Thyroid hormones 101 – What can I do if my thyroid hormone results are high?-image

Thyroid hormones 101 – What can I do if my thyroid hormone results are high?

The thyroid is a small gland in your neck, but don’t be fooled by its size. It plays a vital role in the body and keeping it healthy. By producing important hormones, it can affect your heart rate, metabolism (how well and fast your body processes what you eat and drink) and even fertility.

Sometimes the thyroid gland makes too much of these hormones, which can cause a thyroid disorder called hyperthyroidism.

The thyroid gland is controlled by the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland, located in the brain. 

The hypothalamus releases thyrotropin-releasing hormone (TRH), which stimulates the pituitary gland to release thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), which tells the thyroid how much hormone to produce.

The thyroid gland produces 2 main hormones that can impact fertility – Thyroxine (T4) and Triiodothyronine (T3)

Hyperthyroidism can be caused due to various reasons including underlying health conditions, certain medications as well as diet and lifestyle habits.

Wondering what the symptoms and causes of hyperthyroidism are? You can read more about it here.

Have you just recieved your report and are wondering what you can do to help balance your hormones then your are in the right place.

Did you know?

Most cases of hyperthyroidism in the UK are due to Graves’ disease or toxic nodular goitre. 

What can I do to balance my hormones?

Certain dietary and lifestyle modifications have been shown to promote healthy thyroid functioning

  • If you are consuming large amounts of iodine in your diet or consuming supplements with iodine in them and have been diagnosed with hyperthyroidism, you should consider limiting or avoiding consuming them to reduce iodine intake

Foods rich in iodine include:

  • Milk and dairy products (a glass of milk is around  just over half of the daily recommended nutritional intake), some fortified plant milks;;
  • Fish (including white fish; haddock, cod, battered cod, fish fingers, crab);
  • Eggs (2 eggs are around 1/3rd of your daily requirement);
  • Bread;
  • Fruit;
  • Vegetables such as potato
  • Seaweed is very concentrated and can contain excessive amounts (particularly brown seaweed such as kelp)
  • Iodised salt

Did you know?

 

  • Magnesium affects the body’s ability to absorb calcium. A magnesium deficiency may also worsen symptoms associated with Graves’ disease. 

If you have or suspect you might have a magnesium deficiency, consider increasing intake of foods rich in it, including:

  • Avocados
  • Dark chocolate
  • Almonds
  • Brazil nuts
  • Cashews
  • Legumes
  • Pumpkin seeds

If you think your diet might not give your recommended levels, supplementation may also help improve the risk of hyperthyroidism. However, you must always consult your doctor before deciding to take any supplements.

  • If you have or suspect you might have a selenium deficiency, consider increasing intake of foods rich in it, including:
  • Brazil nuts;
  • Seafood, such as shrimp, sardines, salmon, halibut, and tuna;
  • Meats like beef steak, beef liver, ground beef, and ham;
  • Eggs;
  • Bread and cereal grains.

If you think your diet might not give your recommended levels, supplementation may also help improve the risk of hyperthyroidism. However, you must always consult your doctor before deciding to take any supplements.

  • If you have or suspect you might have a  Vitamin B12 deficiency, consider increasing intake of foods rich in it, including:
  • Meat;
  • Fish;
  • Poultry;
  • Eggs;
  • Dairy
  • Fortified products 

If you think your diet might not give your recommended levels, a Vitamin B12 supplement may be necessary to restore levels to optimal levels. However, you must always consult your doctor before deciding to take any supplements.

Did you know?

 

  • If you might be consuming excessive amounts of copper in your diet, you should consider reducing your consumption. Foods rich in copper include:
  • Oysters
  • Organ meat such as liver
  • Spirulina
  • Shiitake mushrooms
  • Nuts and seeds such as almonds and cashews
  • Lobster
  • Dark chocolate
  • Excessive sodium intake can also contribute to edema (swelling), which is common with Graves’ disease, which is why it is important to control salt intake.
  • Hyperthyroidism can cause the bones to become weak and thin, increasing the risk of osteoporosis

Ensuring your diet includes sources of Vitamin D and Calcium can help strengthen your bones. 

Foods rich in Calcium include:

  • Milk;
  • Cheese and other dairy foods (some dairy products are fortified with iodine and may not be recommended);
  • Green leafy vegetables – such as curly kale, okra
  • Soya products with added calcium such as tofu or fortified soya milk or yoghurts
  • Bread and anything made with fortified flour

Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium from food more easily. Most of the vitamin D in the body is made in the skin through the absorption of sunlight. Foods rich in vitamin D include:

  • Oily fish such as salmon, sardines, herring and mackerel;
  • Red meat;
  • Liver;
  • Egg yolks;
  • Fortified foods such as breakfast cereals.

If you think your diet might not give your recommended levels, you could consider a supplement especially for Vitamin D as we are not exposed to enough sunlight. However, you must always consult your doctor before deciding to take any supplements.

  • Cutting down on smoking or stopping it altogether is a step you could consider. You can read more about how smoking affects other hormones here.
  • Hyperthyroidism has been linked to an increased risk of developing mood disorders such as mood swings, anxiety and depression

If you think you might be struggling with any of the following, you can try speaking to those you love and trust about your feelings. Sometimes being open about our emotions with people we know is not always easy, and you can always consider seeking professional help from a mental health professional. 

If you are struggling to conceive and have just been diagnosed with hyperthyroidism, you can read more about how fertility impacts your mental health here. 

If you think you might be struggling with handling your emotions and stress during your fertility journey, our counsellor care pathway is here to allow you to express your emotions freely, help you make the right choices, and support you throughout your journey.

If your medications might be impacting your thyroid hormone levels, your doctor will generally advise you about this. If they find a severely negative impact, they might alter the dose of your current medication or offer an alternative.

 

You might also be recommended medical intervention along with dietary and lifestyle modifications

Medical management of excessive thyroid hormone levels can involve using medication, radiation therapy and even surgery, the focus remains on reducing thyroid hormone levels to prevent long term health complications, you can read more about them here.

  • Antithyroid medication like thionamide (such as carbimazole or propylthiouracil (PTU)) is the easiest way to treat hyperthyroidism. They cause the thyroid to make less thyroid hormone.

PTU is often used to treat hyperthyroidism during the first three months of pregnancy. Another anti-thyroid medication is methimazole, although it is easier to take, it is associated with a slightly higher risk of causing congenital anomalies compared to PTU. 

If you do have hyperthyroidism and are considering pregnancy, it is important to consult a doctor and get it under control before you become pregnant because severe hyperthyroidism that is left untreated can affect both you and the baby. 

  • Beta blockers, e.g. propranolol, may be prescribed. They do not stop thyroid hormone production but can reduce symptoms such as tremors, rapid heartbeat, and nervousness. 
  • In high doses, glucocorticoids reduce the conversion of thyroxine (T4) to triiodothyronine (T3)  and decrease pituitary production of TSH.
  • Another effective treatment is radioiodine therapy. It involves taking a capsule or drink containing radioactive iodine-131 and a low dose of radiation, which is absorbed by your thyroid. 

It destroys the thyroid hormone-producing cells, reducing the amount of hormones it can produce. Although it is a highly effective treatment. A potential side effect is that it may result in hypothyroidism in the future. 

  • Surgical intervention and either partial or total removal of the thyroid gland can be used to treat severe hyperthyroidism. 

This is recommended for those who:

  • May have a thyroid gland that is severely swollen because of a large goitre
  • Have severe eye problems caused by an overactive thyroid
  • Cannot have other, less invasive treatments
  • Symptoms return after trying other treatments
  • Have cancerous cells in their thyroid gland
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