Hyperthyroidism affects about 1-2% of people worldwide, with women being more commonly affected than men. It can occur at any age, but it is more frequently diagnosed in people aged 20 to 40.
What is Hyperthyroidism?
Hyperthyroidism is a medical condition characterised by an overactive thyroid gland, a butterfly-shaped gland located in the neck. This gland plays a crucial role in regulating the body’s metabolism by producing hormones called thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). In hyperthyroidism, the thyroid gland produces an excessive amount of these hormones, leading to an accelerated metabolism.
Recognising Symptoms of Hyperthyroidism
Common symptoms of hyperthyroidism include unexplained weight loss, rapid heartbeat (palpitations), tremors, increased sweating, irritability, anxiety, fatigue, muscle weakness, and heat intolerance.
Additionally, individuals with hyperthyroidism may experience changes in their skin and hair, as well as menstrual irregularities in women.
What causes Hyperthyroidism?
The most common cause of hyperthyroidism is an autoimmune condition called Graves’ disease.
Graves’ disease is an autoimmune disorder that can cause hyperthyroidism, or overactive thyroid. This is when the immune system mistakenly attacks the thyroid gland, stimulating excessive hormone production.
Other potential causes include thyroid nodules or inflammation of the thyroid gland.
How to stay healthy with Hyperthyroidism?
Hyperthyroidism can have serious health implications if left untreated, including heart problems, bone loss (osteoporosis), and complications during pregnancy.
Due to the sensitive and reactive nature of the thyroid gland, seeking the guidance of a health practitioner is always recommended, particularly when medication is involved.
In order to stay healthy, exercise stimulates thyroid secretion and increases cellular sensitivity to thyroid hormones, making them more available for use.
There are also a number of nutrients necessary for healthy thyroid function:
Zinc deficiency will lead to an under active thyroid due to the vital role it plays in not only manufacturing thyroid hormones but also in them being recognised and utilised by cells. Keeping zinc levels high will help to support optimum thyroid function. Foods such as oysters, pumpkin seeds and toasted wheat germ provide good levels of zinc.
Iodine is essential for the proper functioning of the thyroid gland. Most Western diets have sufficient iodine, so it is important to check with your doctor before taking supplements. Too much iodine can also cause disturbances in thyroid function and should be avoided in cases of hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism. Iodine is found in seafood, seaweed (kelp), eggs, bread, some vegetables and iodised salt.
Selenium and Copper
These minerals are both required for the conversion of thyroid hormones, essential in a healthy gland. Both selenium and copper are found in brazil nuts, sunflower seeds and oysters.
Tyrosine is an amino acid that works with iodine to make thyroid hormones, and it is essential to the proper functioning of the thyroid gland. Fish and poultry such as chicken and turkey are rich sources of tyrosine. Yoghurt and cottage cheese also provide goods amounts, as do legumes.
Including high amounts of antioxidants in your daily diet is vital to healthy thyroid function as it will help reduce the toxic load on such a reactive gland. Eating a plant-based diet with a variety of seasonal fruits and vegetables will support thyroid function.
What to eat for a healthy thyroid
Cabbage, when consumed raw, is goitrogenic, as it contains a chemical that blocks the thyroid’s ability to use iodine. It should be avoided in hypothyroidism, however may play a role short-term role in calming an overactive thyroid.
Brazil nuts are high in selenium, a mineral essential to healthy thyroid function. Providing supportive co-factors such as selenium improves the production of thyroid hormones.
Seaweed is rich in iodine. Eating seaweed is beneficial in treating in hypothyroidism but due to its stimulating effect, should be avoided in hyperthyroidism.
Lemon balm can be consumed as a tea. It inhibits the production of thyroid hormones, having a calming effect on an overactive thyroid and so is useful in hyperthyroidism.
Soy is so effective at reducing thyroid function that it is contraindicated in hypothyroidism. Used short term, it has been shown to improve hyperthyroidism. Try a side dish of edamame or tofu for a tasty vegetarian meal.
Cauliflower can contribute to a reduction in the function of the thyroid gland when consumed raw. So it is best avoided in hypothyroidism. It has been shown to calm an overactive thyroid for short-term relief.