Remember your science classes at school where you used to memorise a lot about human organs? Do you remember learning about the thyroid gland? This particular organ we are referring to is butterfly shaped, which is found near your throat. It’s an endocrine gland that makes thyroid hormones, which control your body’s metabolism and the speed at which your calories burn and your heartbeat.
But like all organs of the human body, even the thyroid gland can get affected. If that happens, it can generate excess or very little of the hormone. This is what makes it overactive or underactive and can make you feel tired or restless. You may either lose or gain weight. As you begin to touch 50+, especially in ladies, the effects can get to be unpleasant and uncomfortable. So it’s important to know about the thyroid problems, diagnosis and treatment before they trouble you any further.
What do thyroid problems lead to?
Women are the ones that are more prone to getting thyroid disorders and hypothyroidism in particular. Thyroid ailments can lead to:
– Menstrual Disorders: How many women know that it is the thyroid that helps control your menstrual cycle? Whenever your thyroid hormone production is too low or too high, your monthly period can become very light or heavy and irregular. Amenorrhea is a very traumatic situation for a woman when the periods stop for a longer period of time. If thyroid disease happens, it can also affect the ovaries and bring on early menopause, even before you reach 40 years.
– Infertility: With the menstrual cycle getting affected, the process of ovulation also gets affected. This can hamper your chances of getting pregnant.
– Pregnancy Health Issues: Due to thyroid problems, the health of the expecting mother and the child in the womb can get affected.
Men Vs Women – Who does thyroidism affect the most?
Studies have shown women to be suffering from thyroid disorder more, but men are not very far behind.
Dr Sanjiv Shah who is a consultant diabetologist and endocrinologist at Nanavati Super Speciality Hospital in Mumbai, says “The popular conception is that it occurs exclusively in women. This is not so. As much as 1% of men suffer from thyroid imbalances.”
Dr Sujeet Jha, head of department of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Obesity, Max Healthcare feels “Hypothyroid in men is less common than in women, but it does not mean men do not suffer from it. In my clinic, a couple of men with thyroid disease are diagnosed almost daily”.
Types of Thyroid Ailments
There are several types of thyroid ailments that are affecting the female gender more than the male gender.
This is a situation when insufficient thyroid hormone is being produced by the thyroid gland. As a result, the metabolic processes in the body slow down. Here are the symptoms:
- Hoarse voice
- Puffy face
- Excessive menstrual bleeding
- Muscle weakness
- Joint or muscle pain
- Weight gain (despite eating less food)
- Slow heart rate
- Feeling cold (when the temperature is normal) and tired
- Sadness and depression
- Feeling very tired
- Dry and pale skin
- Dry and thinning hair
- Sweating is lesser than usual
- High LDL or bad cholesterol (this can raise the risk of heart ailments)
Patients suffering from hypothyroidism are given a medicine which gives their body the thyroid hormone required to work normally.
Common medicines include man-made forms of the hormone similar to what your thyroid produces, which are to be taken for the rest of your life.
Natural Remedies for Treating Hypothyroidism
Malfunctioning of your thyroid gland spells trouble. Thyroid disorders can vary from harmless goitre to cancer of the thyroid gland. Instead of taking pain relievers or anti-depressants, the best way to counter hypothyroidism is to provide your body with sufficient iodine.
1. Increase Iodine Intake:
Here are the suggested foods that give you sufficient iodine.
- Cow’s milk
- Dairy products – low fat
- Saltwater fish
2. Restrict Intake of Goitrogen
Some foods hamper the production of thyroid hormone. So limit their intake to once a week, if you can’t resist eating them. Here are some goitrogen-packed vegetables, nuts and fruit that need to be taken in lesser quantity by patients suffering from hypothyroidism.
- Brussels sprouts
3. Boost Your Thyroid Function with Yoga
Small activities such as brisk walking, exercising, doing Yoga or Pranayam or meditation are beneficial remedies for treating thyroid disorders.
Get into the habit of doing Sarvangasana (Standing on shoulders). It is the best Asana for treating most thyroid gland problems, and also improving the general health and functioning of the gland.
If you are suffering from hypothyroidism, this yogasana tends to release more thyroid hormones. If you are overactive by any chance, it tends to reduce the secretions. So both ways you benefit from this yoga technique.
Apart from Sarvangasana, there are other yoga exercises too such as pranayam techniques that will come to your help in treating hypothyroidism.
Before doing pranayama or yoga, always consult your doctor first and get trained by a qualified yoga teacher to be on the safer side.
4. Look After Your Adrenal Gland
Most of you would ask why do it when there is no connection with hypothyroidism (which is an ailment related to thyroid gland).
The answer is simple – if the adrenal gland is weak, it can cause both hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism.
An adrenal gland can become weak due to poor dietary and lifestyle habits. Here are some tips you need to follow:
- Wholesome food is the best way for your body to get sufficient amount of nutrients.
- Adequate sleep on a daily basis is a must.
- Do exercises regularly for half an hour.
- Try to manage your stress, and keep it to the lowest level. Meditation can help reduce stress.
5. Get Some Sunshine! – Vitamin D
You need to have optimum levels of vitamin D in your body as that will help improve immunity and decrease your chances of thyroid disorder.
Spend 10-15 minutes in the early morning to mid morning sunshine hours. It will keep your thyroid healthy.
Hyperthyroidism stands for an overactive thyroid that produces excess of thyroid hormone. This affects the immune system causing Graves’ disease.
In the beginning, the symptoms of hyperthyroidism are not visible to the eye. Over a period of time, the metabolic processes become faster, leading to the following abnormalities.
- Weight loss (irrespective of the quantity of food you are eating)
- Higher frequency of eating
- Irregular heartbeat
- Nervousness or anxiety
- Feeling irritated when you shouldn’t
- Troubled sleeping patterns
- Shaking of your hands and fingers
- Increased level of sweating
- Increased tendency to feeling hot as compared to others
- Muscle weakness
- More bowel movements than normal
- Fewer or lighter menstruation than normal
- Bulging of your eyes, or redness and irritation
Hyperthyroidism also raises your risk of osteoporosis. It’s a condition that weakens bones. As time progresses, it can make the bones break off easily. This is found more in menopausal women.
Depending on your symptoms and causes, your doctor can suggest you the following alternatives:
- Antithyroid medicines are prescribed that blocks your thyroid from generating a new thyroid hormone.
- Beta-blockers further block the effects of thyroid hormone on your body. These medicines are particularly helpful in slowing down your heart rate and treating other symptoms.
- Radioiodine This treatment method kills the thyroid cells that make thyroid hormones.
- Surgery The last method in treating hyperthyroidism is surgery that removes all of the thyroid gland.
Natural Remedies for Treating Hyperthyroidism
1. Yoga Asanas
The difference between yoga exercises for hypo and hyperthyroidism is not much. Only the poses are a bit different (walking and going to the gym remaining the same). Learn the yoga poses from a yoga guru to get best results. Here are some of the yoga postures that are best for hyperthyroid patients:
- Surya Namaskar (Saluting the Sun)
- Marjariasana (Cat Stretch)
- Setubandhasana (Bridge Pose)
- Shishu asana (Child Pose)
- Shavasana (Corpse Pose)
2. Take Mineral-rich Food
Eat food rich in zinc and calcium. Vitamins C, E and A also prove to be helpful in hyperthyroidism. Try and incorporate the following in your diet:
- Foods to avoid
- Processed Foods having trans fats (example French fries, cookies, cakes, crackers, donuts, margarine)
- Refined foods such as white bread, sugar and pasta
- Red meats
- Carbonated beverages
- Stimulants such as coffee
Hope these tips help you manage your thyroid levels better. Don’t forget to get regular check ups so you can be aware of any changes in your thyroid function and take adequate measures to correct it.
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