. The administration of radioactive iodine, which accumulates in the thyroid gland and partially or totally destroys the gland by local radiation. One problem with this is that the patient often develops subsequent hypothyroidism.