If you have experienced recent weight gain, prolonged fatigue, cold, dryness of skin, constipation or poor memory and concentration, then get your thyroid function checked, suggests Dr G Vignesh MD, DM, consultant endocrinologist and diabetologist, Dr Vignesh’s Endocrine and Diabetes Centre, Trichy.
What is thyroid?
Thyroid, a butterfly shaped endocrine gland situated in front of the neck, influences various metabolic (functional) processes in our body by secreting the thyroid hormone called thyroxine.
Common thyroid problems
These include underproduction of thyroid hormone (hypothyroidism), overproduction or secretion of thyroid hormone (thyrotoxicosis), thyroid swelling (goitre), thyroid tumours and thyroid cancers. The most common thyroid disorders (hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism) are due to abnormal immune response of the body against the tissues that are normally present in the body (autoimmunity).
Recent weight gain, prolonged fatigue, feeling cold, dryness of skin, constipation or poor memory and concentration are symptoms of hypothyroidism. In addition, women may have menstrual irregularity (excessive menstrual bleeding) and subfertility, and children may have poor growth and delayed puberty.
Overproduction of thyroid hormone (hyperthyroidism) may cause symptoms of sudden loss of weight, tremor, anxiety, nervousness, palpitation, excessive sweating, increase in bowel frequency and decreased menstrual bleeding.
For those who are not on treatment, thyroid function test (TSH, T4 and T3) can be done at any time of the day without fasting, said Dr Vignesh.
Treatment of hypothyroidism – how long?
Nearly all patients with hypothyroidism may need to continue thyroxine (drug) treatment for long-term. Thyroid function should be monitored every six-12 months or more frequently, if needed, as advised by your physician. Thyroid tablet prescribed for hypothyroidism is nothing but the natural thyroid hormone thyroxine, which is normally produced by thyroid gland. So consuming thyroxine tablets for long-term in correct dosage with periodic monitoring will not cause any side-effects.
Treatment for over-production of thyroid hormone (hyperthyroidism)
To begin with, all patients with hyperthyroidism will require medical management (anti-thyroid medicines) for control of over-production of hormone. Up to 40 per cent of patients may get completely cured by medical treatment alone over a period of 18 to 24 months. Those patients not cured by medical treatment will require either of definitive treatment – radio-iodine ablation or surgery as advised by your treating doctor, said Dr Vignesh.
Iodine and thyroid hormone
Iodine is essential for normal production of thyroid hormones. Deficiency of iodine in diet may lead to under-production of thyroid hormone and swelling of thyroid gland known as goitre. Hence it is important to consume iodised salt. In terms of thyroid function, there is no extra benefit of consuming Himalayan rock salt (pink salt) over commonly available iodised salt, mentioned Dr Vignesh.
Diet in thyroid disorder
Thyroid disorder is not a lifestyle-related disease, and lifestyle modification like diet, exercise and yoga etc. will not help in managing this condition. Thyroid patients can consume normal diet. As thought previously, no need to restrict cabbage or cauliflower or non-vegetarian foods. No need to consume additional dietary supplements or nutraceuticals for treating thyroid disorders.
Thyroid and pregnancy
Maternal thyroxine is essential for brain development of the foetus, especially for first three months. Patients with hypothyroidism should continue thyroxine treatment throughout pregnancy. During pregnancy, there will be an increased demand for thyroid hormone and thyroxine dose is usually increased during pregnancy based on thyroid function test. If pregnancy is confirmed, thyroid patients should consult their treating endocrinologist as early as possible for evaluation and treatment modification, said Dr Vignesh.
Common myths about thyroid disorders among people
*Thyroid patients (hypothyroidism) cannot lose their weight and they will remain obese lifelong even with proper thyroxine treatment.
*Thyroid problems are always hereditary.
*All thyroid swellings (goitre) should be operated (immaterial of size and histology).
*Consuming thyroid tablets (thyroxine) on long-term may affect internal organs like kidney, heart, liver etc.
*Diet modification, yoga and exercise can cure thyroid disorder.
📣 The above article is for information purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the guidance of your doctor or other qualified health professional for any questions you may have regarding your health or a medical condition.