Thyroid problems are prevalent all over the world. Thyroid issues occur when the thyroid gland produces too much or too little thyroxine. The pituitary and hypothalamus control the functions of the thyroid gland via thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) and thyrotropin-releasing hormone (TRH) respectively. Therefore, when thyroid hormone production is low, these two glands secrete more TSH and TRH, encouraging the thyroid gland to produce more T3 and T4. However, when the thyroid makes more than the usual levels of thyroid hormones, hyperthyroidism symptoms develop. Are you eager to learn more about hyperthyroidism, hyperthyroidism treatment, medication and diet? Then you are in the right place.
What Is Hyperthyroidism?
The thyroid is a small butterfly-shaped gland in the neck. Its primary function is producing T3 (Triiodothyronine) and T4 (thyroxine) hormones. Sometimes, the thyroid gland produces more than the normal range of thyroid hormones. This condition is known as hyperthyroidism. Hyperthyroidism is also called overactive thyroid. Overactive thyroid symptoms develop due to the overproduction of thyroid hormones. During hyperthyroidism several metabolic reactions speed up due to increased T3 and T4 levels. However, some people with hyperthyroidism may not see any symptoms for a long time.
What are some Common Hyperactive Thyroid Symptoms?
Hyperthyroidism Symptoms can differ from person to person. However, there are usually some common symptoms.
- Sudden weight loss without any changes to the diet
- Tachycardia or faster heartbeat
- Frequent palpitations or pounding of the heart
- Arrhythmia or irregular heartbeat
- Increased appetite
- Anxiety, irritability and nervousness
- Excessive sweating
- Increased sensitivity or intolerance to heat
- Muscle weakness and tedium
- Fine hair and hair loss
- Changes in bowel movement and patterns
- Changes in menstrual cycle and fertility In extreme cases, the thyroid gland swells up and forms a goitre. In such cases, it's common to see the bulging of the eyes (exophthalmia). More often than not, these signs are related to Graves' disease.
What are the Common Hyperthyroidism Causes?
There are many causes of hyperthyroidism. Sometimes, more than one factor can be at play for a single person. The causes of hyperthyroidism can be genetic and environmental. These may include Graves' disease, overactive thyroid nodules, benign tumours in the thyroid gland, too much iodine absorption, and an overdose of thyroid medication.
Graves' disease is a genetic disorder that is more common in women than men. It is an autoimmune condition. In this disease, the immune system attacks the thyroid gland and causes it to overproduce T3 and T4 hormones.
Overactive Thyroid Nodules
A lump in the thyroid gland can cause the overproduction of hormones. Thyroid nodules are quite common and not cancerous. However, one or more nodules may produce too much thyroid hormone causing severe overactive thyroid symptoms. The presence of multiple overactive nodules occurs most often in adults.
Thyroiditis is thyroid inflammation. It causes accumulated thyroid hormone to leak from your thyroid gland. The leading cause of thyroid inflammation is usually an infection. Women generally suffer from thyroiditis after pregnancy due to autoimmune conditions. Hyperthyroidism can last up to 3 months after delivery. Typically, after child-birth the thyroid function becomes normal or underactive. However, in several cases, hyperactive thyroid symptoms last longer. Several types of thyroiditis, such as subacute thyroiditis, postpartum thyroiditis, and silent thyroiditis can trigger hyperactive thyroid symptoms.
Too Much Iodine in the Body
Increased iodine level in the body raises the risk of hyperthyroidism. The thyroid gland uses iodine to make thyroid hormones. The amount of iodine you consume affects the levels of thyroid hormones your thyroid produces. But in some people, consuming large amounts of iodine can cause the thyroid to make too much thyroid hormone. Did you know that some medicines, including cough syrups, heart meds and seaweed-based supplements may contain too much iodine?
Overdose of Thyroid Hormone Medication
Taking more than the necessary thyroid medicines, such as levothyroxine, can increase the total level of thyroid hormones. You should have your thyroid hormone levels checked every 3 to 6 months if you take any thyroid hormone medication. If your thyroid hormone levels are elevated, you must see your doctor. Remember, some other medicines that you take together with your thyroid meds can also raise hormone levels.
Who is at an Increased Risk of Hyperthyroidism?
Some people are more prone to hyperthyroidism. For instance –
- Women after pregnancy
- Anyone 60 years of age and older
- A person who underwent thyroid surgery or already suffering from thyroid issues
- Someone with a family history of thyroid disease
- Any person with pernicious anaemia (caused by Vitamin B12 deficiency)
- A person with Type 1 diabetes
- Someone who consumes too much iodine through foods or supplements
- Someone on medication for hypothyroidism for a prolonged period
- Smokers and others who consume nicotine products
What is the Treatment for Hyperthyroidism?
A thyroid doctor will ask about your overactive thyroid symptoms and run some tests to treat hyperthyroidism. The hyperthyroidism test includes blood tests and nutrition profiles. The disease can also be detected and treated by antibody screening and radioactive iodine scans. Hyperthyroidism is treated according to the severity, symptoms, and health condition. Its treatment options include:
Hyperthyroidism is usually treated with anti-thyroid medications. These drugs stop the thyroid gland from making too many hormones, resulting in fewer symptoms. In addition, other medicines may be recommended to the patient, depending on the symptoms, including NSAIDs to lessen swelling and redness and beta-blockers to normalize the heartbeat.
When the symptoms of hyperactive thyroid do not respond to oral medication, radioactive ablation therapy may help. In this treatment, overactive thyroid cells responsible for releasing excess hormones are destroyed with precision through the use of radioactive iodine (capsule or liquid).
In case none of the oral treatments for hyperthyroidism help in reducing the intensity of the hyperactive thyroid symptoms the doctor may suggest thyroid surgery. As per this process, part of the thyroid gland is removed surgically and permanently to reduce the total level of thyroid hormone production. It is a permanent solution for those who have been suffering from overactive thyroid symptoms for a long time.
Functional medicine is a new patient-oriented approach to treating chronic thyroid disorders. It mainly focuses on finding and addressing the root cause of the disease. Functional medicine doctors don’t just focus on symptomatic treatments but pay attention to the patient's medical history, family history, lifestyle, diet, and environmental factors. Functional medicine doctors leave no stone unturned to find the root cause of hyperthyroidism. That’s one reason most people seeing functional medicine doctors experience faster relief from chronic hyperthyroidism symptoms without drastic ablations and surgeries.
What are the Good and Bad Foods for People with Hyperthyroidism?
Hyperthyroidism: Foods You Can Eat
You can add the following foods to your hyperthyroidism diet. Low-iodine foods: Non-iodized salt, egg whites, unsalted nuts, oats, potatoes, and honey. Cruciferous vegetables: bamboo shoots, bok choy, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cassava, cauliflower, collard greens, and kale. Foods rich in vitamins and minerals: dried beans, green leafy vegetables, lentils, nuts, chicken, turkey, seeds, whole grains, brazil nuts, chia seeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, cashews, chickpeas, mushrooms, spinach and kale.
Hyperthyroidism: Foods You Must Avoid
A person with hyperthyroidism must avoid the following: Foods high in iodine: Milk and dairy, cheese, egg yolks, iodized salt, and iodized water. Seafood: Fish, seaweed, prawns, etc. Gluten-containing food: Wheat, barley, rye, and triticale Drinks: Coffee, alcohol, tea, soda, and chocolate drinks.
In A Nutshell
Once you receive the diagnosis of hyperthyroidism, it is crucial to seek the proper treatment to fight the hyperactive thyroid symptoms. Only medicines cannot help you get your health back on track. You will have to make some lifestyle changes to see the real benefit of hyperthyroidism treatments. You need to adopt good eating habits, engage in daily exercise, and maintain your sleeping cycle of at least seven to eight hours. An unhealthy lifestyle raises the risk of severe hyperthyroidism symptoms and it can trigger other health complications in the long run.
“Choose a healthy lifestyle and ensure better functioning of your thyroid gland."