Monday, 1 October 2012


Have you ever wondered why you never seem to lose weight even though you diet and exercise? Have you ever considered checking your thyroid gland? It has been researched and proven that hypothyroidism plays a significant role in weight gain. This review explains the function of the thyroid gland, the effects and treatment of hypothyroidism.

The thyroid gland is an important endocrine gland that controls the body’s metabolism. It is a small butterfly-shaped gland located in the front of the neck just below the Adam’s apple. The thyroid gland produces the hormones tetraiodothyronine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3).

Together these hormones regulate how your cells use energy. The pathways by which cells use energy is called metabolism. Your body’s general metabolism determines blood pressure, heart rate, and weight.

Hypothyroidism is a condition where your thyroid gland does not make enough thyroid hormone. Low levels of thyroid hormone interfere with the body’s ability to perform normal metabolic functions such as efficient use of energy from food products, regulation of many chemical reactions in the body, and maintenance of healthy cells, bones and muscles, to name a few..

There are no symptoms that are unique to hypothyroidism. There may be no symptoms early in the disease process. Long standing, untreated hypothyroidism can cause obesity, joint pain, heart disease, and infertility. Other symptoms can include:
  • increased sensitivity to cold
  • constipation
  • depression
  • fatigue
  • weakness
  • heavier menstrual flow
  • brittle hair and nails
If left untreated, the following symptoms can occur:
  • hoarseness
  • puffiness of the face, hands, and feet
  • slowed speech
  • decreased taste and smell
  • thin eyebrows
  • thickened skin
  • coma (called “myxedema coma”)

Your doctor first conducts a physical exam and reviews of your medical history. This can reveal any procedures like thyroid surgery or radiation treatments connected to hypothyroidism. Family history might reveal a close relative with autoimmune disease. Medication history might be positive for drugs, such as lithium and amiodarone that can cause the condition.
Because hypothyroidism is most often found in women over age 50, some doctors advocate thyroid function screening for this group. Doctors also may suggest screening women of childbearing age.
Blood tests also are common. These include:
  • thyroid function tests: T4, T3RU and TSH
  • tests for pituitary function: TSH
  • cholesterol (can be elevated)
  • CBC (may show anemia)
  • liver enzymes (can be elevated)
  • prolactin (can be elevated)
  • electrolytes (sodium can be low)
In hypothyroidism, T4 is low and TSH is high. This means the pituitary is sending more TSH to stimulate the thyroid, but the thyroid does not respond. A low TSH indicates the pituitary may be the cause of hypothyroidism.

A common treatment is to replace thyroxine with a specific synthetic thyroid hormone (levothyroxine). This hormone is safe and affordable, but determining the right dosage often takes time. Your metabolic rate has to be returned to normal. Raising it too quickly can cause palpitations and make some medical problems like coronary artery disease and atrial fibrillation worse. Symptoms of thyroid hormone excess are:
  • shakiness or tremors
  • palpitations
  • insomnia
  • increased appetite
Diets rich in soy and high fiber can interfere with levothyroxine absorption. Medications and supplements also can reduce absorption. These include:


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