Causes and symptoms of an underactive thyroid disease, and how to treat hypothyroidism naturally
Underactive thyroid disease, also known as hypothyroidism, is a common condition where the thyroid gland doesn't make enough thyroid hormones to meet your body's needs! It can be a tiring and long road to recovery or finding the right treatment, but with the correct information, your life can return back to health and vitality!
The current conventional method of treating hypothyroidism is taking daily thyroid hormone supplementation with synthetic levothyroxine (T4), liothyronine (T3), or natural desiccated thyroid (T4 and T3) to correct low levels. While the thyroid supplementation may help some, it doesn't always address the underlying cause of hypothyroidism, and some people are not able to tolerate the synthetic hormones. For this reason, we're going to help you understand the main causes behind an underactive thyroid and how to approach treatment and management of an underactive thyroid naturally!
What is the thyroid gland?
The thyroid gland is a very important part of the body! It's a butterfly-shaped endocrine gland that is located in the lower front of the neck. Its job is to secrete hormones that control metabolic functions including body weight, body temperature, cholesterol levels, heart rate, digestion, menstrual cycles, muscle strength and so much more!
Parts of your brain communicate with your thyroid gland and instruct it to secrete certain amounts of 2 hormones: triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). It's important that T3 and T4 levels secreted from the thyroid gland are neither too high nor too low. Essentially, if too much T3 and T4 are being secreted, you may end up with a condition called hyperthyroidism (over-active thyroid function). If too little T3 and T4 are being secreted, you may end up with a condition called hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid function)!
Symptoms of hypothyroidism
When thyroid hormone levels are too low in one's body, their cells don’t receive enough thyroid hormone, therefore the body’s processes start slowing down. There are common signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism, however, it's best not to self-diagnose! If you suspect that you may suffer from hypothyroidism, we recommend that you see your doctor and get blood tests done. The earlier you detect the symptoms and are diagnosed, the sooner you can start managing your underactive thyroid disorder!
Common symptoms of hypothyroidism:
- Tiredness and fatigue
- Weight gain and difficulty losing weight (despite dieting and exercise)
- Difficulty concentrating or remembering
- Sensitivity to cold temperatures
- Dry skin or hair
- Heavy menstrual cycles
- Muscle or joint pain
Causes of hypothyroidism
When thyroid hormone levels are too low, the body’s cells don't receive enough thyroid hormone, therefore the body’s processes start slowing down. There are many reasons why the cells in the thyroid gland can’t make enough thyroid hormone!
Common causes of hypothyroidism:
- Thyroid surgery: People who have thyroid nodules, Grave's disease, thyroid cancer or other thyroid issues may need to have a complete or partial thyroidectomy (removal). If only a part of the thyroid is removed, the thyroid may OR may not continue to function normally. However, if you have a total thyroidectomy (entire thyroid removal), you're guaranteed to become hypothyroid!
- Autoimmune disorder: In certain people, the immune system may mistake its own cells as foreign invaders, resulting in antibodies attacking their own cells. Common forms of autoimmune disorders that attack the thyroid gland are Hashimoto's thyroiditis and atrophic thyroiditis. Due to the thyroid gradually being destroyed, it becomes unable to produce sufficient thyroid hormones, leading to hypothyroidism.
- Radiation treatment: Hypothyroidism can be radiation-induced after treatment of head or neck cancer. Just as radiation therapy kills cancer cells, it can also damage the body’s normal tissues. Many patients who have radiation therapy for head and neck cancer experience damage to the thyroid gland, which can cause the thyroid gland to secrete less thyroid hormone!
- Congenital hypothyroidism: In certain cases, babies are born without a thyroid gland, or born with a partially-formed thyroid gland! In other cases, babies are born with an ectopic thyroid gland (located in the wrong place), or are born with non-functioning thyroid cells or thyroid enzymes.
- Insufficient or too much iodine: The thyroid gland needs a trace mineral called iodine in order to make thyroid hormone. Iodine is present in many fruits, vegetables and seafood, and when consumed, it travels through the blood system to the thyroid gland. It's then used by the thyroid gland to produce thyroid hormone. Insufficient iodine intake can lead to hypothyroidism, and too much iodine can worsen hypothyroidism!
- Damaged pituitary gland: The pituitary, also known as the “master gland”, is a small pea-sized gland located at the base of the brain, that tells the thyroid how much hormone to make. The pituitary gland may become damaged or affected by tumours, radiation, surgery or physical impact. If the pituitary gland is damaged, it may not be able to effectively communicate with the thyroid gland and the thyroid gland may stop producing enough hormones.
Natural treatment of hypothyroidism
Whether hypothyroidism can be completely cured depends on the cause of the disorder. A person who is suffering from hypothyroidism due to an iodine deficiency may be cured by correcting their iodine intake. A person who has congenital hypothyroidism or had a total thyroidectomy will never be completely cured! However, naturopaths have long recognised that restoring balance is key to treating an under-active thyroid. There are very effective herbs that can help promote healthy thyroid functioning and restore thyroid health and balance.
In conjunction with experts in the field, Feelgood Health has developed Thyroid Assist, a 100% herbal remedy to assist in the treatment of hypothyroidism or under-active thyroid. Thyroid Assist, along with a healthy diet and lifestyle, can help to promote thyroid health and bring relief from many of the symptoms of hypothyroidism or under-active thyroid functioning!
Feelgood Tips for a healthy thyroid:
- Eat plenty of iodine-rich foods such as saltwater fish, shellfish and sushi
- Make sure that your multi-vitamin includes Vitamin C, all the B vitamins, zinc and copper - see Solgar Formula VM-2000: Multivitamin & Mineral Supplement
- Avoid cigarettes: researchers have found that smoking significantly increases the severity of hypothyroidism
- Avoid goitrogens (foods that disrupt the thyroid gland), or consume in only small amounts or cooked: Goitrogens include broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, horseradish, kale, spinach and more.
Thyroid Assist is often recommended along with the following natural remedies:
- MindSoothe - natural remedy for depression
- EcoSlim - herbal weight-loss remedy
- Fatigue Fighter - herbal remedy to boost energy levels
If you have any health-related questions, please contact us or leave a comment below for FREE health advice. We always love hearing from you!