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When your thyroid gland is not putting out enough thyroid hormone, this is called hypothyroidism. Low thyroid hormone levels can affect just about every aspect of your life and health.
You may experience a slower pulse and a decrease in energy. Even your speech may slow down. You may put on weight even though your eating habits have changed.
Your hair may become dry and your hands and fingers may become numb. You may experience mental confusion, depression and even dementia.
When hypothyroidism affects children they can experience a slowing in many areas - in physical growth, in mental development and in the development of their teeth.
The two main hormones produced in your thyroid are T3 and T4. Your pituitary does its part by producing thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). This TSH is involved in regulation of the amounts of T3 and T4 coming from your thyroid.
Your health care provider can measure your TSH levels with a blood test. When your thyroid is putting out low levels of T3 and T4, your body may try to make more TSH in an attempt to stimulate more T3 and T4. Interpretation of all thyroid lab tests by an endocrinologist is needed to determine your thyroid function.
Practitioners of natural medicine are liable to focus on your T3 levels, which is the active form of thyroid hormone.
The conventional medicine approach will usually be to use levothyroxine, a synthetic thyroid hormone. A drug made from pigs' thyroid glands is another option.
A nutritional approach can be useful in reducing symptoms. Foods high in iron like meat, fish, eggs, and legumes, and high in B vitamins like beef, turkey, tuna, bananas, and oats may be helpful. Foods high in antioxidants like blueberries, cherries, bell peppers and squash are encouraged.
Some foods hinder proper thyroid function, like broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables, spinach, soybeens and millet. These foods should be avoided.
Soy may stand in the way of absorbing thyroid hormone. Iron supplements may also prevent proper absorption of thyroid hormone drugs. Be sure to talk to your health care provider about this.
Tobacco, alcohol and caffeine should be avoided.