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Thyroid problem is not forever

Thyroid problems should be looked at using a little more detective work and not just accepted as ‘one of those things’.

Thyroid problems should be looked at using a little more detective work and not just accepted as ‘one of those things’.

It is a common belief in medicine that a thyroid problem is forever. Subsequently those suffering thyroid problems will probably have to take drugs to maintain normal hormone levels for the rest of their lives.

In a few cases this may be necessary, but the evidence suggests that it is more likely to come and go, that is, assuming the patient had the problem in the first place.

Medicine doesn’t seem to get it right when it comes to thyroid problems, and especially in relation to hypothyroidism – when we become sluggish and overweight due to an underactive thyroid gland.

Hypothyroidism is by far the more common of the two thyroid problems (the other is hyperthyroidism – when the body becomes hyperactive).

Over a decade ago it was considered one of the great undiagnosed diseases.

However, now, practitioners are accused of having a knee-jerk reaction and are seeing thyroid problems where none exist, thereby diagnosing medication where it is not required.

“This is potentially an enormous problem, given that one in four people have their thyroid function checked,” says Jayne Franklyn, president of the British Thyroid Association.

As a result, patients who are wrongly being given a hormone drug could be suffering from side-effects due to an excess of thyroid hormones. Additionally, the misdiagnosis could be masking more serious conditions such as depression or serious stress.

Doctors have only two ways of diagnosing a thyroid problem: they can either look for symptoms or take a blood test.

However, both methods can be unreliable. Typical symptoms of hypothyroidism can include tiredness, feeling the cold, dry skin, depression, weight gain, but these symptoms can be caused by a host of other conditions.

For example the symptoms of Graves’ disease, which can be caused by hyperthyroidism, are almost identical to many of the physiological changes which occur during pregnancy, making the diagnosis almost impossible in expectant mothers.

A more reliable diagnostic test is to carry out a standard blood test that measures thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) levels.

This can also produce false-positive results, especially if the patient has another health problem.

However, if a second blood test was to be carried out after the true illness had been cleared up, TSH levels would probably show up as normal.

Unfortunately, second tests are rarely ordered and the patient will probably have already begun a course of hormone drugs which will not be required and could be causing side-effects.

It may be helpful to consider the causes of thyroid disease, which are not fully understood. The standard view is that they are as a result of people living longer or because of a genetic inheritance.

Years ago it was caused by iodine deficiency. However, in the West, our food has been enriched with iodine, so this cause has all but been eliminated. If anything, we are now in danger of consuming too much iodine, especially through iodine-enriched salt which can lead to iodine-induced thyrotoxicosis, or hyperthyroidism.

However, growing evidence is suggesting that hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism are more often caused by environmental factors and diet, including, ironically, the aforementioned iodised salt. Other causes, sometimes overlooked by the medical profession are:

Food allergies, such as multiple food allergies and coeliac disease.

Selenium deficiency – the thyroid gland has the highest concentration of selenium in the body, so any deficiency can lead to the disease.

Pollutants – common environmental pollutants have been found to cause thyroid disease in both humans and animals.

Cancer treatment – radiotherapy given to cancer sufferers can affect the healthy function of a thyroid.

Diabetes – type 1, in particular, can cause thyroid problems.

Preeclampsia – a common complication during pregnancy, can affect the thyroid function later in life.

Fluoride – this can affect the natural absorption of iodine.

Iodine excess – when consumed in excess can lead to hyperthyroidism; it is also used in cough medicine, antiseptics and certain drugs.

Emotional problems – the thyroid is especially vulnerable to emotional traumas such as bereavement and divorce; in fact, all the highest stress traumas one can experience in life.

In conclusion, it could be possible that the cause of a thyroid problem is within the control of the patient.

Therefore a review of lifestyle or stress problems could reveal the true cause.

For example, if the cause is due to environmental pollutants and they are removed, or reduced, one would see an improvement.

Clearly, as we age, the pollutants or toxins will build up in the body and therefore we are more likely to suffer as we grow old.

One thing is clear, the diagnosis should be looked at using alittle more detective work and not just accepted as ‘one of those things’.

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