For such a small organ, your thyroid gland has an outsize impact. It controls energy utilization throughout every tissue in your body. When the thyroid gland isn’t working well, you may notice changes in your digestion, your heart rate, your skin, hair, muscles and your weight. A faltering thyroid may even have an impact on your mood and cognitive ability. Either an underactive or overactive thyroid gland can create difficulties.
Approximately 20 million Americans have some type of thyroid disorder, and not all of them are aware of it. Frequently, a problem with the thyroid gland is due to an autoimmune reaction. As with other autoimmune diseases, women experience thyroid disruptions more often than men. However, men too can have trouble with this gland.
Hypothyroidism, in which the thyroid does not produce enough hormone, is the more common condition. Symptoms can include fatigue, constipation, slow pulse, dry skin, long or heavy menstrual periods, high cholesterol and atherosclerosis. We have discussed the problems associated with hypothyroidism and its treatment in Show 1015–Thyroid Mysteries, Controversies and the Latest Research; Show 1096–What You Need to Know About Treating Thyroid Disease; Show 1162–How to Treat Common Thyroid Problems; and Show 1196–What to Do If Thyroid Treatment Doesn’t Work for You. The autoimmune condition that leads to an underactive thyroid is called Hashimoto’s disease.
Another autoimmune condition can have the opposite impact. In Graves’ disease, overactive thyroid gland makes excess thyroid hormone. As a result, the symptoms may include unintended weight loss, rapid heartbeat, anxiety, insomnia and nervousness, sensitivity to heat, high blood pressure frequent bowel movements, low-flow menstrual periods or amenorrhea, and tremors. People with Graves’ disease are more likely to lose bone strength over the long term. In addition, they are also susceptible to atrial fibrillation.
This may sound grim, but it is possible to lead a normal life even with an overactive thyroid gland. Both the experts we interview in this episode have had their own experience with Graves’ disease and its treatment, which they share with listeners.
They describe the common tests used to assess thyroid function: TSH, T3 and T4. You’ll also hear about the usual treatments for Graves’ disease. In addition, we discuss some complementary approaches that can be helpful such as motherwort, bugleweed and lemon balm. Moreover, following an “autoimmune Paleo diet” may help when intestinal permeability is contributing to the condition.
David S. Cooper, MD, MACP, is the Director of the Thyroid Clinic and Professor of Medicine and Radiology in the Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Metabolism at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Dr. Cooper is the past President of the American Thyroid Association, and the recipient of the American Thyroid Association Distinguished Service Award. His website is https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/endocrinology_diabetes_metabolism/index.html. The photograph is of Dr. Cooper.
Dr. Eric Osansky is a chiropractor, clinical nutritionist, and a certified functional medicine practitioner who helps people recover from thyroid and autoimmune thyroid conditions. He is author of Natural Treatment Solutions for Hyperthyroidism and Graves’ Disease and Hashimoto’s Triggers.
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