It’s almost 4 years to the day since I was diagnosed with an underactive thyroid and, being me, I recall rushing straight home and terrifying myself by googling the subject of underactive thyroid symptoms!
I was prescribed 25mg of Levothyroxine and advised to have my blood retested in 6-8 weeks to see if the medication had improved the level of antibodies in my blood.
I am completely rubbish at taking medication and made the mistake of reading the side effects leaflet which came in the pill packet.
I now awaited weight gain, baldness, palpitations and depression and, after taking precisely 3 tablets, I was convinced I had developed dry eye syndrome since my eyes were sore and gritty.
The husband found his patience to be sorely tested (although he’s used to it!)
To be frank, even to this day I am unsure about what is going on with my thyroid or even if I have had enough examination to receive a full diagnosis and treatment properly tailored to my needs.
The problem is, if you visit the many thyroid forums, that testing in the UK only takes into account one of 4 antibodies, T4 and medicates for that whereas our American cousins say that a holistic approach is needed to supplement all four.
To add to the confusion, many of the symptoms of an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) are the same as those suffered by many women during the menopause.
So what is the thyroid gland and what does it do?
The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped organ located in the base of your neck. It is about 2-inches long and lies in front of your throat below the prominence of thyroid cartilage sometimes called Adam’s apple.
|The Thyroid System|
This gland produces hormones which regulate the body’s metabolic rate as well as heart and digestive function, muscle control, brain development and bone maintenance. Its correct functioning depends on having a good supply of iodine from the diet.
The thyroid function is normally regulated by a hormone produced in the pituitary gland (thyroid-stimulating hormone, or TSH for short), which ensures that neither too much nor too little thyroid hormone is produced.
If too little thyroid hormone is produced, the body functions slow down and the thyroid is said to be underactive – hypothyroidism.
If, conversely too much thyroid hormone is produced, the sufferer is said to have an overactive thyroid – hyperthyroidism.
Some underactive thyroid symptoms include fatigue, weight gain, cold intolerance, constipation, impaired fertility, and depression.
Some sufferers have also reported dizziness, inability to pay attention and memory loss, hair loss and tinnitus.
In truth, there are loads of symptoms and it can be very difficult to pinpoint the exact cause of these.
Underactive Thyroid is more common in older people and in women than men, with estimates that 10 times more women than men are affected.
The conventional treatment for an underactive thyroid is with the hormone levothyroxine (LT4 or Synthroid), which I have been prescribed.
If an underactive thyroid is left untreated for a prolonged period of time, more serious symptoms will develop as the condition advances, such as cardiovascular disease and raised cholesterol.
An underactive thyroid is a lifelong condition, so you will probably need to take levothyroxine for the rest of your life.
It’s important for the health of you and your baby that an underactive thyroid is treated properly before you become pregnant.
An annual blood test to screen for an underactive thyroid is recommended for individuals with this condition.
Current research tells us that the best diet for an underactive thyroid is one that contains whole foods, is high in protein, and naturally rich in iodine and selenium.
Seaweeds like kelp are an excellent natural source of iodine, whilst Selenium can be found in Brazil nuts, cod and mustard seeds – 3 to 5 Brazil nuts each day provides plenty of selenium for proper thyroid function.
I still feel I need to educate myself about my thyroid condition but can report that this small dose of Levothyroxine seems to have been enough to return my hormone levels to normal.
Where I am not so confident is that my grandmother had a goitre removed under surgery and I am hoping I don’t develop anything similar.
I’m still not entirely sure I trust Levothyroxine but for now it’s part of my daily life.
Since underactive thyroid seem to run in our family I will be keeping a close eye on the children too. I still have so many questions!
Have you been diagnosed with an underactive thyroid? I would love to hear your experiences and the lifestyle changes you have made to cope with this condition.