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General Description

What is Hyperthyroidism?

Hyperthyroidism is an endocrine condition which occurs when the thyroid gland experiences raised functionality due to an increase in thyroid hormone production.  The thyroid is a small, butterfly shaped gland located just above the collarbone. As a member of the endocrine system, the thyroid is responsible for controlling many aspects of bodily function, most notably metabolism and hormone regulation.

Hyperthyroidism occurs when the thyroid produces too much hormone. The result is a host of symptoms which can affect an individual's quality of life, such as insomnia, sensitivity to heat, irritability, and unnatural weight loss.  However, there is a diverse assortment of effective treatments which can alleviate symptoms and calm thyroid hormone production.

Approximately 1% of the American population, or around 1 million people, suffer from hyperthyroidism.

Symptoms

There is a considerable variety of symptoms associated with hyperthyroidism due to the fact that the thyroid is responsible for regulating elements of almost every other system in the body. The result is a host of symptoms which run the gamut from the physical to the emotional to the totally unexpected.

Here are the most common symptoms associated with hyperthyroidism as outlined by the National Institute for Health.

  • weight loss
  • fatigue
  • weakness
  • decreased appetite
  • increased thirst
  • swollen neck/goiter
  • intolerance to heat
  • insomnia
  • increased/inappropriate sweating
  • high blood pressure
  • high pulse
  • frequent bowel movements
  • increased libido
  • heart palpitations
  • hand tremors
  • decreased blinks per second
  • lighter or non-existent menstrual cycles
  • mania
  • anxiety
  • increased irritability
  • mood swings
  • racing thoughts
  • rapid speech
  • dry hands and feet
For more valuable information on the symptoms of hyperthyroidism, check out our full length report

Causes

There are myriad causes for hyperthyroidism which range from dietary intake to autoimmune disease.  However, there are a variety of effective pharmaceutical and homeopathic treatments that can help soothe the condition once its exact cause has been established.  

  • Graves’ Disease - One of the most common causes of hyperthyroidism is Graves’ Disease, an autoimmune disorder that occurs when the white blood cells of the immune system mistakenly and chronically attack the thyroid gland causing it to secrete too much hormone.  The medical community has yet to pinpoint the exact cause of Graves’ Disease, though there appears to be a hereditary component associated with the condition.
  • Excessive Iodine - The overconsumption of iodine rich foods can cause the thyroid to produce too much active hormone. The thyroid absorbs iodine and uses it as a foundational building block for thyroid hormone production. The more iodine an individual ingests means the more iodine the gland will absorb and process, causing an overproduction of hormones.
  •  Thyroiditis - Thyroiditis, a general term that refers to any non-autoimmune inflammation of the thyroid gland, is another cause of hyperthyroidism.  It can be caused by viral or bacterial infections, hormonal changes during or immediately after pregnancy, or by unknown causes.  When the gland becomes inflamed it causes stored thyroid hormones to escape and increase the amounts of thyroid hormone in the blood. The inflammation caused by Hashimoto’s Disease can also result in hyperthyroidism.
For more valuable information on the causes of hyperthyroidism, check out our full length report!

Traditional Treatments

There are two traditional forms of treatment for hyperthyroidism: suppression of thyroid hormones through prescription medication or the removal of all or part of the gland to decrease hormone production.  Thyroid suppressant therapy, also known as anti-thyroid treatment, is typically the first level response to an overactive thyroid.  If the gland is resistant to hormone suppressants, then health professionals may use radioactive iodine or surgery to remove enough of the gland to reduce hormone production.  Each of these avenues of treatment yields positive and negative effects, and the best course of action should be the result of patient and healthcare professional weighing these facts together.

  • Thyroid Suppressant Medication - Thyroid suppressants are often prescribed to individuals in the early stages of hyperthyroidism or who are dealing with a chronic hyperthyroid condition such as Graves’ Disease.  The two most common forms of anti-thyroid chemicals are Methimazole and Propylthiouracil.  Both of these drugs disrupt some of the production of thyroid hormones, resulting in normal levels of the hormones in the bloodstream.   
  • Additional Prescription Medications - In addition to an anti-thyroid medication, healthcare providers may also prescribe other medications to address the specific symptoms of hyperthyroidism, such as beta blockers, medicines for ADD/ADHD, and hormone therapy to regulate menstrual cycles.
  • Radioactive Iodine Treatment - The treatment works to reduce the size of or eliminate the thyroid by killing the cells of the gland through an ingested dose of radioactive iodine.  The amount of gland affected can be determined by how much iodine is ingested.  Most patients see the desired results after one dose of the chemical, however two or more doses may be administered if necessary. The amount of the dose is an educated guess on the part of the endocrinologist based on laboratory results for iodine uptake, and it is unknown how much of the thyroid will be destroyed until after two months have passed.  The result is that many hyperthyroid patients who undergo the treatment end up with a smaller than normal thyroid gland or no thyroid gland, making them hypothyroid and dependent on synthetic thyroid hormone for life.
  • Surgery - During thyroid removal surgery, known as a thyroidectomy, a surgeon manually takes out part or all of the thyroid gland to suppress hormone production. The main benefit of thyroid surgery is that a more precise amount of gland can be removed and the results of the procedure known instantly.  However, as with all surgeries, there are risks for complications and injury to surrounding areas, such as the voice box.  The procedure also leaves a scar that, depending on a variety of factors, can extend from three to six inches across the bottom of the neck and remain visible permanently.

For more valuable information on traditional treatments for hyperthyroidism, check out our full length report! 

Misdiagnosis of Symptoms

The broad list of both physical and mental symptoms associated with hyperthyroidism makes the condition easy to misdiagnose.  The characteristic symptoms of the condition, such as weight loss, elevated mood, irritability, and increased energy, can, when taken out of context of each other, appear to medical professionals as independent or unrelated issues. 

One factor that often results in a misdiagnosis of hyperthyroidism is that specific symptoms of the condition are easier to immediately identify and therefore mistaken for the root of a patient’s issues. However, treatment of these symptoms alone will not address the underlying cause.  The result is that a patient may be diagnosed with several conditions, such as anorexia, insomnia, and mania, but the root cause will remain undiagnosed and untreated.    

If you receive a diagnosis of one of the conditions below, but suspect you might suffer from hyperthyroidism or Graves’ Disease, we advise you to seek out a second opinion or contact an endocrinologist or alternative healer versed in thyroid dysfunction. To prevent misdiagnosis of your hyperthyroid symptoms, but sure to go to your appointment armed with as detailed observations of your health as possible.

  • Anorexia - Anorexia is an eating disorder characterized by an individual refusing to eat or eating very little, resulting in significant and dangerous weight loss. Physical symptoms of anorexia include extreme weight loss, fatigue, fainting, hair loss, brittle nails, lack of menstruation, low blood pressure, and a layer of fine, downy hair over the entire body. Hyperthyroidism, especially long undiagnosed hyperthyroidism, can mimic some of the signs of anorexia.  Many hyperthyroidism and Graves’ Disease patients have reported that they were under severe suspicion of anorexia from their personal network and medical professionals due to a lack of appetite, increased energy and desire for physical activity, and sometimes extreme weight loss. A simple blood test to analyze thyroid function can clear up this common misdiagnosis.
  • Mania - Mania is a mental state that is characterized by extreme energy, high volatility, and flights of creativity. It is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain, which can be the result of substance abuse or hormonal deregulation. Mania is a common symptom of hyperthyroidism due to the increased amount of brain chemicals stimulated by abnormal hormone production. Because the symptoms of mania tend to upstage any other symptoms an individual might report or a medical professional may notice, it is not uncommon for an individual suffering with severe hyperthyroidism to be misdiagnosed and treated with mood stabilizers. When a diagnosis of mania is given, always insist on thyroid hormone blood analysis. 
  • Insomnia - Insomnia is a condition that occurs when an individual has trouble going to sleep or sleeping through the night.  Chronic insomnia can seriously affect an individual’s quality of life. Like mania, insomnia is a common symptom of hyperthyroidism. The result is that hyperthyroid patients find it more difficult to fall asleep, stay asleep or sleep deeply.  If you suffer from hyperthyroidism but are diagnosed with insomnia, you will note that with mild to moderate treatments (such as warm baths, reduced caffeine, and mild sleep aides) will do little to quell your symptoms. Before starting a regimen, be sure to have your thyroid levels checked.  

For more valuable information on the potential misdiagnosis of hyperthyroidism, check out our full length report!

Changes to Make

Individuals suffering from hyperthyroidism find that making some specific changes help reduce their symptoms and promote increased glandular health. Dietary choices can play a significant role in managing the severity of hyperthyroidism and provide assistance to either prescription therapies or herbal remedies in suppressing glandular function. 

  • Increase Goitrogen Consumption – Goitrogens are foods that contain properties that naturally hinder thyroid hormone production and hormone conversion. Perhaps the most well known goitrogen is soy. There are also many vegetables which have goitrogenic properties that hyperthyroid individuals can include in abundance in their diets, including broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, spinach, rutabaga, turnips, and sweet potatoes.  
  • Additional Changes - In addition to incorporating goitrogens into daily life to naturally suppress thyroid function, many hyperthyroid patients have experienced success including additional therapy forms, such as acupuncture and massage, into their lifestyle.   

For more valuable information on changes you can make to reduce the symptoms of your hyperthyroidism, check out our full length report!

Vitamins & Supplements

A host of vitamins have been identified by endocrinologists and natural health providers that help support normal thyroid function and reduce over activity of the gland.  The most commonly referenced vitamins include Vitamin C, Vitamin B12, and L-carnitine, although others have been identified as helpful agents.

  • Vitamin C - Vitamin C may be the most recommended supplement to encourage normal thyroid function across all the nutritional therapy literature for hyperthyroidism.  Vitamin C, with its strong anti-oxidant properties, has become an obvious therapy for hyperthyroidism because it can neutralize all types of free radicals, a potential cause of hyperthyroidism. It is recommended that individual start at around 1,000 mg per day, however, due to the potential for Vitamin C toxicity, it is important to check with your physician before adding any high level doses to your daily routine.
  • Vitamin B12 - A variety of B vitamins play crucial roles in normal thyroid function as they are known to assist in basic metabolic function.  Vitamin B12 is the most recommended for those dealing with an overactive thyroid.  B12 deficiencies are common in hyperthyroid individuals for unknown reasons. It is recommended that supplementation start at around 1,000 to promote normal glandular function. 
  • L-carnitine - L-carnitine is an amino acid that has been shown to be an antioxidant in addition to other benefits.  A clinical trial published in a 2001 edition of the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism reported that 2-4 grams of L-carnitine supplementation daily reduces the amount of thyroid hormone in various body tissues, thereby calming hyperthyroid symptoms while also positively enhancing bone mineral density.   

For more valuable information on vitamin supplementation for hyperthyroidism, check out our full length report!

Talk with your Doctor

To make sure you get the treatment and solutions you need to experience thyroid function at optimal levels, it is vital that you advocate for your own health through asking questions of your health care professional and educating yourself.  If you suspect you may be suffering from thyroid dysfunction, use the guide below to start getting the information and treatment you need from your health care providers.   

  • Keep a Symptoms Journal: If you are starting to suspect you may suffer from hyperthyroidism, the first thing you need to do is record your observations regarding the nature, severity, frequency, and duration of any symptoms you experience in a Symptoms Journal.  Take note of anything out of the ordinary, from mood shifts to bowel movement changes. After you have 2-3 weeks of data recorded in your Symptoms Journal, review what you have observed and, if you feel something is out of the ordinary, call your health care provider and make an appointment to investigate.  Be sure to take your Symptoms Journal with you to the appointment!
  • Ask The Right Questions: Help direct the examination with your health care provider and also advocate for yourself by asking specific questions regarding what they are noticing.  Here are a few questions to ask as they are performing a physical exam:
  • Is my pulse elevated?
  • Does my heart beat sound regular?
  • Have I gained or lost weight since my last visit?
  • Is my body temperature elevated?
  • Request Certain Tests: When you are at your appointment with your health care provider, insist they order blood tests checking your thyroid hormone levels.

For more valuable information on talking to your doctor about hyperthyroidism, check out our full length report!

Wellness Plan

Promoting general thyroid wellness is essential to healing hyperthyroidism. Incorporating the elements below into your daily lifestyle can positively influence the healing process and help alleviate your symptoms sooner as well as lay the foundation for continued thyroid health.

  • Remove unnecessary toxins from your life as soon as possible. Cut down on alcohol consumption, tobacco products, recreational drugs, and high amounts of carbohydrates and sugars in your diet.
  • Eat organic and whole grain.  Consuming hormonally supplemented meat, eggs, and vegetables can strain your body’s ability to synthesize hormones and fight off infection.
  •  Drink adequate amounts of water.  It is recommended you drink one ounce of water for every two pounds of your body weight.
  • Avoid caffeinated and carbonated drinks.
  • Ensure you are getting enough fiber on a daily basis through supplements or dietary sources.
  • Take between 30-60 minutes of exercise daily. Be sure to slowly increase the length and severity of your exercise to give your body time to adjust. Even walking for 30-45 minutes daily will make a big positive influence on your thyroid health.
  • Reduce your intake of dairy and gluten containing products as they strain the digestive system and may contribute to the development of thyroid conditions.
  • Have your thyroid hormone levels checked once every 3-4 months to ensure you are adequately managing your condition.
  • Maintain close communication with your health care provider or natural remedy specialist to make small adjustments or tweaks in your treatment as needed and in a timely fashion

For more valuable wellness tips for hyperthyroidism, check out our full length report!

Remedies

Over the past decade the mainstream endocrinology community has slowly but surely started augmenting - and in some cases totally replacing - prescription therapies with herbal supplementation to provide truly comprehensive care.   

  • Bugleweed - Bugleweed (Lycopus virginicus) is a member of the mint family that has received consistent praise for its role in treating hyperthyroidism.  Its success stems from its ability to reduce the gland’s ability to process iodine and thereby lower the amount of thyroid hormone in the bloodstream. The most common way to take Bugleweed is in tincture form.  Herbalists recommend using extracts of the leaf instead of the root whenever possible as they are more potent.  They also note that alcohol based tinctures are more effective than water based ones. Daily Bugleweed doses can cause several side effects, such as headache, temporary increase in hyperthyroid symptoms, and increased thyroid size. 
  • Motherwort - Motherwort (Leonurus cardiac) is also a member of the mint family.  Motherwort has been used consistently by herbalists and other natural remedy specialists to decrease some of the more dangerous symptoms of hyperthyroidism.  The herb is indicated to calm heart palpitations, high cholesterol and pulse, as well as the general strain imposed upon the cardiac system by the condition. The traditional way to ingest Motherwort is to take 2 g in tea form three times a day. There are no side effects associated with Motherwort, however it should not be coupled with other heart prescription medications such as beta blockers.  
  • Passionflower - Passionflower is an herb that is native to the United States.  It can be used to relax muscles throughout the body, decrease pain, induce sleep, and slow heart rate.  Passionflower is often used by hyperthyroid patients to alleviate both physical and mental symptoms of their condition, such as insomnia, irritability, confusion, and hand tremors.  Most herbalists suggest it works best when coupled with other relaxing herbs, such as Valerian Root.    
  • Valerian Root - Valerian Root is well known throughout the natural remedy communities as a natural sleep aid, muscle relaxant, and nervous stimulant depressant.  Valerian Root has also be praised for its ability to simulate the same effects as prescription pain relievers and sleep aids without causing the groggy, drowsy next day feeling.  It may be taken in capsule form, with Catherine Winters of Natural Health Magazine recommending 500-1,000 mg ingested daily one hour before bed. 
  • Lemon Balm - Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis) has been reported to reduce the amount of TSH in the bloodstream after only one dose.  Commonly paired with Bugleweed in the natural treatment of Graves’ Disease, Lemon Balm is popular especially among European natural therapists for the suppression of hyperthyroidism.  Success has most often been reported when the herb is administered in injection form, however it is recommended that patients try ingesting it orally in dried form before resorting to the more invasive option of injection.  It is recommended an individual start with 1-4 g ingested in tea form three times daily. 

For more valuable information on herbal remedies for hyperthyroidism, check out our full length report!

 
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