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Thyroid Regulation

Thyroid Dysfunction

Hyperthyroidism

In hyperthyroidism, the thyroid gland produces too much thyroid hormone, which can significantly accelerate the body's metabolism. Typical symptoms of hyperthyroidism include sudden weight loss, a rapid heartbeat, sweating, nervousness or irritability. Hyperthyroidism affects about one percent of the population.19

Extreme hyperthyroidism, or thyrotoxicosis, can culminate in what’s referred to as “thyroid storm.”20 In this medical emergency, patients suffer from elevated heart rates and blood pressure, extreme exhaustion, and high fever. Thyroid storm sharply increases a patient’s risk for stroke and heart attack, and is fatal for up to 50% of patients, even with the best medical care.21

Hyperthyroidism: What you need to know

Hyperthyroidism is usually caused by Graves’ disease characterized by symptoms such as rapid heartbeat, sweating, nervousness, tremors, muscle weakness, sleep difficulties, increased appetite and sudden weight loss.22 Affected individuals can also experience thyroid storm—a potentially deadly medical emergency.23

Medical Treatment of Grave���s disease24

  • Anti-thyroid drugs, such as methimazole or propylthiouracil, inhibit the production of T3.
  • Radioactive iodine, which causes destruction of the overactive thyroid gland.
  • Surgical removal of the thyroid gland (thyroidectomy).
  • Βeta-blockers may be used to control the high blood pressure and increased heart rate associated with hyperthyroidism.

Nutritional Support of Hyperthyroidism

  • Increased thyroid activity increases loss of L-carnitine through the urine. Individuals suffering from hyperthyroidism may, therefore, require supplemental L-carnitine.25
  • L-carnitine supplementation helped prevent or reverse muscle weakness and other symptoms in individuals suffering from hyperthyroidism. Clinical trials have shown that doses of 2,000-4,000 mg/day of L-carnitine are helpful in individuals who suffer from hyperthyroidism.26
  • Passion flower (Passiflora incarnata ) and valerian (Valeriana officinalis) are botanicals that have a calming effect on the nervous system27,28 and thus may help control the symptoms of an overactive thyroid.

Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism is a condition in which the thyroid gland does not make enough thyroid hormones, characterized by a reduction in metabolic rate. The main symptoms of hypothyroidism are fatigue, weakness, increased sensitivity to cold, constipation, unexplained weight gain, dry skin, hair loss or coarse dry hair, muscle cramps and depression. However, most symptoms take years to develop. The slower the metabolism gets, the more obvious the signs and symptoms will become. If hypothyroidism goes untreated, the signs and symptoms could become severe, such as a swollen thyroid gland (goiter), slow thought processes, or dementia.29

Subclinical hypothyroidism, an often under-diagnosed thyroid disorder, manifests as elevated TSH, normal T4 and normal T3 levels.30 Individuals with subclinical hypothyroidism are at greater risk for developing overt hypothyroidism.31 An August 2010 study reported that 8.3% of women with no history of thyroid disease suffer from subclinical hypothyroidism.32 An article in the American Family Physician in 2005 estimated that about 20% of women over the age of 60 suffer from subclinical hypothyroidism.33

There is evidence that the standard blood TSH test reference range may cause many cases of hypothyroidism to be missed. Most physicians accept a reference range for TSH between 0.45 and 4.5 µIU/mL to indicate normal thyroid function. In reality, though, a TSH reading of more than 2.0 may indicate lower-than-optimal thyroid hormone levels.34

According to a report in Lancet, various TSH levels that fall within normal range are associated with adverse health outcomes.31

  • TSH greater than 2.0: increased 20-year risk of hypothyroidism and increased risk of thyroid autoimmune disease
  • TSH between 2.0 and 4.0: hypercholesterolemia and cholesterol levels decline in response to T4 therapy
  • TSH greater than 4.0: greater risk of heart disease

There is another and separate problem brought on by these overly broad normal ranges for TSH. People already diagnosed and being treated for hypothyroidism are often not taking correct doses of thyroid replacement hormone. A November 2010 study reported that about 37% of people being treated for hypothyroidism were taking incorrect doses, about half too much and another half too little hormone.35