Hypothyroidism is a medical condition that affects millions of people around the world. Hypothyroidism results when the thyroid gland, located at the base of the throat, produces too few hormones. Many doctors refer to this condition as underactive thyroid, because the body needs a certain level of “activity” to operate normally.
It is important to recognize that a proper balance of hormones is necessary for optimal function. A thyroid gland that is too “active”, or overactive, is just as damaging as one that is underactive. This results in a condition known as hyperthyroidism.
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Hypothyroidism can result in many symptoms including:
- Lowered heart rate
- Intolerance to cold
- Mental slowing or forgetfulness
- Thinning hair
- Dry skin
- Other mood changes
- Weight gain
Often people ignore the symptoms of hypothyroidism because they associate them with other conditions like stress or aging. This is unfortunate because it means that many people remain untreated. Hypothyroidism is easily treated in most cases.
Who Does Hypothyroidism Affect?
Hypothyroidism can affect men, women, and even children, but women are most often diagnosed with this condition. Typically women find they have a hard time losing weight when they have a sluggish thyroid. Simply treating the underactive thyroid and eating well, along with regular exercise can eliminate unnecessary weight gain.
Why Is Thyroid Hormone So Important?
Thyroid hormones are chemicals that the body releases into the bloodstream through endocrine glands. These hormones circulate throughout the blood and deliver messages to other parts of the body. The hormones associated with the thyroid gland include TSH, T3 and T4.
T4 has 4 iodine unites attached, and T3 has 3, hence the names. When a person does not get enough iodine through their diet, typically hypothyroidism can result. Iodine is often added to table salt to help prevent this. In some countries, particularly in underdeveloped countries, problems associated with underactive thyroid glands are very common because iodine is not readily available in foods.
Goitre for example, a condition associated with insufficient iodine, is very common in many underdeveloped countries where iodine is not added to common foods like table salt.
So What Does The Thyroid Gland Do?
The thyroid gland produces the hormones that control breathing rate, heart rate, and metabolism of certain proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. These hormones also help with muscle tone, mental alertness and thinking skills.
Is Hypothyroidism A Serious Condition?
Many people have borderline hypothyroidism and go a long time with minor symptoms and do not realize they may benefit from treatment. If hypothyroidism persists for a long time people may suffer unnecessarily.
Symptoms include debilitating fatigue and mental impairment in many situations. Many people experience temperature changes. In extreme cases this may lead to a severe, life threatening change in body temperature, seizures and even heart rate changes.
Behavioural impairment and emotional changes are commonly seen with hypothyroidism. Fortunately, all of this is easily treatable. Patients with hypothyroidism can benefit from various treatments including:
- Supplementation with thyroid hormone (usually T4 hormone).
- Natural supplements that help stimulate the thyroid gland.
- Proper diet including supplementation with iodine under the supervision of a trained health care provider or natural therapist.
- Proper exercise program that includes sufficient rest and moderate exercise.
- Stress reduction therapy, which will calm the nervous system and address over- stressed endocrine systems including the adrenal glands.
All individuals have to consider their overall body, health, and mental status when desiring better health in order to overcome the symptoms and effects of hypothyroidism. When they do they can expect long-term lasting results.
If a patient has other underlying conditions, these should be treated and addressed as well. As you can see, the effects of hypothyroidism are widespread, however with the array of natural medicines available to improve thyroid function, and the proper implementation of diet, exercise and stress reduction there is certainly no need to put up with these symptoms.