Underactive Thyroid vs Overactive Thyroid: What’s the Difference?

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Have you been diagnosed with an overactive or underactive thyroid? Found in the lower part of the neck — right below the Adam’s apple in men — the thyroid gland is responsible for producing hormones that regulate biochemical processes in the body, including protein synthesis. But millions of people suffer from a disorder that causes their thyroid gland to produce too much or too little of these hormones, resulting in the disruption of their body’s metabolic processes.

 

Underactive Thyroid Explained

Underactive thyroid is a disorder in which the thyroid gland produces an insufficient amount of hormones. Also known as hypothyroidism, it affects about one in 200 U.S. adults. As the thyroid produces less hormones, the disorder manifests as several body-wide symptoms. While most of these symptoms aren’t life threatening, they can still lower a person’s quality of life. Furthermore, there have been reports of underactive thyroid causing heart failure and coma. Cases such as these are rare, but it’s still one more reason to take action if you suffer from underactive thyroid.

Symptoms of underactive thyroid include:

  • Chronic fatigue
  • Malaise
  • Weakness
  • Cold or heat sensitivity
  • Depression
  • Insomnia
  • Muscle pain
  • Constipation
  • Unexplained weight gain

 

Combat Underactive Thyroid With an Iodine-Rich Diet

According to a study published by the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists (AACE), the leading cause of underactive thyroid is insufficient iodine intake. A nonmetallic element with the atomic number 53, iodine is used by thyroid gland to produce hormones. Unfortunately, our bodies aren’t capable of producing iodine on their own, so we must consume foods containing this chemical to maintain healthy thyroid function. If you don’t consume enough iodine in your diet, your thyroid gland won’t be able to produce a sufficient amount of hormones.

The Institute of Medicine recommends adults consume 150 micrograms (mcg) of iodine daily to promote a healthy thyroid. Although there are iodine supplements available for sale, you can find this thyroid-boosting chemical in a variety of foods, some of which include spinach, potatoes, kidney beans, strawberries, kale, fish, cranberries, oysters, eggs and turkey. Including more of these foods in your diet will help you meet the Institute of Medicine’s recommendation of 150 mcgs of iodine per day and subsequently ease the symptoms of underactive thyroid.

 

 

Overactive Thyroid Explained

Also known as hyperthyroidism, overactive thyroid is a disorder in which the thyroid gland produces too much hormones. It’s essentially the opposite of underactive thyroid. With underactive thyroid, the thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough hormones. With overactive thyroid, on the other hand, it produces too much. Our bodies are designed to perform metabolic processes most efficiently when an appropriate amount of thyroid hormones are in the bloodstream. If there’s too many of these hormones, it can disrupt these metabolic processes and cause some pretty unpleasant symptoms.

Symptoms of overactive thyroid include:

  • Sweating
  • Cold or heat sensitivi
  • Abnormal heat rate
  • Insomnia
  • Unexplained weight gain
  • Hair loss
  • Muscle tremors
  • Muscle weakness

 

Graves Disease and Overactive Thyroid

The single most common cause of overactive thyroid is Graves disease. This autoimmune disease specifically affects the thyroid, resulting in an overproduction of hormones. Graves disease is more prevalent in women than men, with statistics showing that up to 5% of all women will experience this disease during their lifetime. Medications like beta blockers and anti-thyroid drugs are often used to treat Graves disease.

 

Get Your Thyroid Levels Tested

Because overactive and underactive thyroid share many of the same symptoms, you can’t perform a self-diagnosis. Rather, you should get your thyroid levels tested to determine if you are suffering from one of these thyroid disorders. Blood tests can reveal the precise levels of thyroid hormones in your body. If the test reveals high levels of the hormone thyroxine, for example, you may be suffering from overactive thyroid. But keep in mind that certain dietary supplements can reduce the accuracy of thyroid level blood tests. If you take a vitamin B supplement, a blood test may reveal high levels of thyroid hormones even if your thyroid gland is actually producing an appropriate amount. So, inform your practitioner ahead of time of all supplements and medications that you are currently taking.

 

Tips to Improve Your Thyroid Function

Whether you suffer from overactive or underactive thyroid, there are several things you can do to improve the function of your thyroid gland, including the following:

  • Keep your stress levels under control.
  • Get seven to eight hours of sleep per night.
  • Eat more omega-3-rich foods, including fish, olive oil and nuts.
  • Beware of allergens that avoid expose when possible.
  • Exercise for 75 to 150 minutes per week.
  • Relax in a steam room or sauna, which can flush toxins from your body that would otherwise interfere with your thyroid gland.
  • Don’t skip meals.
  • Drink plenty of water throughout the day.
  • Get an adequate amount of vitamin D.

 

To learn more about Atlanta Chiro and Wellness’s integrative medicine and health services, contact us today.

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