Thyroid is a small gland found at the base of human neck, just below Adam's apple. Thyroid disease is a disorder that affects the thyroid gland. Sometimes the body produces too much or too little thyroid hormone. Thyroid hormones regulate metabolism—the way the body uses energy—and affect nearly every organ in the body. The thyroid controls how your body's cells use energy from food, a process called metabolism. Among other things, your metabolism affects your body's temperature, your heartbeat, and how well you burn calories. Too much thyroid hormone is called hyperthyroidism and can cause many of the body's functions to speed up. Too little thyroid hormone is called hypothyroidism and can cause many of the body's functions to slow down.
Problems with the thyroid is one of the most common diseases that affects older women. Though, today it can occur even at a younger age, it typically strikes just before or after menopause. Apart from this, cases of thyroid problems in women after pregnancy are also increasing.
Women are more likely than men to develop thyroid disorders. Thyroid disorders that can affect women include:
1) Hyperthyroidism : Some disorders cause the thyroid to make more thyroid hormones than the body needs. This is called hyperthyroidism (hy-pur-THY-roi-diz-uhm), or overactive thyroid. The most common cause of hyperthyroidism is Graves' disease. Grave's disease is an autoimmune disorder, in which the body's own defense system, called the immune system, stimulates the thyroid.
Few symptoms of Hyperthyroidism : Weight loss, even if you eat the same or more food, Eating more than usual, Rapid or irregular heartbeat or pounding of your heart, Anxiety, Irritability, Trouble sleeping, Trembling in your hands and fingers, Increased sweating, Increased sensitivity to heat, Muscle weakness, More frequent bowel movements etc.
2) Hypothyroidism : Hypothyroidism (hy-poh-THY-roi-diz-uhm) is when your thyroid does not make enough thyroid hormones. It is also called underactive thyroid.
Causes of Hypothyroidism : Radiation treatment of certain cancers, Thyroid removal etc. In rare cases, problems with the pituitary gland can cause the thyroid to be less active.
Few symptoms of Hypothyroidism : Weight gain, even though you are not eating more food, Increased sensitivity to cold, Constipation, Muscle weakness, Joint or muscle pain, Depression, Feeling very tired, Pale dry skin, A puffy face, A hoarse voice, Excessive menstrual bleeding etc.
3) Thyroid Nodules : A thyroid nodule (NAHD-yool) is a swelling in one section of the thyroid gland. The nodule can be solid or filled with fluid or blood. You can have just one thyroid nodule or many.
Causes Of Thyroid Nodules : Most thyroid nodules do not cause symptoms. But some thyroid nodules make too much of the thyroid hormones, causing hyperthyroidism. Sometimes, nodules get to be big enough to cause problems with swallowing or breathing. In fewer than 10 percent of cases, thyroid nodules are cancerous.
Causes of Thyroid Nodules : You can sometimes see or feel a thyroid nodule yourself. Try standing in front of a mirror and raise your chin slightly. Look for a bump on either side of your windpipe below your Adam's apple. If the bump moves up and down when you swallow, it may be a thyroid nodule.
4) Thyroiditis : Thyroiditis (thy-roi-DY-tiss) is inflammation, or swelling, of the thyroid. Symptoms of thyroiditis typically include pain and tenderness in the thyroid area, neck and throat, difficulty sleeping. Thyroiditis may also trigger traditional hypothyroid or hyperthyroid symptoms. Some additional information on thyroiditis is featured in the article: Understanding Thyroiditis.
5) Thyroid Cancer : Thyroid cancer is a malignant neoplasm originating from follicular or parafollicular thyroid cells. Although many patients are asymptomatic at first, possible symptoms of thyroid cancer include a lump in the neck, voice changes, difficulty breathing or swallowing, or lymph node swelling. The most effective management of aggressive thyroid cancers is surgical removal of thyroid gland (thyroidectomy) followed by radioactive iodine ablation and TSH-suppresion therapy.
6) Goiter : A goiter is an abnormally enlarged thyroid gland. Symptoms of goiter - an enlarged thyroid -- include a swollen, tender or tight feeling in the neck or throat, hoarseness or coughing, and difficulty swallowing or breathing. Sometimes, the goiter is visbible to yourself or others.
Symptoms of Thyroid problems :
1) Muscle and Joint Pains, Carpal Tunnel/Tendonitis Problems.
2) Neck Discomfort/Enlargement
3) Unexplained weight gain
4) Heavier than normal or irregular menstrual periods and Fertility Problems
5) Hair/Skin Changes
6) Family History
7) Cholesterol Issues
9) Impaired memory
11)Increased sensitivity to cold
12)Fatigue : Feeling exhausted when you wake up, feeling as if 8 or 10 hours of sleep a night is insufficient or being unable to function all day without a nap can all be signs of thyroid problems.
Pregnancy & Thyroid Problems :
Two pregnancy-related hormones—human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) and estrogen—cause increased thyroid hormone levels in the blood. Made by the placenta, hCG is similar to TSH and mildly stimulates the thyroid to produce more thyroid hormone. Increased estrogen produces higher levels of thyroid-binding globulin, also known as thyroxine-binding globulin, a protein that transports thyroid hormone in the blood.
These normal hormonal changes can sometimes make thyroid function tests during pregnancy difficult to interpret.
Thyroid hormone is critical to normal development of the baby's brain and nervous system. During the first trimester, the fetus depends on the mother's supply of thyroid hormone, which comes through the placenta. At around 12 weeks, the baby's thyroid begins to function on its own.
The thyroid enlarges slightly in healthy women during pregnancy, but not enough to be detected by a physical exam. A noticeably enlarged thyroid can be a sign of thyroid disease and should be evaluated. Thyroid problems can be difficult to diagnose in pregnancy due to higher levels of thyroid hormone in the blood, increased thyroid size, fatigue, and other symptoms common to both pregnancy and thyroid disorders.
Common causes of women's Thyroid problems :
There are different reasons why hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism occur. But one of the important underlying causes of thyroid problems in women is hormonal imbalance in the body which may take place due to various reasons.
1) Grave's disease: The production of too much thyroid hormone.
2) Toxic adenomas : Nodules develop in the thyroid gland and begin to secrete thyroid hormones, upsetting the body's chemical balance; some goiters may contain several of these nodules.
3) Absence of Thyroid Gland : If the thyroid gland is removed from the body it is obvious that there will be no production of thyroxine which certainly leads to hypothyroidism.
4) Hashimoto's Thyroiditis : This is one of the autoimmune disorder in which the body attacks the thyroid tissues damaging or killing all the tissues which results in low or no production of thyroxine.
5) Excessive Iodine : Exposing the body to too much iodine can result in hypothyroidism. Cold and sinus medicines and some of the heart drugs contain iodine and hence regular, unprescribed, or overconsumption of these drugs can affect the thyroid system.
6) Subacute thyroiditis: Inflammation of the thyroid that causes the gland to "leak" excess hormones, resulting in temporary hyperthyroidism that generally lasts a few weeks but may persist for months
7) Pituitary gland malfunctions or cancerous growths in the thyroid gland : Although rare, hyperthyroidism can also develop from these causes
Treatments of women's Thyroid problems :
For thyroid disorders both conventional and alternative treatments offer varied methods to restore hormone levels to their proper balance. Conventional treatments rely mainly on drugs and surgery. Alternative treatments attempt to relieve some of the discomfort associated with thyroid problems, or to improve the function of the thyroid gland through approaches ranging from diet supplements and herbal remedies to lifestyle changes and special exercises.
There are some home remedies for thyroid problems in women but these are largely lifestyle changes and alternative or holistic treatments. There is no guarantee that these natural remedies will make any difference but there are enough success stories for people to turn to these remedies when conventional medication fails.
1) Say no to the dietary bungee cord
2) Iodine : Iodine is essential to ensure proper functioning of thyroid gland. So, those suffering from hypothyroidism must increase their intake of iodine. The iodine level of your body can be increased by including natural sources of iodine in your diet.
3) Bladder Wrack : Bladder wrack is a kind of seaweed that must be consumed by those suffering from hypothyroidism in order to improve the functionality of their thyroid gland.
4) Go for the glutathione : Glutathione is a powerful antioxidant that strengthens the immune system and is one of the pillars of fighting Hashimoto's
5) Flax Seed : Flax seeds contain a good amount of omega 3 fatty acids which are essential for smooth functioning of the thyroid gland. This is why those suffering from hypothyroidism must consume both flax seeds as well as flax seed oil.
6) Ginger : Ginger is a good source of zinc, magnesium and potassium and its powerful anti-inflammatory properties can help in improving the functionality of thyroid.
7) Coconut Oil : Coconut oil contains medium chain fatty acids which help in improving the functionality of thyroid. At the same time coconut oil helps in improving the body metabolism rate.
8) Up the protein : Protein transports thyroid hormone to all your tissues and enjoying it at each meal can help normalize thyroid function. Proteins include nuts and nut butters; quinoa; hormone- and antibiotic-free animal products (organic, grass-fed meats, eggs, and sustainably-farmed fish); and legumes.
9) Sunrays : Early sunshine is good for the health. To allow your thyroid gland to function in a proper manner, it is important to expose your body for fifteen to twenty minutes daily to early morning sunrays.
10) Go 100% gluten-free : The molecular composition of thyroid tissue is almost identical to that of gluten. So for those with Hashimoto's, it's a case of mistaken identity. Eating gluten can increase the autoimmune attack on your thyroid.