The thyroid is one of the main items in your endocrine systems. It helps to regulate many metabolic processes, including the decision to store or use energy. As well as ensuring proper growth during puberty.
The most common problems that women have with it, are overactivity (hyperthyroidism) and underactivity (hypothyroidism) , this is separate to thyroid disease and growths.
WHAT IS THE THYROID
The Thyroid is found at the front of the throat, near the voice box and the gland is divided into two nodes, right and left. These are connected together by a thin bridge of thyroid tissue called the Isthmus, This makes it look like a butterfly or bow tie. You should not be able to see or feel the thyroid.
WHAT DOES IT DO
The thyroid secrets thyroid hormones which are responsible for controlling your bodies metabolism. The main two hormones are T3 (triiodothyronine) and T4 (thyroxine), how much your body secretes of these hormones is controlled by the thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) which is released by the pituitary gland.
Using the above hormones , the body regulates how your heart rate, your digestion, how quickly you burn calories. Also babies and children need it for brain development and growth.
In order for the thyroid to manufacture these hormones properly it needs iodine. This is not something the body produces but is gained through our diet. Especially those rich in seafood and plants grown in iodine rich soil. Also iodised salt helps if your diet is low in seafood.
Another hormone the thyroid produces is Clactonin, This hormone is secreted in small amounts and is responsible for regulating the level of calcium in your blood.
Hyperthyroidism or over active thyroid affects about 1% of the population. It is where the Thyroid gland is over active and produces excessive amounts of thyroid hormones. This in turn can speed up the bodies process’s and result in the following issues
- Mood swings
- Skin Dryness
- Rapid heart beat, irregular heart beat, heart palpitations
- Hand tremors
- Excessive sweating
- Weight loss
- Increased frequency of bowel movements
- Light periods or skipping periods
- Sleep problems
This is generally caused by either :-
An Autoimmune disease called graves disease. In graves disease the body makes an anti body called thyroid-stimulating immunoglobulin (TSI) which is used to help the body protect against virus or bacteria. In Graves disease, the increased production of TSI results in the thyroid making too much thyroid hormones thus causing hyper activity. Grave’s disease does run in families and is more commonly found in women.
The other cause is a goitre , tumour or nodule growth in the thyroid gland. These lumps or growths can cause the over production of thyroid hormone. In some cases these can be surgically removed resulting in a reversal of the hyperthyroidism.
Sometimes a virus can cause an issue called thyroiditis (Inflammation of the thyroid gland), these causes symptoms similar to Hyperthyroidism however when the virus resolves itself so does the hyperthyroidism.
Too much iodine can also cause an over production of the thyroid hormones, Those who take supplements or have diets high in iodine, also some medications which contain iodine such as amiodarone.
Your doctor will discuss your symptoms with you, then conduct some blood tests on TSH , T1 and T2, They also may conduct a nuclear scan or ultrasound to check for nodules and to see whether it is inflamed or overactive.
There are multiple treatments available, the most common is medication (primarily methimazole) this helps to reduce the amount of thyriod hormones produced by the thyroid gland.
You can also opt for radioactive iodine therapy , this damages calls that produces thyroid hormones and so can reduce the amount of thyroid hormones produced.
In rare cases, the thyroid hormone is removed through surgery, either part or the entire Gland.
Before treatment is decided, your doctor will talk to you about the outcomes you want, look at your age , whether you are pregnant, whether you have any other medical conditions etc.
In some cases, your doctor may prescribed beta blockers to block the affects of the hormones on your body , i.e.: slow down you heart beat etc.
Hypothyroidism or under active thyroid is where the thyroid does not produce enough thyroxin (T4) that the body needs in order to regulate it’s bodily functions. On average 1 in 50 women will develop it at some point in their life.
Symptoms can include:
- Tiredness (all the time)
- weight gain and lots of difficulty losing weight
- Feeling cold
- dry skin
- Lifeless hair
- fluid retention
- mental slowing (worse than baby brain)
Other possible symptoms include:
- Hoarse voice
- Irregular periods
- Loss of sex drive.
Symptoms develop slowly and you may not realise you have the full list until you sit down and go through them with a doctor.
Hypothyrpodixm can be caused by
- Autoimmune Thyroiditis – this is where the immune system creates antibody cells that attack the thyroid tissue. This is turn reduces the ability of the gland to produce thyroxin (T4) . This can sometimes also have a goitre (Swollen thyroid gland) and is called hushimoto’s disease
- Iodine Deficiency
- A side affect of some medicines eg. amiodarone and lithium
- Other types of thyroid inflammation
- Pitutatory problems in rare cases.
- Some children are born with under active thyroid ( congenital hyperthyroidism )
Your doctor will discuss your symptoms with you, then conduct some blood tests on TSH , T4. They also may conduct a nuclear scan or ultrasound to check for nodules and to see whether it is inflamed or under active. In some cases your T4 will come back normal but your TSH will be high due to the thyroid having to be overstimulated in order to produce enough thyroxin for your body to function.
The treatment for Hypothyroidism is levothyroxine (thyroxine) tablets every day. This is to replace the thyroxin that the thyroid gland is no longer making.
Unfortunately this treatment is for life. In some rare cases if you develop thyroid imbalances after having your children, it may reverse before you even notice their is an issue.
A healthy diet and regular exercise like the 28 day plan will also help to maintain a healthy body if you have any of the above conditions. It will also help your on the path to weight loss or gain once diagnosis has been completed and appropriate remedial action has been taken.
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