The Thyroid regulates many aspects of our metabolism affecting how many calories we burn, how warm we feel, and how much we weigh.
In healthy people, the thyroid is stimulated by thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) to make just the right amounts of two hormones, T4 and T3, which have important actions throughout the body.
These hormones also have direct effects on most organs, including the heart which beats faster and harder under the influence of thyroid hormones. Essentially all cells in the body will respond to increases in thyroid hormone with an increase in the rate at which they conduct their business. Hyperthyroidism is the medical term to describe the signs and symptoms associated with an over production of thyroid hormones.
It is possible to test the Thyroid hormones to see if they are out of balance and if you have hyperthyropdism. Thyroid Tests
Although there are several different causes of hyperthyroidism, most of the symptoms that patients experience are the same regardless of the cause. These include:
- Feeling hot / Intolerance to heat
- Weight loss
- Increased appetite
- Difficulty sleeping despite feeling tired
- Trembling hands
- Irregular heartbeat
- Feeling over emotional
- Light or absent menstrual periods
- Hair loss
- Staring gaze
In severe cases sufferers may experience
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Muscle weakness
If you suffer from these symptoms it is advisable to have a thyroid blood test (Insert link) This will measure the levels of thyroid hormones and check for markers that indicate the underlying cause of the thyroid dysfunction
Causes of hyperthyroidism
Grave’s disease – The most common underlying cause of hyperthyroidism is Graves’ disease. It is characterised by an enlarged thyroid gland, also called a goitre. In Grave’s disease, the enlarged thyroid produces too much thyroid hormone. The disease itself is classified as an autoimmune disease because it is caused by the body’s own immune system attacking the thyroid gland. The antibodies produced by the immune system attach to specific activating sites on thyroid gland which in turn cause the thyroid to make more hormone. For most patients with Graves’ disease symptoms are isolated to those cause by the over active thyroid. However, in some cases inflammation of the tissues around the eyes and thickening of the skin over the lower legs can also occur. This can cause eye irritation a staring gaze or in extreme cases bulging of the eyes, severe inflammation, double vision, or blurred vision. Graves Disease effects women much more often than men and typically occurs in the 30’s and 40’s. It also tends to run in families.
Thyroid nodule – Hyperthyroidism can also be caused by a single benign (non-cancerous) lumps or tumours in the gland called a nodule. These nodules sometimes produce excessive amounts of thyroid hormones. Nodules are comprised of thyroid cells which have lost the regulatory mechanism which dictates how much hormone to produce. Without this regulatory control, the cells in this nodule produce thyroid hormone at a dramatically increased rate causing the symptoms of hyperthyroidism.
Inflammation of the thyroid gland – This is called thyroiditis and can lead to the release of excess amounts of thyroid hormones that are normally stored in the gland. Some cases are triggered by a virus and usually only last a few weeks. A more common painless form of thyroiditis occurs in one out of 20 women, a few months after delivering a baby and is, therefore, known as postpartum thyroiditis.
Excessive thyroid medication – Hyperthyroidism can also occur in patients who take excessive doses of any of the available forms of thyroid hormone.
Diet – Nutrition can play an important role in helping to control thyroid function. Certain foods called goitregens can help to slow down an overactive thyroid by limiting the amount of hormones the gland is able to make. In addition, high levels of essential fatty acids can also slow thyroid function and reduce inflammation in cases of thyroiditis. Other more stimulating dietary factors such as caffeine can have the opposite effect, markedly exacerbating the condition. If you have hyperthyroidism, you might like to use the link below to book an appointment with Smart Nutrition who will be able to assess you current diet and help you to reduce stimulants and increase thyroid tempering foods. Book a Consultation.
Oxidative damage – Oxidative damage is caused by unstable molecules called free radicals. These are highly reactive species which can damage the body’s cells and DNA. Free radicals occur all over the place. And many are made during regular body process. Normally the body has very good mechanisms for mopping them up before they do us any damage, but if we are constantly exposed to high levels our body’s defence mechanism can become over whelmed. In hyperthyroidism all the processes inside the body are running much faster than normal so many more free radicals are produced. On top of this, if the hyperthyroidism is also accompanied by inflammation, such as in thyroiditis, then the free radical load becomes even higher! Monitoring and controlling oxidative damage is an important preventative step in hyperthyroidism therapy. An oxidative stress test gives an indication as to how much oxidative stress you body is under and how well it’s defence mechanisms are working. Oxidative Stress Test.
Food sensitivities – Another possible reason for the onset of hyperthyroidism is the occurrence of food sensitivities in a person that may be delayed in expressing their effects in the body. Common culprits are dairy products and gluten containing grains although sensitivities to other foods and drinks have also been known to have an effect. A food intolerance test can provide an excellent solution to this problem, readily identifying trigger foods. For more information about Food Allergy and Intolerance testing please click here.
Malabsorption – A common symptom of hyperthyroidism is an increased transit time., often characterised by diarrhoea. This means the body has much less time to extract the nutrients for food which can lead to nutritional deficiencies and increased weight loss.