The New Year has officially begun, and this month is National Thyroid Awareness Month. January is a time for understanding what the thyroid is, how it functions in the body, and why it is essential for good health. The thyroid gland plays a crucial role in regulating weight levels.
Facts About the Thyroid
Approximately twenty million people have a thyroid condition in the United States, and sixty percent of those people do not even know it. The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland located in the lower neck that sits in front of the windpipe. It is the gland that produces hormones that influence metabolism, body temperature, and growth. Unexplained changes in weight are usually an indicator of a thyroid condition. The balance of hormones produced by the thyroid help regulate weight control.
Hypothyroidism vs. Hyperthyroidism
While there are many types of thyroid conditions, two of which have a direct impact on how the body controls its weight. They are hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism, and each one has a different effect on how the thyroid functions.
What is Hypothyroidism?
Hypothyroidism is a condition in which specific factors prevent the thyroid from producing enough thyroid hormones. The result is an underactive thyroid gland. The disease develops slowly, and the symptoms may go unnoticed for an extended time frame.
If not adequately treated, hypothyroidism makes weight loss difficult. The condition causes the metabolism to slow down, meaning the average recommended daily caloric intake might cause weight gain. The condition may require more exercise than average for weight loss. However, there are things that doctors may prescribe to help curb weight gain for those with hypothyroidism. Some patients opt for weight loss surgery if they cannot lose the weight on their own.
- Carbs and sugars. Simple sugars and carbohydrates, like those found in refined grains or sodas, can cause elevated inflammation. Too much inflammation in the body can cause weight gain and also make it more challenging to lose weight. Stick to complex carbohydrates such as starchy vegetables. Also, fruits and honey are healthier alternatives to processed sugars.
- Anti-inflammatory foods. Hypothyroidism can trigger depression and also causes the immune system to work harder. The vitamins and minerals found in anti-inflammatory foods, such as leafy greens, fatty fish, olive oil, and fruits help reduce inflammation. They also are healthy for the liver, which converts a large portion of thyroid hormones into energy.
- Thyroid medication. Those with hypothyroidism can regulate thyroid function with the help of specific medicines designed to balance hormone production within the gland. The drug serves as the missing hormones that are lacking in an underperforming thyroid, which makes losing weight easier and helps maintain energy levels.
What is Hyperthyroidism?
Unlike hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism is a condition in which an individual has an overactive thyroid. With hyperthyroidism, the gland produces too much of the hormone thyroxine. The result is an accelerated metabolism and an irregular heartbeat. Hyperthyroidism can lead to unexpected weight loss, tremors, and anxiety. Hyperthyroidism is treatable. While there may be no cure for it, there are ways to maintain the issue and live a healthy and normal life.
- Stress. Having too much stress causes the thyroid to work harder. Those with hyperthyroidism already have an overactive thyroid. Therefore maintaining stress levels is even more important to keep the heart rate steady and reduce anxiety.
- Radioactive iodine. When taken orally, radioactive iodine helps reduce thyroxin production in the thyroid. It is a countermeasure to hyperthyroidism. The thyroid absorbs the iodine, causing the gland to shrink in size and thus reduce the number of thyroid hormones in the body. However, the process may cause the thyroid to produce too little of the hormone or even trigger hypothyroidism. Medication can help regulate an underperforming thyroid gland.
- Anti-thyroid medications. Doctors may prescribe medication specifically designed to reduce the symptoms of hyperthyroidism gradually. The medicine stops the gland from overproducing thyroid hormones. In some cases, the drug manages to permanently remove the condition’s symptoms. However, treatment with anti-thyroid medications can last for months or even up to a year. Furthermore, the drugs can do severe damage to the liver, and may even result in death. Some people also may develop mild allergic reactions to them as well.
Why a Healthy Thyroid Is Important
The thyroid plays a crucial role in everyday body function. Without it, the body will perform with an ongoing feeling of lethargy. If it is overworked, stress levels increase. Most importantly, it is an asset to those trying to control their weight. Fortunately, medical breakthroughs and medically supervised weight loss programs have made it possible for someone living with a thyroid condition to maintain a healthy weight while living a normal life.
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