Thyroid Issues: Are you at risk?

Almost 30 million Americans have a thyroid disorder, with 15 million being undiagnosed according to The American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists. Women are at a high risk for various types of thyroid disorders, almost 10 times more likely than men. 

Hyperthyroidism, also known as Graves Disease is an immune system disorder that results in the overproduction of thyroid hormones (hyperthyroidism). Although a number of disorders may result in hyperthyroidism, Graves' disease is the most common cause. Risk factors include family history of thyroid or autoimmune diseases, recent pregnancy and exposure to iodine.

We'll explore more about the risk factors below. 


Risk Factors 

  • Age: You're more at risk betwen the ages of 20-40
  • Pregnancy and the year after 
  • Smoking
  • Over use of prescription thyroid hormone
  • Exposure/excess of Iodine Drugs
  • Other medical treatments and drugs
  • Trauma to the thyroid
  • Major stress
  • Fatigue
  • Signs of depression
  • Anxious
  • Appetite is altered

Holistic, naturopathic doctors and nutritional experts have also suggested that there may be other triggers such as:

  • Consumption of the artificial sweetener aspartame
  • Nutritional or dietary deficiencies
  • Bacterial or viral infections

Symptoms of Graves Disease or Hyperthyroidism

There are numerous symptoms of Graves' disease and hyperthyroidism. 

Goiter -- Most common symptoms is an enlargement of the thyroid. This can cause a visibily larger neck, feelings of fullness in the neck or throat, choking sensation and pain in the neck area. 

Fluctuation in Weight -- Those with hyperthyroidism suddenly lose weight without any change in diet or exercise. Some women have been misdiagnosed with anorexia, when it was actually Graves Disease. 

Issues during pregnancy -- Difficulty in pregnancy, in particular, weight loss during pregnancy, or excessive nausea and/or vomiting can be a symptom of thyroid problems. If rapid weight loss occurs post pregnancy, that could be a sign of hyperthyroidism.

Hot flashes -- Some people with hyperthyroidism experience temperature issues, feeling warm or hot when others are cold or feel warm most of the time. They may run a low grade fever, or feel more thirsty. 

Heart and Blood Pressure Changes -- Symptoms include racing, fast heartbeat, sensation of a "loud" or pounding heartbeat, skipped beats, palpitations, or abnormal heart rhythms.

Gastrointestinal Problems -- Frequent bowel movements, loose bowel movements, diarrhea, more frequent urination, or nausea.

Energy / Muscles / Joints -- Feeling extreme fatigue, muscle and joint fatigue, especially in leg and arm muscles, difficulty climbing stairs and unable to exercise. 

Eat Right to Support Thyroid Function

When you have hypothyroidism, or an under active thyroid, eating specific foods can boost effectiveness and function of your thyroid.

The thyroid produces hormones that regulate mood, metabolism, energy levels, body temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure. Hypothyroidism occurs when this gland isn't producing enough hormones. It's important to work with your doctor on the right treatment path, but along with that plan, you can boost and even improve thyroid function through a well-balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables and lots of lean protein. 

Try these food ideas for thyroid health:

  • Fish (full of omega 3 fatty acids, fight inflammation)
  • Nuts (great source of selenium)
  • Whole grains (regulate constipation, often occurring with hyperthyroidism)
  • Fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Dairy (great source of Vitamin D)
  • Beans (great source of energy)