What is the thyroid gland?
The thyroid gland is one of the largest hormone producing glands found in the body. It is located in the midpoint of the neck, and has two lobes. The thyroid produces hormones which control how quickly the body uses energy and controls how sensitive the body can be to other hormones. The Thyroid hormone is essential to help each cell in each tissue and organ of the body to work right. For example, thyroid hormone helps the body use energy, stay warm, and keep the brain, heart, muscles, and other organs working as they should.
Common thyroid problems include:
- Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid)
- Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid)
This can go undiagnosed for years and is typically but not exclusively seen in women in the forties. (about 6:1 ration for women to men)
This condition occurs when the thyroid gland is not producing sufficient thyroid hormone. It is much more common in women than men, and is thought to be very much an under diagnosed condition; in other words, there are a lot of men and women who have a hypothyroid condition and are unaware of it. Hypothyroidism can be as a result of inflammation of the thyroid glands caused by the patient’s own immune system, whereby enough of the hormone-producing cells have been damaged to cause the production of the hormone to be reduced.
Hypothyroidism can also be brought about by medication used to treat an overactive thyroid gland, or surgery preformed to remove some of the thyroid gland in cases of thyroid cancer or a greatly enlarged thyroid gland.
Symptoms of hypothyroidism include:
- Weight gain or increased difficulty losing weight
- Coarse dry hair
- Dry rough pale skin
- Hair loss
- Cold intolerance
- Muscle cramps and frequent muscle aches
- Memory loss
- Abnormal menstrual cycles
- Decreased libido
Hypothyroidism is easily diagnosed with a simple blood test. This test measures the level of Thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) and levels greater than 5 mmol/litre are considered to be abnormal. It is also easily treated in most cases with medication taken on a daily basis. This medicine is a synthetic thyroid supplement. The McCabes Pharmacy TSH test is not a diagnostic test however it used as a screening and patients with an abnormal result are referred to the GP for further tests.
This tends to affect 2% of women and 0.2% of men at a typical age would be 20 to 49 years.
This condition is characterised by excessive production of thyroid hormone. There are many different causes, the commonest being Grave’s Disease, which is an enlargement of the gland in conjunction with too much thyroid production. It is much more commonly seen in women then men, and is rarely seen in women over the age of 50.
Common symptoms include:
- Heat intolerance
- Increased bowel movements
- Light or absent menstrual periods
- Fast heart rate
- Trembling hands
- Weight loss
- Muscle weakness
- Warm moist skin
- Hair loss
- Staring gaze
McCabes pharmacy TSH Tests:
The best way to initially test thyroid function is to measure the TSH level in a blood sample. A high TSH level indicates that the thyroid gland is failing because of a problem that is directly affecting the thyroid (primary hypothyroidism). Of all the problems that can affect the thyroid, Hypothyroidism would be the most common.
The opposite situation, in which the TSH level is low, usually indicates that the person has an overactive thyroid that is producing too much thyroid hormone (hyperthyroidism) however a testing of T4 levels would give a better indication of this.
Occasionally, a low TSH may result from an abnormality in the pituitary gland, which prevents it from making enough TSH to stimulate the thyroid (secondary hypothyroidism). In most healthy individuals, a normal TSH value means that the thyroid is functioning normally.
Any tests performed by McCabes pharmacy are preliminary only and serve to give an indication of ranges outside of the expected parameters. Pharmacists will not be making diagnostic decisions when undertaking Thyroid Level (TSH) or T4 screening. Your GP has the clinical responsibility for the diagnosis and subsequent clinical responsibility for your treatment. We will refer you to your GP if your test results are outside of the desirable range.
If you have already been diagnosed with Thyroid disease then changing your diet and lifestyle can help with your condition:
LIESTYLE AND DIET ADVISE IN HYPOTHYROIDISM:
Eating goitrogenic foods such as:
- brussels sprouts
- sweet potatoes
- lima beans
These foods contain natural goitrogens, which are chemicals that cause the enlargement of the thyroid gland by interfering with thyroid hormone synthesis. Cooking is known to make the goitrogens elements less effective but it would be wise not eat these foods raw. Foods that contain iodine should be kept in the diet and these include:
Foods containing fats, sugars, sodium chloride, red meat and egg intake should also be restricted in Hypothyroidism.
Another important factor in the treatment of hypothyroidism is exercise. One of the effects of hypothyroidism is weight gain. To help weight loss while having a thyroid condition a healthy diet and exercise along with the understanding of hypothyroidism is important. Exercise increases tissue sensitivity to the thyroid hormone and stimulates thyroid gland secretion. This is especially true in people who are dieting; this is because when dieting the metabolic rate decreases but exercise prevents this decline.
An exercise regime of between 15-20 minutes per day will be beneficial with hypothyroidism. This exercise needs to be strenuous enough to raise the heartbeat, an exercise such as walking, swimming, running and cycling.
There are also supplements that you can consider to help with your condition:
- Kelp: Has been linked with to helping with Hypothyroidism
- B vitamins complex: These B vitamins are essential for energy production, mood, nervous system function and wound healing. One of the main complaints of hypothyroidism is fatigue, which is mostly caused by low levels of thyroid hormone, but may also be the result of low B vitamin status.
- Multivitamin and multiminerals -Vitamin C (1,000 mg per day), vitamin A (10,000 – 25,000 IU per day), B complex [(50 - 100 mg/day), augmented with vitamins B2 (riboflavin, 10 mg), B3 (niacin, 10 - 25 mg), and B6 (pyridoxine, 5 - 15 mg)], selenium (200 mcg per day), vitamin E (400 IU per day), and zinc (30 mg per day) can help promote normal thyroid hormone production.
- Vitamin C – Helps to promote normal thyroid hormone production.
Diet and lifestyle advice in Hyperthyroidism:
It is important to maintain proper exercise regimens and to rest adequately as the proper functioning of the thyroid glands is dependant to a large extent on a healthy body. Saunas and steam baths and heavy exertion during exercise can all be used to bring out sweat as perspiration is important. Clay wraps can be used as wraps around the neck and the thyroid to reduce nerve conditions like shaky or trembling hands, an increase in the heartbeat rate and or the presence of general psychological unrest.
The depletion of nutrients is extremely fast as the metabolic rate zooms up during the condition, Hyperthyroidism and so it is very important in the light of this factor that the nutrient substances in the body be replaced by supplementation.
- Multivitamins: As they include most of the nutrients required in large amounts by the body
- Vitamin C combined with B Complex: The tension and stress raised by these overactive glands must be reduced and supplements of vitamins C combined with the B complex group can provide this essential function.
- Evening Primrose Oil: Autoimmune disorders in the body are often reduced and alleviated by essential fatty acids, the oil of the evening primrose is rich in these essential fatty acids and can help immensely as a supplement; the fatty acids are the building blocks for prostaglandin’s which are natural substance in the body that fight against inflammations
- Minerals Zinc and Selenium: Are essential for thyroid function.