What did I know about Hypothyroidism?
Not much to start with. For some years now I have had a problem with my thyroid. The fact that I did not know much about hypothyroidism obviously scared me probably more (or maybe less??) than necessary. Numerous visits to doctors led me to believe at times that everything was okay.
At other times a sense of alarm took over leaving me unsure about what to do. I took the prescribed medication for some time and did my best to ignore the issue, thinking it would get better. I (sometimes!) ate the right foods, exercised and did some other things I THOUGHT would help.
Did it help?
Some of them did. But there was no getting around the fact that I needed to A) do my own research and B) visit a doctor I trusted to tell me more. I have to admit I don’t usually take any medication and visits to doctors have been extremely rare…but sometimes a Woman has to do What a Woman has to do, right?
Thus I embarked on a journey of discovery, looking for information I needed. I have put this together in a four part series for you. I hope you will find it useful, if you have a thyroid issue, if someone you know has one or just out of interest. Let’s get started.
Whаt Causes Hypothyroidism
Before looking at the causes let me give you some peripheral information to put it all into context.
The thyroid gland , a butterfly shaped gland which is located in the neck area, is responsible for the production of thyroid hormones T3 and T4. The central function of the thyroid hormones is to maintain a normal metabolic rate, which is the rate at which your body processes energy. When the human body is incapable of producing sufficient levels of thyroid hormones, this condition is referred to as hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid). Therefore having hypothyroidism makes the body’s metabolism go haywire and triggers all sorts of health problems.
The Master Gland
Our pituitary gland, also known as the “master gland”, is a circular shaped organ approximately the size of a pea. Located at the base of the brain, it has several functions. One of its main functions is ensuring correct production and release of hormones in the body. A decrease in the level of thyroid hormones in our blood, causes the pituitary gland to release a specific hormone (TSH). TSH then stimulates the thyroid gland to secrete more of the hormone.
On the other hand, when the pituitary gland realises that the amount of thyroid hormone becomes significantly high in the bloodstream, it reduces the secretion of TSH. That is basically how the pituitary gland works to control thyroid activity. However, if the pituitary gland is not functioning correctly, we may either suffer from an overactive or underactive thyroid gland. Here is a short video about it
How can you tell?
There are many people with this condition who just don’t know it. Not necessarily through any fault of their own. Sometimes the symptoms are mistakenly identified resulting in the wrong or delayed treatment. Last year I read this book which greatly helped to fill in some of the gaps in my knowledge of Hypothyroidism. It might help you too. In his book Dr. Kharrazian documents dozens of cases where patients were wrongly diagnosed, causing them to live with the condition much longer than they would have had to. Here are some symptoms which are tell tale signs, and which we will discuss in subsequent parts of the series.
- Dry skin
- High cholesterol
- Muscle weakness
- Joint inflammation
- Weight gain
Some causes of hypothyroidism
This is one of the most common reasons where people are diagnosed with hypothyroidism. Swelling of the thyroid gland is the main indicator for Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. But why does the thyroid gland become inflamed? Hashimoto’s causes the immune system to mistakenly identify the thyroid gland as a harmful intruder. This incorrect identification stimulates the immune system to wage a war, so to speak, against the thyroid gland. In other words, our body’s own defense mechanism attacks the thyroid gland tissue. The result is inflammation and subsequent low production of thyroid hormone.
Thyroid Gland Damage
Another reason behind the occurrence of hypothyroidism is linked to thyroid gland damage. Some patients who take treatment for hyperthyroidism (excess production of thyroid hormones) for a prolonged period might have an increased risk of damage to the thyroid gland. Hyperthyroidism treatment involves the use of antithyroid medications that do not allow the thyroid gland to produce hormone іn surplus amounts. Sadly, this suppression can also cause lifelong hypothyroidism.
If your diet is low in iodine you could also experience hypothyroidism. The presence of iodine іn adequate amounts is very essential for normal thyroid activity. Without iodine, it is very difficult for the thyroid gland to manufacture hormones. Therefore, low iodine can result in hypothyroidism. Using iodized salt, can help prevent this deficiency. It is however important to note that too much iodine can also cause damage to the thyroid gland.
Radiation therapy is used to destroy cancer cells. During the therapy a radiation beam is emitted from a special machine and directed to the area for a specified time. This reduces tumor size and destroys cancer cells. However healthy tissue around the site is also affected. Therefore if the target site happens to be in the neck area, the therapy can interfere with thyroid gland function, eventually leading to hypothyroidism.
Thyroid Cancer Surgery
One of the side effects associated wіth thyroid (cancer) surgery, (removal of the thyroid gland), is hypothyroidism. The procedure is referred to as thyroidectomy. Post surgery many patients may develop hypothyroidism, which can be treated with daily supplements.
The term postpartum thyroiditis describes a condition where the thyroid gland becomes inflamed after pregnancy. It is a relatively infrequent condition occurring in only about 5 to 10 out of 100 pregnant women. Although the inflammation causes no pain , normal thyroid function is disrupted causing post delivery hypothyroidism. Once it subsides thyroid function returns to normal. Women can experience thyroid malfunction symptoms wіthіn a year following delivery.
How can this information help you?
First off I am not writing this to cause fear or worry. I believe if we know what is happening we can get more detailed information as we need it taking away fear or worry. Neither fear or worry are of any use in any case, but rather wasted energy on something which might happen but which also might not. We are better served investing the energy finding out exactly what we need to know to help us take the necessary steps.
What to do- the next step
Depending on the cause of hypothyroidism, underactive thyroid treatment can consist of oral intake of drugs which contain synthetically prepared hormones. Doctors commonly prescribe certain drugs which seem to overcome thyroid hormone deficiency. A discussion with your physician will help you determine what the best options for your case are before making a decision. A determination of the TSH levels in the blood will assist in the correct evaluation of the medication.
Dealing with Hypothyroidism
If you are averse to taking medication, there are many natural ways to deal with thyroidism. One of them is the use of coconut oil. The unique medium-chain fatty acids of coconut oil make it a superior choice compared to other oils. They also enable the body to self regulate. Make sure to use only the cold pressed, unprocessed type.
There may be other alternative methods which would be relevant in your case. Find out what they are. Is it advisable to self-prescribe? Will you need help and support in ascertaining the right treatment for you? These questions and of course the answers are not ones we want to take lightly. Seek out a consultant you feel comfortable with and who you feel you can trust to help you answer these and other related question.
There is hope, so take the steps you need to in order to adequately determine where you stand today and how you can best deal with this condition.
If you have found this interesting be sure to follow up on part two of this series on Thyroidism, coming soon.
I now think I have said enough on this one, now it’s your turn. What are your thoughts, opinions, experiences? Looking forward to hearing from you.
Finally here are some of the (better) coconut oils available