When the thyroid gland, often referred to as "the body's thermostat," does not produce the correct balance of hormones, the result is hypothyroidism (an underactive gland) or hyperthyroidism (an overactive gland). Although some people may have no symptoms, hypothyroidism, which affects more than 5 million Americans, may result in weight gain, dry hair and hair loss, headaches, loss of appetite, slow speech, infertility, respiratory infections, dry skin, weakness, cold intolerance, constipation, decreased libido, irritability, muscle cramps, constipation and/or memory loss.
Hyperthyroidism, by contrast, may produce heat intolerance, nervousness, insomnia, fatigue, increased appetite, breathlessness, weight loss, moist skin, bulging eyes and increased heart rate.
A blood test that measures hormone levels is the most common way to diagnose a thyroid disorders. Additionally, an over-the-counter test, the BioSafe Thyroid test, allows you to test at-home and forward blood to a laboratory for results.
Hormone-replacement therapy using Synthroid, a synthetic version of the hormone T4, is typically used to treat hypothyroidism. Surgical options, including removal of part or all of the thyroid gland may also be employed, depending on the severity of the disorder, or if cancer of the thyroid is detected. Radioactive iodine therapy (for benign conditions) may also be used on affected portions of the thyroid in order to prevent goiters from growing larger or to prevent the thyroid from producing too much hormone, as in the case of hyperthyroidism. Acupuncture, chiropractic care, herbal and homeopathic remedies are also available to treat symptoms of thyroid disorders.
Fluoride (found in tap water and in toothpaste), stimulants in coffee and alcohol, refined foods, sugar and dairy products may lead to an imbalance in thyroid activity. An iodine-rich diet (containing seafood, shellfish, organic vegetables and iodized salt) may help regulate some thyroid disorders.
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