Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid) is a condition in which the thyroid gland produces too many hormones critical for the normal functioning of the body. This can lead to a faster metabolism and even unintentional weight loss. The thyroid gland mainly produces tetraiodothyronine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3), which are hormones responsible for how our cells use energy. These hormones also work to regulate our metabolism, too.
In hyperthyroidism, T4, T3, or both are overproduced, which can create a slew of symptoms. In order to prevent complications related to an overactive thyroid, an early diagnosis is essential as treatment options are available to help regulate the thyroid.
Hyperthyroidism signs, symptoms, and causes
The most common cause of hyperthyroidism is Grave’s disease, which is an autoimmune condition. Grave’s disease is found to be more common in women than men, so being a female puts you at higher risk for hyperthyroidism. Hyperthyroidism has also been found to run in families, suggesting a possible genetic link. Therefore, if you know of close relatives with a thyroid condition, speak with your doctor to have yours checked.
Other causes of hyperthyroidism are excess iodine, inflammation of the thyroid, tumors of the ovaries or testes, benign tumors on the thyroid gland, and large amounts of tetraiodothyronine taken through supplements or medications.
To spot if you have an overactive thyroid, pay close attention to any of the following signs and symptoms:
- Increase in appetite
- Inability to concentrate
- Irregular heartbeat
- Trouble sleeping
- Fine, brittle hair
- Hair loss
- Nausea and vomiting
- Breast development in men.
Hyperthyroidism is a treatable condition, but if left untreated it can result in a slew of complications that can put your health at risk. Some of those complications associated with hyperthyroidism are arrhythmia (which can lead to atrial fibrillation), cardiac dilation, congestive heart failure, sudden cardiac arrest, and hypertension (high blood pressure).
Another complication of hyperthyroidism is osteoporosis, as over time hyperthyroidism causes calcium and phosphate to be pulled from the bones.
Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid) diagnosis
Hyperthyroidism is often diagnosed using a combination of techniques. Your doctor may begin by reviewing your medical history and completing a physical exam in which they will watch for overactive reflexes, warm, moist skin, as well as an enlarged or tender thyroid gland when swallowing. They may also take a blood sample and test it for either high or extremely low levels of thyroxine. If these tests confirm hyperthyroidism, your doctor may then order a radio iodine uptake test to determine if your thyroid is producing too much thyroxine and is overactive. He or she may also choose to have you undergo a thyroid scan, in which an isotope is injected into the vein on the inside of your elbow or hand and a camera produces an image of your thyroid for your doctor to evaluate.
Treatment options for hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid)
There are many different treatment options when it comes to hyperthyroidism. For starters, radioactive iodine can be taken orally, which gets absorbed by the thyroid gland. Over time, this causes the thyroid to slow down, meaning you may require medication for hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid).
Anti-thyroid medications, too, can be prescribed to reduce symptoms and prevent the thyroid from overproducing hormones. Beta blockers are another form of medication for hyperthyroidism commonly prescribed to treat hypertension. Although beta blockers won’t slow down your thyroid, they can help with cardiac-related symptoms.
Lastly, surgery may be required where the thyroid is removed, meaning you will require lifelong treatment as your body will no longer have the thyroid to produce crucial hormones.
Other methods of treatment involve treating Grave’s disease is that is the cause. This can be done through orbital decompression surgery, which removes the bone between the eyes in order to restore them back to normal, or eye muscle surgery by cutting affected muscles.
Hyperthyroidism home remedies and lifestyle changes
Along with traditional medical treatments, home remedies also can help your condition of hyperthyroidism and promote overall wellbeing. Hyperthyroidism home remedies and lifestyle changes include:
- Talking to your doctor about supplements, especially if you lost significant weight
- Getting proper calcium and vitamin D to ensure your bones stay strong
- Exercising regularly
- Learning relaxation techniques
- Consuming oats to combat weakness and exhaustion
- Avoiding foods that contain caffeine, alcohol, soy, and gluten as they can trigger the thyroid more
- Taking hawthorn, as it is well known to offer cardiovascular benefits
- Consuming a magnesium-rich diet
- Reducing your intake of sugar and refined foods
- Getting proper sleep
- Reducing stress
- Reducing exposure to environmental toxins
Working closely with your doctor can help you create a personalized treatment plan for hyperthyroidism in order to reduce your risk of complications.
Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid) diet
Your diet can play a role in helping you manage your hyperthyroidism. Below is a list of foods you should eat and foods you should avoid if you have been diagnosed with an overactive thyroid.
Foods to Eat:
Berries: Berries are full of antioxidants that can keep your immune system functioning correctly
Broccoli: Broccoli can help reduce the amount of thyroid hormone that your gland produces, as can other cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower and cabbage.
Salmon: Salmon is full of essential vitamins and minerals that keep your body healthy and functioning properly.
Turkey: Hyperthyroidism can cause weight loss that makes it difficult for your body to maintain muscle mass. Combat this by including a high-protein energy source like turkey at every meal to help you build muscle.
Yogurt: Hyperthyroidism can cause your bones to weaken and lead to osteoporosis if left unchecked, so consuming plenty of dairy products like yogurt can help you to build and maintain bone strength is important.
For Foods to avoid:
Allergens: Foods you are allergic to, or ones that you suspect you may be allergic to, can irritate your hyperthyroidism symptoms as well as cause a reaction.
High-Glycemic Carbs: Avoiding processed and refined carbs in the form of sugars, white bread, and white rice, is a good idea for those with thyroid disorders as these conditions can interfere with the way your body processes carbs and cause you blood sugar to spike.
Unhealthy Fats: Saturated and trans fats have already been proven to cause inflammation within the body, and along with helping your heart health, cutting back on these unhealthy fats can also reduce the symptoms associated with your overactive thyroid.
Alcohol and Caffeine: These beverages can impact your mood and increase your risk of dehydration, while also interfering with the efficacy of your thyroid medications. Substitute natural juices and water for these drinks to avoid any possible negative interactions.