The thyroid gland is situated in the front of your neck and controls your metabolism and keeps your whole body functioning properly. So when it?s out of kilter, it can have devastating effects on your energy levels and general health.
There are no official statistics for the number of sufferers in India but in the US, nearly 12 million adults have been diagnosed with thyroid disease, and nearly 10 million of those are hypothyroid or have an underactive thyroid. As in the US, doctors locally report a greater prevalence of hypothyroidism, mostly affecting women, with the risk increasing during pregnancy and with age.
Common symptoms for hypothyroidism include hair loss, intolerance to cold temperatures, swelling of limbs and facial puffiness, swelling in the throat (goitre), sluggishness, fatigue, and depression. There?s been a worldwide increase in hypothyroidism, which is attributed to dietary deficiencies and toxins associated with our modern lifestyle, both of which also lead to obesity and chronic illnesses like type-2 diabetes.
If you suspect you may have a thyroid problem, the first step would be to take a blood test. The standard diagnostic test is to check the thyroid stimulating-hormone (TSH). If it is above the normal range, your thyroid is not producing enough thyroid hormone and the pituitary gland in your brain is sending messages to produce more. If TSH is low, the reverse is true, and you might be hyperthyroid. Interestingly, thyroid problems often occur after childbirth, and doctors now believe that the thyroid gland has a role to play in postnatal depression. It is estimated that 20 percent of postnatal depression-sufferers have an underactive thyroid.
Another cause is insufficient intake of thyroid-friendly mineral iodine. An excess intake can cause as much of a problem as taking in too little. The recommended daily intake for women is 150 micrograms and 200 micrograms per day during pregnancy. In India we have iodised salt, so most of us get an adequate supply from this source. Treatment for hypothyroidism includes thyroid hormone replacement, normally given in the form of Eltroxin or Euthyrox.
If you have an overactive thyroid or hyperthyroidism, or too-high thyroid levels you may feel jittery, irritable and warm, experience insomnia and palpitations, and inexplicably lose weight. Like hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism is far more common in women than men, it occurs in the 30s and 40s and becomes less prevalent after 50. Hyperthyroidism is primarily caused by an autoimmune disorder called Grave?s disease, which is genetic, and where the body attacks the thyroid, causing it to overproduce hormones.
If you are predisposed to thyroid problems, taking products containing kelp, such as spirulina, can cause an overactive thyroid because of the high concentration of iodine in kelp. Treatment for hyperthyroidism involves removing part or all of the gland. In certain cases, the thyroid-replacement hormone Eltroxin will be prescribed.