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Information about hypothyroidism and herbal products to help

Posted Apr 24 2010 12:00am
Hypothyroidism is a thyroid problem caused by an underactive thyroid gland that produces insufficient amounts of thyroid hormones. This common condition affects millions of people.

Because the symptoms may be varied and difficult to define, often mimicking other conditions, many people with an underactive thyroid gland may be completely unaware of the problem.

To get a basic understanding of hypothyroidism, you need to familiarize yourself with the thyroid. The thyroid is a small gland found in the middle of the lower neck (below the larynx or Adam’s apple).

This gland manufactures thyroid hormones which enable the body to carry out a variety of very important functions. The thyroid works in conjunction with pituitary gland which produces thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH).

TSH in turn stimulates the thyroid gland to produce the thyroid hormones, T3 and T4. These thyroid hormones play a vital role in the body, influencing metabolism and all the organs in the body. They determine how fast or how slow the organs should work and how the body generates and uses energy.

When the thyroid is under-active and doesn’t produce enough of these hormones, hypothyroidism can develop. Metabolic rate and energy levels decrease and the body uses energy slower than it should.

A blood test is needed to confirm the diagnosis of an underactive thyroid gland, but does not necessarily tell you the cause. The patient’s clinical history and results of antibody screening tests and thyroid scans can help to determine the underlying cause.

Blood tests will measure the levels of TSH, the thyroid stimulating hormone, and T3 and T4, the thyroid hormones - as well as their interactions with each other.

The results of these tests will tell you where the problem lies - in the pituitary gland, where TSH is produced, the hypothalamus (which controls the pituitary gland) or in the thyroid gland itself. This will in turn help physicians to determine the correct management for you.

Conventional treatment usually involves taking a synthetic or animal derived thyroid hormone medication on a daily basis. Levothyroxine is the most common conventional medication used to treat hypothyroidism and treatment is life-long.

Patients have to be aware that they understand their condition thoroughly and how to take and adjust their medication. The doctor will check TSH levels to determine the right dosage of levothyroxine. If the correct dosage is not administered side effects could occur, like heart palpitations, shakiness, an increased appetite and insomnia can occur.

If you suffer from heart disease, your doctor will probably start you on a smaller dosage and gradually increase it. Thyroid hormone levels should be monitored on a regular basis (approximately every 6 weeks) and TSH levels checked to determine whether the correct amount of thyroid replacement hormone is administered.

There are other treatment options that can also be explored and may well be more suited to you. These include alternative and natural remedies for hypothyroidism and are especially for those who want to avoid the side effects of prescription drugs.

There are a variety of natural therapies that can be included in the treatment plan for thyroid disorders. Natural remedies for hypothyroidism with herbal and homeopathic ingredients can help to promote steady hormone levels, as well as maintain and restore the health of the thyroid gland.

Some herbal remedies commonly recommended for hypothyroid conditions include Equisetum arvense, Avena sativa, Centella asiatica, Coleus forskohlii and Fucus vesiculosis. There are also herbal and homeopathic remedies that can be used supportively to address some of the troublesome symptoms of hypothyroidism.

Correct use of natural remedies for hypothyroidism may allow patients to take less medication and achieve greater symptomatic relief. Discuss this option with your doctor, homeopath or naturopath, who will be able to recommend a natural treatment option. 

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