Somewhere along the line you might have come into contact with someone who is either affected by an underactive or overactive thyroid gland. Besides the fact that that may lead to unintentional weight gain or loss, there are various other health factors to consider.

The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland that is located low on the front of the neck (just below your Adam’s apple, along the front of the windpipe). If the thyroid is its normal size, you cannot feel it.

The thyroid gland produces the hormones that regulate your body’s metabolism. Several different disorders can arise when your thyroid overproduces hormones (hyperthyroidism) or not enough (hypothyroidism).

The four common disorders of the thyroid are Hashimoto’s disease, Graves’ disease, goiter, and thyroid nodules:

  • Hashimoto’s disease – Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, also known as chronic lymphocytic thyroiditis and Hashimoto’s disease, is an autoimmune disease in which the inflammatory reaction against the thyroid gland often leads to an underactive thyroid gland (hypothyroidism). Hashimoto’s disease is the most common cause of hypothyroidism in the United States.
  • Graves’ disease – It is the most common cause of hyperthyroidism. This condition occurs when the immune system produces an antibody that stimulates the entire thyroid gland; this leads to overactivity and higher levels of thyroid hormones.
  • Goiter – A goiter can occur in a thyroid gland that is producing too much hormone (hyperthyroidism), too little hormone (hypothyroidism), or the correct amount of hormone (euthyroidism). A goiter is indicative that there is a condition present which is causing the thyroid to grow abnormally (symptom rather than disease).
  • Thyroid nodules – Thyroid nodules are solid or fluid-filled lumps that form within your thyroid. The great majority of thyroid nodules aren’t serious and don’t cause symptoms. Thyroid cancer accounts for only a small percentage of thyroid nodules.

Individuals who have diabetes mellitus (Type 1), mood disorders, psychosis, or Addison’s disease also seem to be at higher risk for hyperthyroidism, while hypothyroidism affects up to 10% of adult women, usually middle-aged and older women.

It is of great importance that hypothyroidism is treated to avoid long-term complications, such as depression, infertility, and CVD. Risk decreases if thyroid hormones are taken as directed.

If you suspect that you might be affected, please consult your medical doctor. For an individualised diet, please consult a dietician.

Steps you can take in order to achieve and maintain optimal health

  • Include enough milk and dairy products in your diet to ensure an adequate supply of calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin D. If you are lactose intolerant or you struggle to meet the requirement, consider supplementation.
  • Exclude caffeine and stimulants from your diet because they aggravate excitability and nervousness (specifically hyperthyroidism).
  • Supplement your diet with vitamins A, C, and B-complex vitamins, especially thiamine, riboflavin, B6, and B12.
  • Correct vitamin B12, folic acid, or iron deficiency when present.
  • Because vitamin D3 has implications in autoimmune disorders, ensure an adequate amount forms part of your diet, or use a supplement if needed.
  • Include good antioxidant sources of carotenoids such as lycopene.

The most beneficial supplements from our IPS range for individuals with thyroid abnormalities: Calmag, Antioxidant, Multivitamin.

Retha Booyens RD (SA)

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