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The thyroid gland is a 2-inch butterfly-shaped organ located at the front of the neck. Though the thyroid is small, it’s a major gland in the endocrine system and affects nearly every organ in the body. It regulates fat and carbohydrate metabolism, respiration, body temperature, brain development, cholesterol levels, the heart and nervous system, blood calcium levels, menstrual cycles, skin integrity, and more.
The most common thyroid condition is hypothyroidism or underactive thyroid. In the United States, hypothyroidism usually is caused by an autoimmune response known as Hashimoto’s disease or autoimmune thyroiditis. As with all autoimmune diseases, the body mistakenly identifies its tissues as an invader and attacks them until the organ is destroyed. This chronic attack eventually prevents the thyroid from releasing adequate levels of the hormones T3 and T4, which are necessary to keep the body functioning properly. The lack of these hormones can slow down metabolism and cause weight gain, fatigue, dry skin and hair, and difficulty concentrating (see table).2 Hashimoto’s affects approximately 5% of the US population, is seven times more prevalent in women than men, and generally occurs during middle age.3
Hyperthyroidism, or overactive thyroid gland, is another common thyroid condition. The most prevalent form is Graves’ disease in which the body’s autoimmune response causes the thyroid gland to produce too much T3 and T4. Symptoms of hyperthyroidism can include weight loss, high blood pressure, diarrhea, and a rapid heartbeat. Graves’ disease also disproportionately affects women and typically presents before the age of 40.
Hashimoto’s is more common than Graves’ disease, but both are referred to as autoimmune thyroid disease (ATD), which has a strong genetic link and is associated with other autoimmune disorders, such as type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and celiac disease.
A goiter, or enlargement of the thyroid gland, can be caused by hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, excessive or inadequate intake of iodine in the diet, or thyroid cancer—the most common endocrine cancer whose incidence studies indicate is increasing.
Cardiovascular Risk and Diabetes
Patients with hypothyroidism have a greater risk of cardiovascular disease than the risk associated with weight gain alone. Low levels of thyroid hormones lead to a higher blood lipid profile, increased blood pressure, and elevated levels of the amino acid homocysteine and the inflammatory marker C-reactive protein.6
Thyroid hormones regulate cholesterol synthesis, cholesterol receptors, and the rate of cholesterol degradation. Hypothyroidism increases LDL levels, and increased cholesterol levels have been shown to induce hypothyroidism in animal models. Normalization of thyroid hormone levels has a beneficial effect on cholesterol, which may be worth noting especially for clients who choose not to take prescribed thyroid medications.7
Moreover, a strong relationship exists between thyroid disorders, impaired glucose control, and diabetes. Thirty percent of people with type 1 diabetes have ATD, and 12.5% of those with type 2 diabetes have thyroid disease compared with a 6.6% prevalence of thyroid disease in the general public. Both hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism affect carbohydrate metabolism and have a profound effect on glucose control, making close coordination with an endocrinologist vital.8
It’s imperative dietitians have a good understanding of the metabolic changes associated with thyroid disease so they can set realistic goals and expectations for clients. Most people with hypothyroidism tend to experience abnormal weight gain and difficulty losing weight until hormone levels stabilize. Moreover, it’s common for patients with Graves’ disease to experience periods of high and low thyroid hormone levels, so it may take several months to achieve a balance. During this time, it’s essential clients focus on healthful behaviors such as eating nutritious foods, exercising regularly, managing stress, and sleeping adequately rather than focus on the numbers on the scale.
Benefits of working with an online gout nutritionist
Valuable knowledge from a qualified nutritionist
The information that a nutritionist shares with you is valuable knowledge that can help you identify the root causes of the health concerns you’re experiencing. A nutritionist will have information on improving your diet, digestion, heart health, energy levels, and more. When you choose to work with a telehealth provider like Healing Favor Nutrition that has a large selection of knowledgeable nutritionists, the quality, professionalism, and experience of each nutritionist will be thoroughly vetted, so you don’t have to spend time checking references and qualifications. You can rest easy knowing the nutrition specialist will connect you with the right professional to help you in your wellness journey.
Improved quality of life
One of the main benefits of working with a nutritionist is experiencing an overall improvement in quality of life. A certified dietitian nutritionist will give you information that will improve your thyroid gland’s health, which will, in turn, improve your quality of life. You won’t have to spend time planning around your concerns. Working with a nutritionist can lessen the stress of how those concerns affect your day-to-day life. While you may experience benefits like weight loss or a lowered risk of obesity, one of the main advantages is that a nutritionist will help you understand how to utilize proper nutrition to support overall wellness.