Our bodies rely on a delicate balance of hormones to maintain our health. It’s no wonder, then, that when our thyroid gland isn’t functioning correctly, it can have a major impact on our overall well-being.
The thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped gland located in the front of the neck. It produces hormones that regulate metabolism, heart rate, and body temperature. This gland is especially important during infancy, childhood, and adolescence when growth and development are rapid.
When this gland isn’t working properly, it can lead to a variety of problems. The most common thyroid problems are hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism.
Hypothyroidism is when the thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough thyroid hormone. It’s the most common type of thyroid disorder and affects women more often than men. This condition can develop at any age but is most common in middle-aged women.
Symptoms of hypothyroidism can include:
- Weight gain
- Dry skin
- Hair loss
- Muscle aches and weakness
- Increased sensitivity to cold temperatures
- Irregular menstrual cycles in women
Hypothyroidism is usually caused by an autoimmune disorder known as Hashimoto’s disease. In this condition, the body’s immune system attacks the thyroid gland. Other causes of hypothyroidism can include surgery to remove the thyroid gland, radiation therapy, and certain medications.
Hypothyroidism can be treated with medication. The most common type of medication is levothyroxine, which is a synthetic form of the thyroid hormone. This medication is taken daily and can be taken for the rest of your life.
Hyperthyroidism is when the thyroid gland produces too much thyroid hormone. This can speed up the body’s metabolism and cause a variety of symptoms.
Symptoms of hyperthyroidism can include:
- Weight loss
- Anxiety and irritability
- Heat intolerance
- Increased heart rate
- A tremor in the hands or fingers
- Muscle weakness
- Changes in bowel habits, such as diarrhea or more frequent bowel movements
Hyperthyroidism is usually caused by an autoimmune disorder known as Graves’ disease. In this condition, the body’s immune system attacks the thyroid gland. Other causes of hyperthyroidism can include a goiter (an enlarged thyroid gland), inflammation of the thyroid gland, and certain medications.
Hyperthyroidism can be treated with medication or surgery. The most common type of medication is propylthiouracil, which is an anti-thyroid medication. This medication is taken daily and can be taken for several months to years.
Surgery to remove the thyroid gland (thyroidectomy) is another option for treating hyperthyroidism. This surgery is usually only considered if medications are not effective in controlling the symptoms.
Thyroid problems can have a major impact on your health. If you think you may have a thyroid problem, be sure to talk to your doctor. They can order tests to check your hormone levels and make treatment recommendations based on the results.
What are the best foods to eat if you have a thyroid problem?
There is no one-size-fits-all diet for people with thyroid problems. However, some general guidelines may help.
If you have hypothyroidism, you may need to increase your intake of iodine-rich foods such as seafood, eggs, and dairy products. You may also need to eat more foods that contain selenium, such as Brazil nuts, tuna, and shrimp.
If you have hyperthyroidism, you may need to avoid iodine-rich foods and eat more foods that contain fiber to help slow down the absorption of thyroid hormone. Good sources of fiber include fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
In general, it’s also important to eat a balanced diet that includes plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, lean protein, and healthy fats. Avoid processed foods, sugary drinks, and excessive amounts of caffeine. And be sure to get enough sleep!
Thyroid problems can be frustrating and difficult to manage. But with the right treatment and lifestyle changes, you can live a healthy and happy life.
Where to get help when you have a thyroid problem
If you think you may have a thyroid problem, see your doctor. Doctors who are trained in thyroid problems are called endocrinologists.
Your doctor will order tests to check your hormone levels and make treatment recommendations based on the results. Treatment for thyroid problems may include medication, surgery, or lifestyle changes.
You can also get support from thyroid patient organizations such as the Thyroid Foundation of Canada or the American Thyroid Association. These organizations can provide education and resources about living with a thyroid condition.