Thyroid Getting You Down?

Sue Millward, RPh - Brunswick Location Inside Buehler's Fresh Foods Market

Q: I feel tired all the time and my mom suggested I get my thyroid checked.  How do I get my thyroid checked and what does this mean exactly?

A: The thyroid's job is to make thyroid hormones that are secreted into the blood and carried to every tissue in the body.  Thyroid hormones help the body use energy, stay warm and keep the brain, heart, muscles and other organs functioning as they should.  Hypothyroidism is an underactive thyroid gland that can't make enough thyroid hormone to keep the body running normally. If you are feeling tired, an underactive thyroid could be the cause.  Hypothyroidism can be "checked" or diagnosed with a simple blood test.


Q: What are the symptoms that my thyroid isn't working right?

A: An underactive thyroid influences several functions in your body and has a wide range of symptoms.  The most common symptoms are; loss of energy and fatigue, weight gain, dry skin, brittle nails, hair loss, sensitivity to cold, puffiness in the face, forgetfulness, and constipation.  Since the symptoms vary and are non-specific, it is best to get a blood test to confirm a diagnosis. 

On the opposite end of the spectrum, is an overactive thyroid, or Hyperthyroidism, in which your thyroid gland produces too much thyroid hormone. Hyperthyroidism can cause a lot of things in your body to speed up.  Symptoms can include increased metabolism causing sudden weight loss, a rapid or irregular heartbeat, sweating, nervousness or irritability, and increased bowel movements. Some may have no symptoms at all. Just as in hypothyroidism, a blood test is used to determine hyperthyroidism. 


Q: How do you get hypothyroidism and can it be cured?

A:Hypothyroidism can be caused by several underlying factors.  It can be caused by an autoimmune disease, surgical removal of the thyroid, as a result of radiation treatment, congenital factors, or damage to the pituitary gland.  Hypothyroidism can run in families.

There is no cure for hypothyroidism.  However, you can be treated with synthetic hormone medication that will keep your hypothyroidism completely controlled throughout your life.  Periodic blood tests will confirm your dosage, which can be varied from time to time.  The good news about treatment is that thyroid medication is effective for most people, especially when it is taken as prescribed.  Ask your Ritzman pharmacist about the synthetic thyroid hormones that are available and how they should be taken.  We are here to help you!


 Q: Are there natural ways to treat a sluggish thyroid?

A: One of the best steps that you can take to support your thyroid is to take a multivitamin that contains zinc, iron, copper, vitamin A, vitamin C, the B vitamins, iodine, and selenium.  The thyroid needs these vitamins and minerals to carry out important daily functions.

There are several foods that also support thyroid health.  Foods like seafood, sea vegetables, iodized salt, eggs, asparagus, and sesame seeds are iodine-rich sources to support the thyroid.  It is best to avoid gluten and soy that can inhibit thyroid function.

Stress can also contribute to a thyroid imbalance.  When the body is stressed it produces the hormone cortisol.  Cortisol can directly inhibit thyroid stimulating hormones and their conversion into a form the body can use. 

To reduce stress, a regular exercise program is a great stress-buster.  Research also suggests that raising the heart rate with exercise can actually increase thyroid hormones.

Remember, to help regain energy, eat a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins.  Cut back on added sugars, which can actually decrease your energy level as they are metabolized. Increasing physical activity through regular exercise, along with limiting alcohol and caffeine, will also make you feel better.