Hypothyroidism is a medical condition where the thyroid glands do not produce enough thyroid hormones. The thyroid gland, a small butterfly-shaped gland located in the base of the neck is responsible for producing hormones that regulate metabolism and other bodily functions in heart, brain, muscles and skin. Hormonal changes in the body are natural, but those induced by hypothyroidism are detrimental to the human body as bodily functions are slowed down. About 11% of the Indian population is reported to have been affected by hypothyroidism. Owing to the changing lifestyle hypothyroidism is a fast growing issue.
Causes and Types
Hypothyroidism is generally attributed to unhealthy lifestyles of the modern human being that leads to a nutrient deficient diet, particularly iodine. Other causes include – radiation therapy in neck; radioactive iodine treatments; use of drugs such as amiodarone (Cordarone, Pacerone), lithium, interferon alpha, and interleukin-2; thyroid surgery; deficiencies or problems at birth, during pregnancy; pituitary gland damage or disorder; and hypothalamus disorder.
There are certain other factors that puts one at a risk of hypothyroidism, such as race (particularly white or Asian); gender (women are mostly affected); ageing; premature greying of hair; autoimmune disorders such as type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, celiac disease, Addison’s disease, pernicious anaemia, or vitiligo; bipolar disorder; down syndrome; and turner syndrome.
Hypothyroidism can be of three types – primary, where the gland is affected directly; secondary, where the gland is affected due to other disorders such as pituitary gland problem or hypothalamus problem; and tertiary, where sometimes hypothalamus problems result in hypothyroidism.
Hypothyroidism can affect different age groups and symptoms in each of these groups vary a little.
- Women, Teens – Basic symptoms in women and teens include changes in the menstrual cycle; delayed puberty (in teens); muscle cramps; constipation; depression; dry hair and skin; hair loss; fatigue; increased sensitivity to cold; slowed heart rate; swelling of the thyroid gland; unexplained weight gain; high cholesterol, difficulty in concentrating; pain and swelling of joints; sleeping problems; and carpal tunnel syndrome.
- Infants, Children – The symptoms in infants often include no symptoms at all but sometimes may show cold limbs; constipation; extreme sleepiness; hoarse cry; little or no growth; low muscle tone; persistent jaundice; poor feeding habits; puffy face; stomach bloating; and swollen tongue. Children may be affected by delayed mental development and slow reaction time.
Hypothyroidism is to be diagnosed through a comprehensive physical test to check for thyroid inflammation, imaging scan such as thyroid scans and thyroid ultrasounds to check for nodules, and blood tests to check for TSH levels like T4, and total or free T3.
Treatment: Nutrition Therapy
While hypothyroidism is generally treated through supplements and medications, nutrition therapy plays a big part in its treatment since hypothyroidism is caused by nutrient deficiencies in most of the cases. Proper nutrition is responsible for the maintenance of the thyroid gland. Nutrients responsible for this include iodine, selenium, zinc, iron, copper, Vitamins A, E, D and B12, and DHEA and Pregnenolo-sulphate. All of these are to be effectively complemented through a proper diet. Additionally, a common problem in hypothyroidism is an unexpected weight gain and difficulty in losing weight. Nutrition therapy along with an exercise therapy helps in losing and controlling weight. Additionally, physiotherapy and physical therapy help ease symptoms of pain in joints and other body parts. We at Eva Physiocare have an integrated wellness programme comprising of nutrition therapy, exercise therapy and physiotherapy to manage hypothyroidism in patients holistically and therapeutically.