Hypothyroidism is a serious condition of the thyroid gland. Find out what its symptoms, signs, causes, and treatments are.
In this article:
Hypothyroidism Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments
Hypothyroidism Definition: Hypothyroidism, also known as underactive thyroid disease, is a disorder wherein the thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormones.
Causes of Hypothyroidism
1. Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis
This is the most common cause of hypothyroidism and an autoimmune disorder that involves the inflammation of the thyroid. This condition occurs when your body releases antibodies that destroy and attack the thyroid. Symptoms include the following:
- slowed heart rate
- irregular menstrual periods
- thinning or loss of hair
- joint and muscle pain
- difficulty getting pregnant
- inability to get warm
- puffiness of the face
- weight gain
2. Radiation Therapy of the Neck
Radiation therapy of the neck utilizes high doses of radiation to eliminate cancer cells and destroy tumors. This procedure can lead to hypothyroidism as it destroys the thyroid cells, making it difficult for your thyroid to produce hormones.
3. Radioactive Iodine Treatment
This treatment is an internal radiotherapy that uses a radioactive form of iodine to let the nutrient circulate in the bloodstream, killing cancer cells. Radioactive iodine treatment is commonly prescribed to patients with hyperthyroidism (an overactive gland), but it also damages the cells in the thyroid, leading to hypothyroidism.
4. Use of Certain Medications
Some medications, like interleukin-2, interferon alpha, and amiodarone, to treat cancer, psychiatric conditions, and heart problems can interfere with the production of the thyroid hormones.
5. Thyroid Surgery
Thyroid surgery may be prescribed by a doctor when a person suffers from thyroid cancer. The patient can either be undergoing thyroidectomy where the entire thyroid gland is removed or lobectomy where only one of the two lobes is taken. This procedure can significantly affect the hormone supply of your body.
6. Lack of Iodine
Iodine is an essential nutrient that is needed for the production of the thyroid hormone. The body does not produce iodine, so you need to include iodine-rich foods in your diet. You may sprinkle some amount of table salt in your meals as it is a good source of the nutrient. Other foods rich in iodine are as follows:
- dairy products
- saltwater fish
Pregnancy causes changes in the function and amount of hormones, which can make your thyroid underactive. But, a pregnant woman’s thyroid gland may swell after giving birth, which is a condition called postpartum thyroiditis. Women with this condition commonly experience high levels of thyroid hormones and a sudden drop in hormone production. In most cases, women will regain their thyroid’s normal function.
8. Thyroid Problems at Birth
Congenital hypothyroidism occurs when babies do not develop a normal thyroid gland or their glands do not function properly. This happens when a mother lacks iodine supply during pregnancy and can cause physical deformities, stunted growth, and impaired neurological function to the baby.
9. Pituitary Gland Problem
In rare cases, people may also experience problems, like a pituitary tumor, with the pituitary gland, leading to hypothyroidism. The pituitary gland makes the thyroid-stimulating hormone that assists in the production and release of the thyroid hormones.
10. Disorder of the Hypothalamus
Hypothalamus is a portion of the brain that senses low circulating levels of the thyroid hormones and responses by releasing thyrotropin-releasing hormone, affecting the release of the thyroid-stimulating hormone. When the hypothalamus does not produce enough thyrotropin-releasing hormone, hypothyroidism may develop.
Symptoms of Hypothyroidism
The signs of hypothyroidism may vary in adults and children, and the symptoms in adults may be unclear or may mimic other conditions:
- carpal tunnel syndrome (compression of the median nerve, causing pain, tingling, and numbness in most fingers)
- difficulty losing weight or unexplained weight gain
- slow heart rate
- high sensitivity to cold
- dry skin
- dry hair or hair loss
- changes in the menstrual cycle
For babies, symptoms may not be felt or visible, but may manifest as:
- swollen tongue
- stomach bloating
- puffy face
- poor feeding habits
- persistent jaundice (whitening of the eyes and yellowing of the skin)
- low muscle tone
- little or no growth
- hoarse cry
- extreme sleepiness
- cold hands and feet
Hypothyroidism Treatments and Relief
Thyroid Hormone Pills
The underactive thyroid treatment involves the prescription of a thyroid hormone (T4) pill on a daily basis to help boost your hormone levels. It’s not actually a cure, but it can aid in controlling hypothyroidism for the rest of the patient’s life.
Selenium is a trace mineral that aids in the production of the thyroid hormone as it helps balance T4 levels. You can get this mineral from foods such as the flowing:
- Brazil nuts
- grass-fed beef
Sugar in processed foods can increase the inflammation levels in the body, and eliminating it from your diet can help with your thyroid health. You can substitute it with healthier alternatives instead such as the following:
- pure honey
- coconut sugar
- stevia extracts
- date paste
Protein is the carrier of thyroid hormone to the tissues in the body, and insufficient supply of this nutrient can affect this process. Include these foods rich in protein in your diet:
- grass-fed meats
Fats protect the cells in your body, including thyroid cells, from damage. You can get healthy fats from the following food sources:
- coconut milk products
- olive oil
Glutathione is a powerful antioxidant that can help fight Hashimoto’s disease by healing and protecting your thyroid tissue. You can add these foods to your diet as they help your body produce more glutathione:
Learn more about hypothyroidism in this video from The Daily Dose:
Hypothyroidism treatments and relief options have already been established by medicine but may still vary depending on the body’s response. Underactive thyroid natural remedies are also available if you want to manage the condition in a natural way. But only do so with medical advice. Follow your physician’s advice and switch to an underactive thyroid diet.
How do you manage hypothyroidism? Share your story in the comments below. We’d love to read from you.