Hypothyroidism is the condition of having too little thyroid hormone in one’s blood and, although it requires attention, living with hypothyroidism is quite manageable. The thyroid gland, which is located in the neck region, is responsible for maintaining necessary thyroid hormone levels in the body and, when this production is less than needed for proper cell and organ stimulation, the thyroid is said to be ‘under active’.
Low thyroid hormone levels are associated with a slowing down of body processes. Low thyroid symptoms usually include physical tiredness as well as mental fatigue. Hypothyroidism sufferers may also experience a slowing of the heart rate, an inability to tolerate cold and constipation.
Low thyroid function is a common condition and affects both men and women, although women seem to be more susceptible. Often symptoms are subtle and go unnoticed or, in many cases, are attributed to something else (such as stress or growing older). As a result, many suffering from this disease go undiagnosed, sometimes for years. It’s estimated that there are about 9 million undiagnosed hypothyroidism sufferers in the U.S. alone.
WHAT IS THYROID?
The thyroid is a small, two-lobed gland that lies just below the Adam’s apple and in front of the windpipe. It’s part of the endocrine system, which is comprised of glands responsible for secreting hormones into the body’s blood system.
The thyroid gland produces hormones that are used by the body to control the speed of metabolism. When thyroid hormone levels are low this slows the body’s metabolic processes and is a primary reason for hypothyroidism sufferers to frequently become overweight. Iodine is a critical element contained in thyroid hormone and those with an iodine deficiency are at risk for developing hypothyroidism.
Practically every bit of iodine we consume is used by the thyroid to produce hormone. If there is too little iodine in one’s diet this will eventually lead to a goiter, or enlarged thyroid. In developed countries, iodine is normally added to common table salt to ensure enough of this element is present in one’s diet. Packaging will usually be labeled ‘iodized salt’. In underdeveloped countries goiters are much more common, with an estimated 200 million sufferers worldwide.
Living with hypothyroidism requires some lifestyle changes but is certainly manageable. Natural methods exist for dealing with this condition, as well as more mainstream medical treatments. The bottom line is that it can be successfully treated, but only if properly diagnosed. If you seem to always be fatigued and can’t seem to lose those extra pounds no matter how hard you try, have your hormone level checked. You might be one of the millions who have hypothyroidism and don’t have a clue what’s wrong with you.