What Does the Thyroid Do?
The thyroid is one of the most important glands in the human body. It’s located just beneath the Adam’s apple and is around two inches long. The butterfly-shaped gland secretes numerous important hormones that regulate a variety of important functions. These include temperature, breathing, heart rate, and other functions related to the central and peripheral nervous systems. This makes the thyroid very important for our health, yet we rarely give it any thought.
This gland is an important part of a complex homeostatic feedback mechanism in our bodies that involves the brain and other organs. The thyroid can get malfunction due to various factors. Unhealthy diet, too much alcohol, reliance on pills and other problems can trigger a variety of thyroid problems. Treatment is often difficult, but the good news is that simple blood tests can detect abnormalities. In general, thyroid hormones are more than enough to “recalibrate” the thyroid, with most doctors also recommending lifestyle changes.
The Most Common Thyroid Disorders
The two most common thyroid disorders are hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism. Both can cause big problems in the human body and are related to thyroid hormone imbalance.
Hyperthyroidism occurs in cases when the thyroid works too hard. It is often related to nodule growth which can be malignant or benign. Hyperthyroidism causes symptoms such as sweating, brittle hair and nails, weight loss, insomnia, rapid heart rate, high blood pressure, and anxiety.
To diagnose the problem, doctors check the TSH and T4 levels. If they’re both high, the gland is hyperactive. Treatment involves taking medications or even surgery in severe cases. The problem with both hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism is that doctors often misdiagnose the conditions.
What is Graves’ Disease?
Graves’ disease is the most common cause of hyperthyroidism in the USA. Around 1 in every 200 people suffer from the autoimmune disease. It manifests through all the symptoms related to hyperthyroidism as well as exophthalmos, a bulging of the eye anteriorly out of the orbit.
The disease is usually hereditary. However, smoking and other unhealthy habits are among the risk factors as well.
Goiter is another health problem related to hyperthyroidism. It occurs due iodine deficiency and is rare in the USA where table salt is added to everything we eat. The condition makes the thyroid gland swollen and is usually benign.
Hypothyroidism is a thyroid disorder that occurs due to lack of TSH and T4 hormones. The absence of these hormones depresses the metabolism, resulting in a slew of symptoms. The most common ones are as depression, weight gain, sensitivity to cold, fatigue, low blood pressure, irregular heart rate, and dry skin.
Hypothyroidism is usually resolved by taking synthetic thyroid hormones. However, the dose needs to be just right or the treatment won’t work.
What is Hashimoto’s Disease?
Hashimoto’s syndrome is an autoimmune disease associated with hypothyroidism. It progresses quite slowly and currently affects over 14 million Americans. Treatment is quite complicated in these cases and requires more than simply taking synthetic thyroid hormones.
Natural Remedies for Thyroid Disorders
According to newest studies, simple lifestyle changes can go a long way in treating thyroid disorders. For example, increasing your HDL cholesterol intake and going gluten-free have been known to help treat hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism. You can find HDL cholesterol in olive oil, salmon, cod, nuts and seeds, and whole grains among other foods.
By going gluten-free, you will prevent the immune system from overreacting to thyroid gland molecules. They have a similar structure to gluten molecules.
Remember the homeostatic feedback mechanism in our bodies we mentioned earlier? It’s very sensitive to stress and can cause thyroid problems. By practicing meditation, you will be able to relax better. In this way, you’ll prevent the mechanism from going awry and harming your thyroid.