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Natural Diet and Symptom Solutions for Hyperthyroidism
Published on September 8, 2021 and last updated for accuracy on August 13, 2022
Hyperthyroidism is a medical condition that occurs when the body produces too much thyroid hormone, formally known as thyroxine. This can also be referred to as an overactive thyroid.
Normally, the thyroid gland releases the right amount of hormones needed by the body, but thyroxine tends to be produced a lot more than the other hormones. This may happen because of a few reasons.
An autoimmune disorder called Graves’ disease is the most common cause of overactive thyroid. The antibodies produced by the immune system trigger the thyroid gland to release thyroxine more than what is necessary for normal bodily functions. Graves’ disease is hereditary.
Thyroiditis, a condition brought upon by various origins, may be detectable or not. It is also an autoimmune illness that causes hyperthyroidism. The swelling of the gland makes the excess thyroxine stored in there to leak into the bloodstream. Women are at high risk of this problem; in fact, pregnancy may even be the root cause of one’s thyroiditis.
Finally, overproduction of thyroxine may be traced back to the hyperfunctioning of the thyroid nodules. This form of hyperthyroidism happens when one or more of the thyroid’s adenomas produce too much hormones, leading to toxic adenoma, toxic multinodular goiter, and Plummer’s disease. An adenoma is the part of the thyroid gland which is prone to forming benign masses that may lead to enlargement.
Overactive thyroid puts people with chronic illnesses like pernicious anemia, type 1 diabetes, and primary adrenal deficiency at immediate risk.
When there is excess supply of thyroxine in the body, it may accelerate metabolism, leading to irregular heart rhythms and unintentional weight loss. Other symptoms of hyperthyroidism include high blood pressure, fatigue, mood swings, diarrhea, and sleep issues.
This condition requires instant attention as it affects the thyroid, a butterfly-shaped gland found in the throat, just below Adam’s apple. As the thyroid gland is responsible for releasing a number of important hormones and regulating every aspect of the body’s metabolism, it has a huge influence on one’s health.
The Effects of An Overactive Thyroid to the Body
Hyperthyroidism can manifest itself in a number of ways, but the most common visible sign is the uncontrolled and rapid shedding of weight. The body then enters the hypermetabolic state. As it spurs metabolism, it may lead to palpitations and severe trembling. The condition may also cause frequent bowel movements and low tolerance to heat.
When the thyroid gland swells, it may develop into goiter, which is the enlargement of the base of the neck. It may either be one-sided or symmetrical.
Other prominent signs of hypothyroidism are excessive thirst and sweating, increased appetite, anxiety and restlessness, rapid heartbeat (tachycardia), itching, hair loss, vomiting, muscle weakness, irritability, and stress. In women, it may cause changes in their menstrual cycles, while it may promote breast development in men.
More pressing symptoms that require immediate medical attention are shortness of breath and loss of consciousness. Atrial fibrillation, a dangerous condition in which the heart is not able to pump enough blood to supply the body’s needs. Strokes and congestive heart failure should also be noted.
Brittle bones are also a major concern. Eventually, it will ultimately lead to osteoporosis. Excessive thyroid hormone production interferes with the bones’ ability to absorb calcium and other minerals, which makes the bones more vulnerable to fracture and other injuries.
These are more evident in older adults as they are more susceptible to heart problems and other complications.
People who smoke are also more likely to experience complications. In extreme cases, a condition called Graves’ ophthalmopathy may arise. It mostly affects the eyeballs, making them protrude beyond their sockets because the tissues and muscles behind the eyes have become inflamed.
It also makes the eyes red and dry, and excessive tearing discomfort ensues as the eyes try to moisturize themselves. Reduced eye movement, blurred vision, and light sensitivity are the other signs of this condition. If left untreated, this may cause permanent damage to the eyesight.
A small percentage of people who have Graves’ disease also develop Graves’ dermopathy, which is a rare skin illness that leaves redness and soreness around the areas of the feet and shins.
Lastly, hyperthyroidism may put one at risk of thyrotoxic crisis. Sudden fever, delirium, and rapid heart rate, an amalgamation of all the worst hyperthyroidism symptoms, are some of the telltale signs of this medical emergency.
It is best to seek the doctor’s help when the symptoms listed above are persistent. Describing each change noticed in detail will help in determining if one has hyperthyroidism; most of these signs and symptoms are heavily associated with a number of other medical conditions.
A basic procedure on determining if one has overactive thyroid is a simple physical examination. Diagnoses often include looking at records of the patient’s medical history. Factors that are considered in diagnosing hyperthyroidism include weight, blood pressure, pulse rate, and eye and thyroid gland conditions.
Other diagnostic tests are then performed to make sure. Cholesterol levels are checked; lower cholesterol may mean accelerated metabolic rate which is indicative of the body burning too much cholesterol in a short period of time.
The pituitary gland, which regulates almost all hormones released by the body, may also check if there are any problems with the thyroxine production. In this case, the thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) levels are used. TSH is produced naturally in the pituitary gland and functions primarily as a stimulant for the thyroid gland to release thyroxine. If the TSH levels are lower than normal, then it means that the thyroxine levels are higher; this may be the first indication of hyperthyroidism.
Variants of the thyroid hormones—triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4)—which can be found in blood, are also evaluated. These hormones are responsible for maintaining the rate at which the body breaks down fats and carbohydrates. They also control the body temperature, heart rate, and the production of protein. Calcitonin, another hormone released by the thyroid gland, helps in regulating the amount of calcium in the blood.
Similar to cholesterol levels, triglycerides may also be tested to check for the body’s metabolic rate. Low triglycerides may mean advanced metabolism.
Ultrasound and CT or MRI scans are other procedures that may be utilized to diagnose hyperthyroidism. Scans can detect thyroid tumors that may be causing the condition while ultrasounds can measure the whole of the thyroid gland and any form of lumps or swelling within it. Thyroid ultrasounds use high-frequency sound waves to visualize the gland, and it may be the best test to undergo when trying to diagnose overactive thyroid. Furthermore, ultrasounds can discern if a lump is cystic or solid.
Physical and Dietary Suggestions That May Help
An overactive thyroid is truly challenging to treat. The best one can do is to ease the minor effects it has on the body.
Regular exercise benefits people who have hyperthyroidism as any form of physical activity lifts the mood, as well as increasing bone density. It also helps in controlling the appetite, therefore making it easier to maintain the body weight. Simple meditation techniques like yoga or walking are extremely beneficial to regulate the body’s metabolic rates.
Despite any claims on the internet, there are no proven natural remedies for hyperthyroidism. Monitoring the nutrients in one’s diet is important to regulate the symptoms of hyperthyroidism, especially the rapid and excessive weight loss. Lifestyle changes such as healthier eating habits and consistent sleeping schedules are proven to alleviate the side effects of treating the illness.
Hyperthyroidism is almost always accompanied by vitamin B-12 deficiency. This particular condition is what causes fatigue, nausea, and dizziness. A doctor would even suggest supplements or injections. Vitamin B-12 only helps in easing those particular symptoms and does not cure hyperthyroidism on its own.
Monitoring the nutrients in one’s diet is also important to regulate the symptoms of hyperthyroidism, especially the rapid and excessive weight loss. Lifestyle changes such as healthier eating habits and consistent sleeping schedules are proven to alleviate the side effects of treating the illness.
Before starting treatment, though, it is advised to avoid iodine-rich foods that may complicate the procedure. The thyroid gland readily takes up iodine, and consuming too much of it may make matters worse. Dairy products, poultry and livestock, and products obtained from grain (bread and other forms of pastries, pasta, etc.) are prime examples of foods full of iodine. Iodine is also prevalent in processed foods.
One may try freshwater seafood for a change. For example, a freshwater salmon is rich in healthy fats which contribute to regulating body weight. Its saltwater counterpart should be avoided as it is high in iodine content.
A study claimed L-carnitine to be effective in reversing and preventing the symptoms of overactive thyroid like palpitations and trembling. This amino acid derivative is naturally occurring in the body and can be sourced from fish as well.
As hyperthyroidism also attacks bones, skin, and muscles, calcium and vitamin D supplements may help in strengthening them, though non-dairy sources should be prioritized.
In addition, soy is proven to interfere with thyroid function, so products like tofu, soy beans, soy milk, and soy sauce should be omitted from the diet. Lentils are a good substitute for meat. Unlike soy, lentil alternatives are great sources of protein and fiber without the saturated fats and sodium.
Glucomannan, a dietary fiber often extracted from the root of the konjac plant, has also been suggested to lower the thyroid hormone levels in the human body, though more research is required to back up this claim. This supplement is oftentimes found in capsule, powder, and tablet forms.
There are several treatments available for hyperthyroidism, but the efficiency and reliability of these remedies depend on one’s physical condition, age, medical history, the underlying cause of the hyperthyroidism and its severity.
Anti-thyroid medications like methimazole (Tapazole) and propylthiouracil gradually reduce symptoms of overactive thyroid by preventing the gland from overproducing hormones. They begin to take effect within several weeks or months, but one may be subjected to these medications for at least a year or even longer.
The body’s response to this treatment varies from person to person. For some, it may immediately clear up the disorder, while others may experience a relapse. A small percentage of patients even report being allergic to the drugs; they have developed skin rashes and hives, fever, and joint pains. The drugs may also cause serious liver damage, which may lead to death; propylthiouracil is reported to cause more cases of liver failure, so it should generally only be used when one is not able to acclimate to the methimazole drug. Both medications may also make one vulnerable to infections.
Radioactive iodine is taken by mouth and is absorbed by the thyroid gland, causing it to shrink. Due to this, it may slow down thyroid activity and make it underactive (hypothyroidism). Eventually, medication may have to be introduced and maintained to replace thyroxine. As the body gets rid of the excess radioactive iodine in a few weeks or months, the symptoms of hyperthyroidism also disappear by that time period.
Another type of drug used to remedy hyperthyroidism is beta blockers. Originally, they are used to treat high blood pressure and they can ease symptoms like palpitations and trembling. They do not really affect the thyroxine levels but are only administered to lessen the symptoms of hyperthyroidism until the thyroid activity is close to normal. Some side effects include fatigue and sexual dysfunction. It is also not recommended for people with asthma.
Pregnant people and those who are not able to tolerate the anti-thyroid medications and radioactive iodine therapy may resort to surgery (thyroidectomy). This operation involves completely taking out the thyroid gland, making one a subject to damaged vocal cords and parathyroid glands. These glands are located on the back of the thyroid and are responsible for controlling the level of calcium in the blood.
Removing the thyroid gland also means lifelong treatment. Levothyroxine is a drug used to give the body its needed supply of the thyroid hormone. In addition, if the parathyroid glands are also removed, one should be subjected to supplements that keep the calcium levels normal.
Once a patient has undergone treatment, symptoms of hyperthyroidism should subside eventually. However, it is recommended that one should still watch out for their nutrient intake that may worsen or complicate the condition.
For those who have Graves’ disease, protecting the eyes is a prerequisite. Wearing sunglasses while outside protects the eyes from sun and wind. Eyedrops also lubricate the eyes and relieve scratchiness. Dryness around the eye area may be treated by a cool compress.
If complete shutting of the eyes is not achievable, taping the eyelids close may be necessary. One may also use a lubricating gel to prevent the cornea from drying out. In addition, keeping the head up reduces swelling and relieves the pressure around the eyes.
After treatment, smoking may make the condition worse; it has been linked to the development of Graves’ ophthalmopathy.
Hydrocortisone found in over-the-counter creams also help in relieving red and swollen skin on the shins and feet.
How to Prepare and Cope for Treatment
One might be referred to an endocrinologist to check on the thyroid gland. An endocrinologist is a doctor who specializes in the hormone-secreting glands. For those who have complications involving their eyes, they might also be referred to an ophthalmologist.
Before going to a checkup appointment, ask if there is anything that is needed to be done in advance. It is also convenient to write down the questions or any concerns one might have regarding the treatment and medications so no detail is left untouched.
Make sure to bring a family member or friend along; having another person inside the room during the checkup ensures that little to no piece of information is forgotten.
By listing down all symptoms that are being experienced, even those that may seem unrelated to hyperthyroidism, will help in quickly identifying the problem. One should also include all the major stressors or recent life events that may have contributed to the current condition.
And lastly, while listening to the doctor’s advice, make a list of all medications, vitamins, or supplements that may come up.
Finally, if hyperthyroidism has been detected and diagnosed, one should immediately seek necessary medical care as it is a very serious and lethal disorder. After a course of action has been set, a healthy and efficient coping mechanism is needed to safely guide the body through the healing process.
Relaxation techniques, like yoga, are proven to maintain positive physical and mental outlooks, especially when one has an illness. Learning to relax and achieve balance in life can help the overall process of healing from the treatments.
Some side effects of medications and drugs weaken the bones and muscles. Because of that reason, regular exercise is very essential. In general, any physical activity helps in improving one’s muscle mass and cardiovascular system. It also has a huge part in increasing energy levels.
Both of these coping techniques are beneficial for those suffering Graves’ disease. Stress is a great risk factor for this condition so finding the time to meditate and relax is very important. Also, people with Graves’ disease need weight-bearing physical activities to maintain bone density.