Are you experiencing unexplained weight loss? An irregular heartbeat? Nervousness or irritability? If you answered “yes” to these symptoms you may be part of the 1% of Americans who suffer from hyperthyroidism, a condition characterized by an overactive thyroid gland. The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped gland in the neck that is responsible for producing two hormones: thyroxine (T-4) and triiodothyronine (T-3). These hormones are responsible for maintaining the rate at which the body uses carbs and fats. They also help regulate heart rate, body temperature, protein production, and the amount of calcium in the blood. According to the Mayo Clinic, hyperthyroidism is defined as
A condition in which your thyroid gland produces too much of the hormone thyroxine. Hyperthyroidism can accelerate your body’s metabolism significantly, causing sudden weight loss, a rapid or irregular heartbeat, sweating and nervousness or irritability.
The cause of hyperthyroidism is not always known however Graves’ disease is often a common cause. Graves’ disease is an autoimmune disorder meaning that when someone has this disease their body’s immune system attacks the thyroid gland causing the thyroid gland to produce extra hormone. The exact cause of this disease is unknown however there seems to be a genetic predisposition that occurs with it. Graves’ disease is more common in women and tends to run in families. If one or more members of your family has Graves’ disease you may want to speak to your primary care provider about paying close attention to your thyroid function. It is important to note that Graves’ disease is an autoimmune disease and not a disease of the thyroid. Thyroid medications won’t help treat your Graves’ disease.
Thyroid nodules can also be a cause of hyperthyroidism. In this scenario one or more of your thyroid adenomas produce too much T-4 hormone. The Mayo Clinic defines an adenoma as “a part of the gland that has walled itself off from the rest of the gland, forming noncancerous (benign) lumps that may cause enlargement of the thyroid.”
Thyroiditis may also cause hyperthyroidism. Sometimes the thyroid just becomes inflamed for no good reason. When the thyroid becomes enlarged it can sometimes release excess thyroid hormone into the bloodstream.
Hyperthyroidism is often difficult to diagnosis as its symptoms can be associated with other diseases. Symptoms may include the following.
- Sudden weight loss with no change in diet or exercise
- Tachycardia, a rapid heart beat more than 100 beats per minute
- Increased appetite
- Nervousness, irritability and anxiety
- Increased heat sensitivity
- Tremors in the hands and fingers
- Fatigue, weak muscles
- Sleeping problems
- Brittle or fine hair
Graves’ opthalmopathy may also occur in people with hyperthyroidism.
A person who has Graves’ opthalmopathy will have eyes that protrude beyond a normal level making the eyes appear as though they are bulging out and being pushed forward.
Problems Caused by Hyperthyroidism
Hyperthyroidism can cause a variety of problems and complications.
Hyperthyroidism most commonly and seriously affects the heart. I mentioned that tachycardia (a fast heartbeat) often occurs but atrial fibrillation and congestive heart failure can also occur in those with hyperthyroidism.
Brittle bones and osteoporosis can also be caused by hyperthyroidism. When too much thyroid hormone is produced it interferes with the body’s ability to absorb calcium into the bones causing them to become weak and brittle.
As I mentioned Graves’ opthalmopathy can also occur. People who have this disease have swollen eyes, experience light sensitivity and blurred or double vision. If these problems persist for an extended period of time they can become quite severe and eventually lead to vision loss.
The best way to diagnosis hyperthyroidism is through a blood test. A blood test can confirm that you have high levels of thyroxine in your blood. Once you have been diagnosed with this disorder a variety of options are available. Common treatments include taking radioactive iodine, anti-thyroid medications, beta blockers or even surgery.
Iodine Rescue is a great supplement for supporting healthy thyroid hormone production naturally. Iodine may help regulate the amount of hormones your thyroid produces. You also want to make sure that you are getting enough calcium and vitamin D in your diet since people who have hyperthyroidism have trouble absorbing calcium. If you have lost a significant amount of weight from this disorder you might also want to look at supplementing additional calories and nutrients in your diet.
Receiving a diagnosis of hyperthyroidism can be scary at first but there many natural options available to help combat the symptoms of this disease. For more information on natural hyperthyroidism options check out Natural Endocrine Solutions. There are a variety of videos and articles full of natural options.