Millions around the world are diagnosed with some form of
thyroid disease every year. It's a health problem that impacts
every cell in the body and can cause severe weight gain or
weight loss, mood disturbances and even infertility in both
men and women. While thyroid problems are most common in women,
affecting approximately 1 in 8 women between the ages of 35
and 65, men are not immune to thyroid disorders. Common symptoms
in men, such as reduced libido, difficulty achieving erection
and breast tenderness or enlargement, may be too embarrassing
for men to seek medical help and could contribute to the lower
instances of thyroid
disease recorded in men.
The thyroid gland is located at the base of the neck directly
below the Adam's apple. This tiny little gland shaped like
a butterfly is responsible for regulating the body's metabolism
which is the rate at which the body uses energy by releasing
the thyroid hormone T4 (tetra-iodide) into the bloodstream.
T4 makes its way to every cell in the body where it is converted
to T3 (triiodothyronine), a hormone that controls the rate
of cellular metabolism activity. The pituitary gland works
in concert with the thyroid by regulating the levels of T3
in the body. When more T3 is needed the pituitary gland sends
Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) to the thyroid gland to
stimulate the release of T4 into the bloodstream. When too
much thyroid hormone is present the pituitary gland stops
sending out TSH and the thyroid stops the production of T4.
The process is a delicate balance and if either the pituitary
or the thyroid gland is failing to function properly the result
will be a body that is not functioning properly.
When the thyroid gland becomes overactive, releasing more
than are necessary, the result is hyperthyroidism or Graves
Disease which is an autoimmune disease that causes over-activity
of the thyroid gland. Hyperthyroidism is most common between
the ages of 20 and 40 and affects roughly 1 million Americans
today. With hyperthyroid, everything in the body speeds up.
When the rate of cellular activity increases, more calories
must be consumed to maintain normal energy levels. If the
incoming calories fail to be enough then weight
loss will occur. Generally, the more severe the hyperthyroid,
the more weight loss will result. It is not uncommon, however,
for a person with hyperthyroid to gain weight if more calories
than necessary are being consumed.
Patients with hyperthyroidism may also experience fatigue,
trouble sleeping, increased appetite, trembling hands, irregular
irritability and reduced libido.
In severe cases, muscle weakness, shortness of breath and
chest pain may result. Often however, the symptoms of hyperthyroidism
are mild and may occur gradually over a long period of time.
Foods that naturally suppress thyroid hormone production are
cruciferous vegetables, soybeans, peaches and pears. Have
two servings of these foods daily. Carrots, celery, onion
and almonds are also beneficial.
Hypothyroidism is a far more common problem, affecting approximately
11 million Americans. The disease can affect both men and
women but it is mostly diagnosed in middle-aged women. Hypothyroid
is the complete opposite of hyperthyroid. In a patient with
hypothyroid the entire metabolism moves at a slower speed
and requires less calories than usual to maintain normal energy
levels. As a result, the excess calories consumed become stored
as fat and weight gain ensues.
Weight gain, while the most common problem associated with
hypothyroid, is not the only symptom of an underactive thyroid
gland. Other symptoms include low energy levels, depression,
irritability, intolerance to heat or cold, decreased heart
rate, dry skin and frequent infections, along with decreased
sex drive, infertility,
hair loss, dry hair and shortness of breath. As with hyperthyroid,
it is not uncommon to experience few to no symptoms of this
To combat hypothyroidism, consume foods that contain iodine
such as kelp, radish, parsley, potatoes, fish, oatmeal and
bananas or look for a supplement that has 150 mg of Iodine.
Iodine is needed by the body to form thyroid hormone. Also,
copper, iron, selenium and zinc are essential in the production
of T3 and T4. Exercise 15-20 minutes per day -- enough to
raise the heartbeat.
Diseases of the thyroid can be diagnosed with a simple blood
test which evaluates levels of free T3 and free AT4 (TSH)
in the bloodstream. Another way to measure this is by taking
and recording the basal body temperature under the arm as
soon as you wake up for ten minutes, five mornings in a row.
The normal axillary temperature is 97.8 - 98.2 degrees F.
If the temperature averages 97.4 or less see your physician.
Once a diagnosis of either hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism
has been ascertained, treatment is aimed at restoring proper
levels of the thyroid hormones. With hyperthyroidism this
might require surgery or the use of medication. Hypothyroid
is usually treated with hormone replacement therapy. In my
practice I have found that natural thyroid hormone can be
a safe and very successful means of restoring the appropriate
levels. For both diseases, restoring proper levels of the
thyroid hormone can result in a reversal of symptoms, including
a return to prethyroid disease weight.
If you suspect that you might be suffering from a thyroid
disorder, see your doctor immediately for an evaluation. Thyroid
disease is a serious health problem and one that can be easily
treated if properly diagnosed. Call your health care provider
today and regain control over your metabolism once and for