Thyroid Awareness Month: Check out for these symptoms, do not eat these foods – what endocrinologist says

The butterfly-shaped thyroid gland, located in the front of the neck that secretes thyroid hormone, has a very significant role to play throughout our lives. As Dr Sachin Kumar Jain, Head, Department of Endocrinology, Amrita Hospital, Faridabad, points out, “Its significance actually comes from the fact that it secretes thyroxine and is present in the growing foetus from the 12th to the 14th week. It is crucial for the growth and development of every metabolic process, from the foetus to the end of life.”

Thyroid problems: What causes Hypothyroidism and Hyperthyroidism

The main functional diseases are known as hypothyroidism, which means less amount of the hormone, or hyperthyroidism, which means there is an increase in the amount of the hormone present in the body.  These diseases occur when the hormone decreases in amount or, for some reason, the hormone increases in amount in the body.

So what are the reasons that lead to thyroid hormone imbalance? Dr Sachin Kumar Jain says, “There are several causes of hypo or hypothyroidism. It is very common because of autoimmune diseases, like Hashimoto’s disease, or because of an iodine deficiency, or following surgery to the thyroid gland, or secondary to various radiations. The hyperthyroidism is again autoimmune, like Graves’ disease or a solitary nodule or multinodular goitre, or even after excessive exposure to iodine.”

Hypothyroidism: Symptoms to look out for

The symptoms of hypothyroidism can be varied. The most important symptoms, as Dr Jain says, are:

    • Fatigue
    • Weakness
    • Cold intolerance
    • Slowness of overall activity or slowing of the movements
    • Slow or slurred speech
    • Constipation
    • Weight gain
    • Hair loss, 
    • Coarsening of the hair
    • Anaemia
    • Shortness of breath
    • Hypertension
    • Decreased exercise capacity
    • Increased menstrual bleeding or frequent menstruation
    • Decreased fertility
    • Increased chances of spontaneous abortions in females
    • Decreased libido and erectile dysfunction in males 
    • Decreased memory
    • Inability to recall things
    • Muscle pains 

Hyperthyroidism: Symptoms to look out for

Dr Jain lists out the symptoms of hyperthyroidism:

    • Weight loss in spite of an increased appetite because of the increased metabolism
    • Shortness of breath, palpitations, and heat intolerance 
    • Hyper defecation or diarrhoea
    • Sweatiness
    • Anxiety 
    • Tremor 
    • Increase in pigmentation
    • Thinning of the hair
    • Cardiac rhythm disorders, especially atrial fibrillation 
    • Swelling in the front of the neck—that’s a goutier development

Thyroid problems: Food to avoid

So, what food products or vegetables should be avoided?

Dr Jain mentions the dos and don’ts when it comes to diet in thyroid problems:

– If a person is taking the replacement dose of the thyroid and is taking it in the early morning, the thing to be observed is that no caloric food should be taken for one hour, so that adequate absorption occurs. So, whether it is tea, coffee, milk, or any of the breakfast cereals, it should be avoided at least for one hour; that is one important thing.

– On the other end of things, we should not take iron preparations, calcium preparations, etc. immediately after taking the medicine. A large amount of iodine in food should also be avoided.

–  When we talk about foods to avoid, we usually hear cauliflower, cabbage, ganth gobi, broccoli, spinach or sarso, soya, or gluten. Well, these are the things that, if consumed in very large amounts, may interfere with the substance that may interfere with thyroid hormone synthesis. So, if you have a disease and are taking its replacement therapy, there is no need to worry about these things.

– People who are predisposed to developing thyroid disease, such as if there are family members who have the disease and one is predisposed, should avoid many of these things.

“I’d like to interpret this further to mean that if a person has hypothyroidism, is obese, and eats a lot of salad, etc., they can keep taking, there’s no need to be concerned about being unable to eat this or that,” says Dr Jain.

Thyroid problems: Treatment

Hypothyroidism is treated with thyroid hormone replacement. “It depends upon various conditions, especially the weight of the patient, and hormone replacement therapy should be given first thing in the morning. This is the same hormone that the body produces and distributes. Usually, the treatment is lifelong, and the patient should be monitored frequently, and that should be on their own and twice or three times a year in our setting,” says Dr Jain.

Regarding the treatment of hyperthyroidism, Dr Jain points out that if it is Graves’ disease, then the treatment is given with anti-thyroid drugs, and again, the patient should be monitored frequently over a period of time, and the doses are adjusted depending upon the state of the disease. “Patients with Graves’ disease are also treated with surgery as well as radioactive iodine. Some patients with hyperthyroidism because of subacute thyroiditis are also treated with various other medications, which usually improve over a period of a few months,” adds Dr Jain.

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