Understanding Hypothyroidism In Today’s World

Recently my husband had to have a physical and lab work-up. The doctor gave him a clean bill of health but the physician’s assistant asked if he had been a bit more tired lately. Considering that my husband works about sixty hours weekly as we pay for the college education of our four children, we’ve never expected him to feel any other way. However, the physician’s assistant said his fatigue could actually be from hypothyroidism. His blood work up had revealed his thyroid was functioning below normal. This condition can also be called underactive thyroid, low thyroid, hypothyreosis, or Hashimoto’s disease.

Some of its symptoms are a sensitivity to feeling cold, dry skin, feeling tired, hair loss and gaining weight. Children can also experience physical and intellectual development delays.  In extreme cases, a person’s thyroid gland could become so enlarged they bear the visible symptom of a goiter. However, it is common to exhibit no symptoms at all and many people never even know they have the condition.

Most often iodine deficiency is to blame. Other causes can be an injury to the hypothalamus or pituitary gland, complication of thyroid surgery, elevated levels of liver enzymes in the blood or an existing condition at birth. Hypothyroidism sometimes is connected with another medical condition like rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes or lupus. It is usually successfully treated with drug therapy.

If a human body has abnormally low levels of thyroxine the person’s entire hormonal and metabolic balance is disrupted. A healthy thyroid is the only source for the thyroid hormone. In order to produce healthy levels of this hormone, iodine is required. Laboratory analysis of a blood sample is necessary to properly diagnose a condition of hypothyroidism.

Worldwide almost one billion people suffer from this condition. It usually manifests seven times more often in women than men. Most cases are preventable by the addition of iodine to the daily diet. Diets rich in dairy and fish are naturally rich with iodine.  Using iodized salt is another easy way to supplement intake of iodine. Many countries routinely follow the World Health Organization’s recommendations and use iodized salt in the commercial production of bread.

Pregnant and breast-feeding women have an increased need for supplemental iodine, requiring almost seventy percent more than the average woman. It is not possible to meet this need through diet alone. Pregnant and breast-feeding women must take a daily pre-natal vitamin to help ensure their own health as well as the health of their baby.

My husband grew up in primitive conditions in South America. When he was a young child he became very sick. When he was treated in hospital, he contracted Hepatitis which resulted in permanent liver damage. It is highly likely his hypothyroidism is the result of abnormal levels of liver enzymes being produced by his compromised organ. Fortunately, his symptoms are virtually undetectable which makes him a good candidate for successful treatment. We do not expect his quality of life to be adversely affected. In fact, some dietary changes soon resulted in improved energy level. We anticipate that at some point in the future he will no longer require drug treatment