The thyroid gland maybe small in size but improper functioning can have a major affect on the overall health of an individual. The thyroid synthesizes, stores and secretes two main thyroid hormones – thyroxine, commonly called T4 and triodothyroxine, commonly called T3.

Your thyroid secretes a mixture of T4 and T3 in the ratio 90:10. Both of them regulate your body’s metabolism and certain other important biological functions. An overactive thyroid, which secretes too much hormone, is known as hyperthyroid. Hypothyroid is the opposite condition where there is an inadequate secretion of these hormones.

The symptoms of hypothyroid are general in nature but these can have a long lasting effect on your health. Most common symptoms are fatigue, depression, lack of concentration, difficulty in losing weight, weight gain, sensitiveness to cold and hot, hair loss, constipation, scanty or lack of menstrual periods, infertility, coarse skin, reactive hypoglycemia, yellow palms, puffiness around the eyes or the ankles (fluid retention), increased levels of serum cholesterol and hair loss (especially on the eyebrows).

Conventional thyroid treatment treats all cases of hypothyroidism in the same manner by seeking to replace the natural hormone by synthetic hormones while determining the dosage required by trial and error. A certain method of natural thyroid medication was tried in which a tissue from pigs was used to produce natural hormone for replacement. This was considered better than synthetic hormones since it had fewer side effects. However, the one concern with that remained with this method was the fact that it interfered with the natural functioning of the body to some extent.

Other alternative thyroid treatments like homeopathy, seek to ascertain the root cause of the disease.
Homeopathy is based on the principal that a collection of symptoms produced by a particular remedy in a healthy person will cure a similar set of symptoms in a sick individual. Moreover, homeopathy treats an individual holistically. A homeopathic physician will advise thyroid medications based on each individual’s symptoms and strive to augment the natural healing process of the body.

It has been found that homeopathic remedies stimulate body organs allowing the body to heal itself. With regard to hypothyroidism, this would mean that homeopathic remedies reactivate hormone secretions and a grouping of remedies effectively recharges and renovates the thyroid tissue by acting on the pituitary and other glands.

Homeopathy, as against a “ten minute visit – prescription”, requires much more time and effort since it requires the physician to study the patients’ history while taking into consideration their living styles, diet preferences, and even mannerisms.

One reason why homeopathy is not very prevalent is that once your body is recovered, you do not need to continue medication, a fact that does not go well with drug manufacturers. Moreover, it is nearly impossible to get funding for research, as you cannot get a patent on these remedies.

A homeopathic physician does not over-depend on remedies and may ask you to use some simple procedures to help in your recovery. Some of these may be

* A gentle tapping of the thyroid gland ten times, thrice a day.
* Soaking feet in water with sea salt
* Rubbing feet with a mixture of castor oil and kelp tincture, wrapping in plastic and leaving it overnight

The main aim of homeopathy and alternative thyroid treatments is to impress that the body is capable of healing itself and to avoid synthetic products that produce more harm than the disease itself.

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Many thyroid malfunction cases that are caused by a thyroid cancer are treated surgically. This involves invasive surgery that is conducted to remove the cancerous tissues.

Most patients that are treated surgically in this manner are asked to undergo radioactive iodine treatment (RAI) after a few months of the surgery. This therapy is recommended to the patients since radioactive iodine suppresses the growth of thyroid cells. It is administered in the form of a liquid or pills.

A lot of precaution needs to be taken for any treatment that involves radioactivity. And this is specifically true for RAI treatment. The procedures involved in the precautions that are outlined can be extremely lengthy, tiresome and difficult.

Patients are asked to adhere to a low iodine diet for almost a fortnight before the actual treatment. In most cases the physician stops all traditional thyroid medication before the process. The physician may also ask the patient to stop any natural thyroid medication that he may have been taking. In cases where hormonal supplements cannot be discontinued, the iodine levels in the body are reduced artificially by injecting recombinant TSH.

A low iodine diet does not mean a total ban on iodine. The American Thyroid Association recommends that a minimum of 50 mcg of iodine in a day is acceptable even if a low iodine diet is being maintained.

The diet regulations are similar to those that are provided in alternative thyroid treatments. These diets that are prepared specially for those who have thyroid malfunctioning ensure that the specific items listed on the diet chart contribute only the recommended levels of iodine.

Increase consumption of

* Fruits
* Raw or freshly cooked vegetables
* Unsalted nuts

Limited consumption or avoidance of

* Meats
* Grains, cereals and rice
* Iodized salt and sea salt.
* Any sea food in any form.
* Milk and milk products
* Chocolates – Cocoa and some other chocolates are permitted.
* Soybeans and soy products except soy oil and lecithin.

The RAI treatment is a simple procedure wherein the patients are free to go home after receiving the required dosage.

Majority of the radioactive iodine is absorbed by the thyroid. Any unabsorbed radioactive iodine is discharged in the next couple of days through urine, feces, saliva and sweat. Certain precautions are necessary to ensure the safety of those around you.

  • Keep away from children and pregnant women for at least eight days.
  • Do not let any one come closer than 3 feet for more than one hour in a day. This precaution needs to be taken for the first five days.
  • Take extra care of personal hygiene. Flush the toilet more than once after every use.
  • Men have to take extra care to avoid any spill over while urination.
  • Nursing women need to stop breast feeding totally.
  • Doctor’s consultation is necessary before starting a pregnancy.

Even though the process involved in this thyroid treatment is simple, hospitalization may be required in some cases. This becomes necessary if there is an infant at home who needs to be protected from contamination. Patients are generally kept in isolation till the hospital is satisfied with regards to all safety concerns. All communication with staff and visitors is through an intercom.

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With the current fad of achieving Hollywood-style figures that has enveloped everyone, there is a strong tendency to jump into the first product or service that promises you a certain amount of targeted weight-loss. Not all of them are based on scientific research. Nor do they have any concrete evidence of the fact that their solutions work.

But these fly-by-night operators shall have you believe that they have a magic pill or a fantastic drink that can help you lose weight without really sweating it out. The weight-loss pills that some spin artists try to sell to the gullible public is just one example of the various kinds of gimmicks that are prevalent in the market today. Beware of them! There is no magic pill that reduces weight.

These con artists also use hard sell techniques that can be extremely misleading. The lure of the perfect figure is so high that even when you know that there are no short cuts to loosing weight, you tend to give into some of these. It is not uncommon to see women and men dressed up in a doctor’s garb of a lab coat trying to sell a magic weight-loss pill, concocted drink or unbelievable weight-loss equipment. They would have you believe that they are busy doctors who have just taken some time out to do some social service.

But excessive weight gain can happen as a result of certain ailments. There are also cases where certain drugs cause excessive weight gain. And for those who feel that they are putting on more weight than they should, ruling out these possibilities is a must before they start out on a diet, an exercise regime or self imposed restrictions.

Just to give an example, thyroid dysfunction can cause weight gain. The gain can be due to some thyroid boosters that you may have been prescribed as thyroid medications that may be leading to weight gain.

Thyroid dysfunction affects production of hormones, which indirectly slows the metabolic rate of your body. Metabolisms are organic processes necessary for life and the metabolic rate is the amount of energy expended in a given period. It is directly related to your food intake and any medical disorder in your body.

If you are under thyroid treatment for hypothyroidism, a condition of an under active thyroid gland, the dose of the thyroid booster depends upon your body weight. Consequently your medication has to be monitored with regular check ups. Any amateurish attempt to reduce weight on your own using these can have negative impacts. It can also reduce the efficacy of the treatment.

Genuine natural thyroid medication lays emphasis on a nutritional diet and proper diet management. It is an integral part of alternative thyroid treatments. And therefore it is easy to fall prey to dubious claims of herbs, drinks and pills that help in reducing weight.

One of the first symptoms of a thyroid disorder is hair loss. But in many cases this symptom tends to get ignored since a certain proportion of hair loss happens among many people. To ascertain the increase in hair loss is therefore, not so easy. There have been instances when hairdressers have pointed out abnormal hair loss that has ultimately led to diagnosis of hypothyroidism (deficiency of thyroid hormones).

Hair growth can be affected by various aspects of the body. A disruption in the normal functioning of the body can potentially affect hair growth, hair strength and the overall health of the hair.

Normally, though the rate of hair growth is dependent on various factors like hereditary, diet and exercise, hair cells grow faster than other body cells. At any given point in time, one tenth of the hairs do not grow. The remaining active nine tenths that are in the growing mode continue to grow at the rate of approximately half an inch every month for three years.

Hypothyroidism often results in significant changes in the overall quality of hair. There is a considerable loss in texture and shine. Another sign of “hypothyroid hair loss” in women is the loss of hair in a pattern that is generally associated with male hair loss. The male pattern of hair loss is significant loss of hair around the temples and at the top of the head.

Hair loss can also be a significant side effect of thyroid medications. If you are taking a synthetic hormonal supplement as part of your thyroid treatment, excessive hair loss can actually be a side effect of the drug.

Since certain thyroid medicines can cause such side effects, it is mandatory that the thyroid treatment is monitored and managed closely. Though hormonal supplements can be prescribed in the form of a pure T4 drug or a combination of T3 and T4, it is essential that the exact dosage of the drug be specified precisely. It is then your duty to follow the instructions to the last word. Noticing the specific symptoms and alerting your physician on time can result in change of medication that may not produce the hair loss side effect.

Proponents of natural thyroid medication theorize that hair growth is controlled by the kidneys. According to them hair loss can be due to:

* Excessive production of testosterone that can result from high levels of exercise or over stimulation.
* Poor metabolism that can result from bad eating habits.
* Lack of absorption of nutrients in food.
* Over stimulation of adrenal glands by thyroid hormonal supplement.
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The two symptoms of hypothyroidism that lead to a perceptible decline in the physical appearance are hair loss and obesity. This is likely to affect the confidence levels of the patient.

Those who do not have a strong understanding of thyroid treatments may not be aware of the fact that the manner in which thyroid medication should be taken is important. Most physicians agree that the medicines need to be taken in a certain manner to obtain best results.

Some believe that the manner in which the medication is ingested can actually change the overall effect of the drug. Following the recommended method can surprisingly increase the overall benefits that can be derived from the thyroid treatment that has been opted for.

The reason why the manner of administration is so important lies in the nature of the drug.

Most thyroid medicines contain levothyroxine (available in the market under brand names like Synthroid, Levothroid, Unithroid, Eltroxin, Levoxyl). This is a synthetic version of the thyroid hormone T4. The T4 hormone needs to be first converted to the active form of thyroid hormone, T3 for it to be effective. This conversion process takes a long time and therefore diet, precautions, time and manner become extremely important.

Conventional drugs (Cytomel, Thyrolar) or natural thyroid medication that contain the active T3 hormone do not require more than a couple of hours to get absorbed in the body. And therefore the various precautions that need to be taken along with these drugs are limited. The small random studies and surveys that have been conducted on determining the best method of administration have focused more on levothyroxine.

Any thyroid treatment, including alternative thyroid treatments therefore focuses on drugs and supplements that can ensure faster absorption of the hormone into the body.

The various opinions that exist among practitioners are in the context of

* The best time to take the medicine.
* Whether the medicine needs to be taken on an empty stomach or after meals?
* The key foods that need to be avoided while the medicine is getting absorbed?
* The other precautions that need to be taken while on thyroid medication?

The general advice the physicians give to ensure quick absorption is to avoid certain things at all times. These need to be avoided totally for at least two to four hours after taking the thyroid pill.

* Calcium and iron supplements
* High fiber diet
* Antacids
* Antidepressants

Some physicians advocate that taking the thyroid medication in the morning and avoiding meals for at least 30 minutes before and after gives best results. On the other hand some other verifiable studies have indicated that taking thyroid pills at bedtime helps in better absorption of the drug. This is based on the premise that major body organs are passive during night and therefore give the drug enough time for better assimilation. Some experts suggest that the daytime meals interfere with the drug and cause slower absorption.

If at all you shift your timings, it is advisable to get your thyroid levels checked, at least within eight weeks in order to determine whether the change has given you better results or not.
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