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Thyroid disorders and improving your thyroid health

November 3rd, 2022

Thyroid disorders and improving your thyroid health


In 2020 there were 586,000 thyroid cancer cases worldwide. An estimated 20 million people in the US and 1 in 20 people in the UK suffer from a thyroid disorder. Scientists trial new treatments and targeted drugs, but it takes time to see if they work better than the current treatments for thyroid disorders and if it is safe to use them. In this article, we discuss thyroid disorders and how to improve your thyroid health with tips from Dr Ashita Cupta, an expert in endocrinology.


We briefly answer key questions – what is the thyroid gland, what are the symptoms of thyroid disorders, what affects thyroid health and how can you improve it?


‘Scientists trial new treatments’


Dr Ashita Cupta


What is the thyroid?


The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland at the front of the neck below the larynx. It has two lobes on each side of the windpipe. It is an endocrine gland made up of special cells that make hormones. The hormones are chemical messengers which relay information to the organs in the body. 


Hormones produced by the thyroid.


There are two types of hormones produced by the thyroid. They are TS3 (Thyroxine that contains 3 iodine atoms) and TS4 (Thyroxine that contains 4 iodine atoms). The hormones help to regulate heartbeat, body temperature, metabolism and other bodily functions. 


The pituitary gland controls the hormones.


The pituitary gland, located in the brain, supervises the hormones produced by the thyroid. The pituitary gland monitors and controls the thyroid hormones in the bloodstream. If the thyroid doesn’t perform its job efficiently, the pituitary gland produces its own thyroid stimulating hormone TSH. The TSH sends a message to the thyroid telling it if it is under or overproducing hormones. 


Symptoms of thyroid disorders and causes.


It is not easy to diagnose thyroid disorders. The symptoms can include extreme tiredness, brain fog, digestive issues, mood swings, weight gain or weight loss. They are the same symptoms associated with many illnesses. Specific tests such as bloods or an ultrasound need to be performed to see if there is a thyroid disorder or disease.


Underactive, overactive or cancerous.


The thyroid can be underactive or overactive, and it can be cancerous. There are many causes of thyroid disorders such as pregnancy, genetics, stress, toxins and nutritional deficiency. Genetic factors contribute to 65% of an individual’s thyroid state.Thyroid disorders can be present at birth or developed at any age. Thyroid disorders are more predominant in women and often experienced during the menopause.


What else affects thyroid health?


Lifestyle factors such as smoking, alcohol, diet, exercise and pollutants also affect the thyroid. Medical conditions such as pernicious anaemia, type 1 diabetes, primary adrenal deficiency, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, Sjogren’s syndrome and turner syndrome make a person more susceptible to thyroid disorders.


Thyroid cancer.


In 2020 43,646 people of all ages worldwide died of thyroid cancer. Thyroid cancer develops when malignant (cancer) cells form in the tissue of the thyroid gland. There are different types of thyroid cancer: 


  • Differentiated thyroid cancer, well-differentiated tumours, papillary thyroid and follicular cancer. In most cases they can be treated and cured
  • Poorly differentiated, undifferentiated and anaplastic thyroid cancer are less common. The cancer spreads quickly so the chances of recovery are low 
  • Medullary cancer is a neuroendocrine tumour that develops in the C cells of the thyroid. If caught early enough, the outlook is good


Common thyroid disorders.


Thyroid lumps (nodules) or goitre (a swelling of the thyroid gland) are common and aren’t usually cancerous. Most well known thyroid problems are hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism and thyroiditis.


  • Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid)


Hyperthyroidism is a condition related to the parathyroid gland. The gland produces parathyroid hormones responsible for calcium levels in the bloodstream and tissues. When there is an imbalance, a person will develop hyperthyroidism. Two types exist, primary and secondary. Primary hyperthyroidism causes a high level of calcium in the blood and secondary causes lower levels. About 3 in every 4 people with an overactive thyroid gland have a condition called Graves disease


  • Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid)


Hypothyroidism develops when the thyroid does not produce enough thyroid hormone. People of all ages can suffer from hypothyroidism. It can cause symptoms such as weight gain, dry skin, weakness, constipation and fatigue. It can lead to a poor quality of life and result in mental health issues and cause reduced mobility


  • Thyroiditis


Thyroiditis is the swelling of the thyroid gland that causes an unusual amount of lower or higher level of thyroid hormone in the blood. There are several different types of thyroiditis:


  • Hashimoto’s develops when the immune system attacks the thyroid
  • De Qervins is a painful swelling in the thyroid
  • Postpartum can develop after childbirth
  • Silent is similar to postpartum, but men and women can suffer from it
  • Drug induced 
  • Radiation, when the gland can become damaged after exposure
  • Acute or infection 


Living with thyroid disorders.


A thyroidectomy or a labectomy are two methods of surgery for thyroid cancer. For an underactive thyroid, a daily hormone replacement tablet can be taken, such as levothyroxine. For an overactive thyroid the medication carbimazole or propylthiouracil can be taken. An alternative to medication is radioactive treatment. 


How to improve your thyroid health.


Dr Ashita Cupta, an expert in endocrinology recommends the following to improve your thyroid health.


  1. Eat a balanced mediterranean diet. 70% of our autoimmune system is found in our intestines, known as GALT or gut-associated lymphoid tissue. When the intestinal lining becomes inflamed it can trigger an immune response. Research has revealed that the response plays a role in the development of thyroid disease.
  2. Be wary of certain foods. Whilst eating any type of diet it is advisable to avoid processed foods that are packed with sugar and preservatives, dyes, or fat and sugar free substitutes. Dr Gupta explains that processed foods, including trans fats, high fructose corn syrup, MSG and refined sugar can cause intestinal inflammation and trigger autoimmune flare-ups. Eating some vegetables raw could mess with the thyroid, they containg goitrogens that interfere with thyroid hormone synthesis. Vegetables to avoid.’s,essential%20for%20normal%20thyroid%20function.
  3. Try to avoid toxins. Long term exposure to endocrine disruptors which are chemicals that interfere with your body’s endocrine system could trigger endocrine problems. Be aware of products that contain PFCs (global contaminants) that can be found in some carpets, waterproof clothing, fire fighting foam, non-stick cookware and leather products. PFCs have been linked to thyroid disease in some studies. Dr Gupta also recommends avoiding anti-bacterial soaps that contain triclosan.


Dr Cupta recommends incorporating supplements into your diet.

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