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How To Treat Borderline Underactive Thyroid

Why Was This Study Needed

KHOU Focus on Health: “Treatment for Borderline Low Thyroid Disease”

The thyroid gland produces hormones that help to regulate the bodys metabolism. Around 15 in every 1,000 women in the UK have an underactive thyroid though fewer women in pregnancy have the condition, about four in every 1,000 women. People with definite low thyroid hormones can feel tired or depressed, gain weight and experience muscle aches, it can also lead to high cholesterol. In pregnancy there can also be harms to the unborn child including failure to develop normally and reduced intelligence. Therefore, clinical hypothyroidism during pregnancy is usually treated with levothyroxine, a drug that replaces thyroid hormone.

However, the exact risks associated with borderline blood levels, and the cut-off thyroid levels for treatment are not clear. There could even be harms from unnecessarily treating women with sub-clinical hypothyroidism. About 5% of women screened in pregnancy would be labelled as having sub-clinical hypothyroidism, depending on definitions.

Should People With Thyroid Problems Avoid These Supplements

Iodine: Yes. Avoid it as a supplement whether you havehyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism. The effect of iodine supplements can vary byperson, causing the thyroid to produce either too much or too little hormone.

Certain alternativemedicine websites or doctors tell patients that iodine is good for yourthyroid, Dr. Nasr says, but if there is anybody who shouldnt take iodine, itis thyroid patients. Such claims aremade because iodine deficiency is the No. 1 cause of thyroid conditionsin the world, he says. But thats not true in the U.S., where we have iodine inour diets. Iodine is added to many foods, and not just salt, he says.

However, Dr. Nasr says that people on restrictive diets may consider adding a daily multivitamin that contains the recommended daily allowance of iodine.

He also assures patientsnot to worry that you are getting too much iodine from everyday foods. You wouldhave to eat a ton of it to cause problems, he says. Its not, dont eatanything with iodine. Its, dont eat a bunch of iodine. And patients shouldbe careful with iodine-concentrated supplements.

Symptoms Of Hypothyroidism In Men & Women Of All Ages

You might ask, How do I know if I have hypothyroidism? Self-identifying common symptoms of hypothyroidism can be a helpful starting point.

When your thyroid is underactive, these health problems follow:

  • Weight gain
  • Muscle aches, tenderness, stiffness, weakness
  • High levels of cholesterol
  • Impaired memory
  • Enlarged thyroid

What are the symptoms of thyroid problems in females? Women in particular can experience heavier than normal menstrual periods. These menstrual changes can affect fertility.

And for men? Men may experience accelerated hair loss.

What happens if it is left untreated? Untreated hypothyroidism develops into myxedema. Myxedema also refers to hypothyroidism making your skin puffy.

Heart disease, nerve damage, myxedema coma, and even death have been recorded in extreme situations where hypothyroidism is left untreated.

Newborns are required to be screened for hypothyroidism. If left untreated, infant hypothyroidism can lead to irreversible mental retardation.

If you exhibit these symptoms, be sure to seek medical advice as soon as possible.

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How Is An Underactive Thyroid Treated

Treatment depends on the cause of your underactive thyroid.;If you have low thyroid hormone levels but no symptoms, your doctor might suggest more blood tests every 6 or 12 months to monitor your thyroid function.;If you have symptoms of underactive thyroid, your doctor might recommend you;take regular tablets of thyroid hormone .


  • Thyroxine;needs to be started slowly, so the dose you take and how often are gradually built up to reach the right level. This usually takes about 6 weeks.
  • Your symptoms will probably go away within a few months but may stay for up to 6 months after starting the medicine.
  • Having regular blood tests every 612 months allows your doctor to check;your thyroid hormone level and;adjust the dosage of your thyroxine if necessary.
  • The amount of thyroxine you need can change over time because the function of your thyroid gland may change over time.
  • It is also important not to take more thyroxine than has been recommended by your doctor because this can cause symptoms of hyperthyroidism and contribute to osteoporosis.

Talk to your doctor if you are using thyroxine and are planning to or have become pregnant. This is because;the amount of thyroxine you need may need to be increased.

Treating An Underactive Thyroid


Treatment for an underactive thyroid involves taking daily;hormone replacement tablets, called levothyroxine,;to raise your;thyroxine levels. You’ll usually need treatment for the rest of your life. However, with proper treatment, you should be able to lead a normal, healthy life.

If an underactive thyroid isn’t treated, it can lead to complications, including heart disease,;goitre, pregnancy problems and a life-threatening condition called myxoedema coma .

Read more about treating an underactive thyroid;and the complications of an underactive thyroid

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Natural Treatment For Subclinical Hypothyroidism

Functional medicine has a different approach to determine when a person has hypothyroidism and when thyroid treatment is required. It sets the upper TSH range limit substantially lower than conventional medicine.

This is based on the research studies showing that;a normal TSH for people that dont have any thyroid problems is somewhere between 0.5 and maybe 2.2 or 2.5 . This upper limit is an indicator for a more thorough investigation and extended thyroid testing that includes testing for thyroid antibodies.

If thyroid antibodies are high and indicate Hashimotos disease it can mean a totally different borderline hypothyroidism treatment approach. The main goal becomes to stop or at least delay the progression from Hashimotos disease to a full-blown hypothyroidism and it has to include understanding what could trigger thyroid and autoimmune disease and address these underlying issues first.

It is important to consider your age. The upper functional medicine TSH limit for elderly people is different than for younger people.;More recent research is suggesting that in people who are in their;80s a TSH of above 3 is actually a normal value. This higher TSH number seems to reflect some age-related changes rather than issues with the thyroid gland itself.

Does it mean that everyone needs a prescription for thyroid medication to treat subclinical hypothyroidism?


1. Should we treat subclinical hypothyroidism? BMJ 2008; 337

Southern Cross Medical Library

The purpose of the Southern Cross Medical Library is to provide information of a general nature to help you better understand certain medical conditions. Always seek specific medical advice for treatment appropriate to you. This information is not intended to relate specifically to insurance or healthcare services provided by Southern Cross. For more articles go to;the Medical Library index page.

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How Does Subclinical Hypothyroidism Develop

The way that subclinical hypothyroidism develops depends on a number of different factors including the TSH level: Slightly elevated TSH levels often return to normal on their own. But people who have highly elevated levels often develop symptomatic overt hypothyroidism within several months or years.

One study followed people with high levels of TSH over a period of two to three years. The participants didn’t have any symptoms or diagnosed thyroid disorders. They were divided into three groups depending on how high their TSH levels were. The study produced the following results:

  • Slightly elevated TSH levels : Each year, 2% of the participants in this group developed overt hypothyroidism.
  • Moderately elevated TSH levels : Each year, 20% of the participants in this group developed hypothyroidism with symptoms.
  • Highly elevated TSH levels : Each year, 73% of the participants in this group developed overt hypothyroidism.

TSH levels that are slightly or only moderately elevated don’t necessarily need to be treated. Some people who have high TSH levels never even develop symptoms. It is also very common for TSH levels to return to normal in children and teenagers.

The probability that overt hypothyroidism develops from subclinical hypothyroidism is greater if the thyorid is enlarged and thyroid antibodies are detectable in the blood. And women generally have a higher risk than men.

What Causes An Underactive Thyroid

How to Get Your Thyroid to Work Correctly

The most common cause of underactive thyroid is an autoimmune condition called Hashimotos disease. This is when your bodys immune system attacks and destroys the cells of your thyroid gland, making it produce fewer or no thyroid hormones.It is not clear what triggers this, but it sometimes runs in families. Underactive thyroid is also more common in people who have autoimmune conditions such as type 1 diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis.

Other causes of an underactive thyroid include:

  • thyroid cancer or its treatment
  • medicines such as lithium or amiodarone
  • iodine deficiency
  • painful tingling in hands or symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome
  • thickening of your skin;
  • thinning of your eyebrows

If you are pregnant and have these symptoms, see your GP or doctor. If an underactive thyroid is left untreated, it can cause problems such as pre-eclampsia and premature labour.

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Best Diet For Hypothyroidism: Foods To Eat Foods To Avoid

Hypothyroidism is a condition in which the body doesnt make enough thyroid hormones.

Thyroid hormones help control growth, cell repair, and metabolism. As a result, people with hypothyroidism may experience tiredness, hair loss, weight gain, feeling cold, and feeling down, among many other symptoms .

Hypothyroidism affects 12% of people worldwide and is 10 times more likely to affect women than men .

Foods alone wont cure hypothyroidism. However, a combination of the right nutrients and medication can help restore thyroid function and minimize your symptoms.

This article outlines the best diet for hypothyroidism, including which foods to eat and which to avoid all based on research.

The thyroid gland is a small, butterfly-shaped gland that sits near the base of your neck.

It makes and stores thyroid hormones that affect nearly every cell in your body .

When the thyroid gland receives a signal called thyroid-stimulating hormone , it releases thyroid hormones into the bloodstream. This signal is sent from the pituitary gland, a small gland found at the base of your brain, when thyroid hormone levels are low .

Occasionally, the thyroid gland doesnt release thyroid hormones, even when there is plenty of TSH. This is called primary hypothyroidism and the most common type of hypothyroidism.

Approximately 90% of primary hypothyroidism is caused by Hashimotos thyroiditis, an autoimmune disease in which your immune system mistakenly attacks your thyroid gland .

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How To Treat Hypothyroidism Naturally

Besides a hypothyroid diet, there are also a number of natural remedies that help support the thyroid. A synthetic thyroid hormone or T4 is often given for hypothyroidism treatment, but its considered ineffective when adrenal fatigue is also an issue. The following are some hypothyroidism natural treatments you should consider instead.

Sugar And Refined Flour Products

The Link Between Thyroid Disease and Cholesterol

Sugar is known to disrupt the hormone balance important for metabolism; those with weight issues often have thyroid problems. Excess sugar can lead to weight gain, depression, fatigue, mood changes, and hormonal disturbances. There is a lot of added sugar in refined carbohydrate and flour products. These products also contain gluten, which negatively affects the thyroid.

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Our Approach To Natural Thyroid Treatment

Many doctors begin hypothyroidism treatment with a check for low thyroid stimulating hormone levels. However, during our work with patients, weve found that doesnt give us a full picture of your thyroid.

When a patient comes to us with symptoms of hypothyroidism, the first thing we look for is Hashimotos disease. Hashimotos disease is an autoimmune condition that accounts for 90% of hypothyroidism cases.

Causes of Hashimotos are varied, but we administer blood tests, urine tests, and/or elimination diets to understand your unique diagnosis. Our experience has taught us that treating the root causes of Hashimotos is how to cure hypothyroidism permanently it also means each patient gets a tailored treatment plan, and all treatments dont work for all people.;

When identifying the cause of Hashimotos disease, we look at the following six risk factors:

  • Hormone imbalance If your hormone levels are imbalanced , this can trigger an underactive thyroid.
  • Food sensitivity Food allergens can cause a hormone imbalance or even hypothyroidism. Celiac disease has been linked with increased risk of autoimmune disease, such as Hashimotos. Other food sensitivities may be less obvious but may be just as significant.;
  • Infections Tick-borne infections and viral infections may lead to an underactive thyroid.
  • Other causes include thyroid cancer, hormone replacement therapy or birth control pills, and overtreatment of hyperthyroidism .

    How To Balance Your Thyroid

    Heres How to Balance Your Thyroid hormones naturally. If you have been diagnosed with Hashimotos Thyroiditis or Graves Disease you will first need to address the autoimmune condition that causes your body to attack itself, and in this case your thyroid gland. Begin your thyroid balance by naturally balancing and boosting your immune system and protecting your thyroid gland with nascent iodine. This type of iodine is vitally important, as most sources you find are almost always from contaminated sea sources, due to the radiation spill in Japan.;

    Heres what you can do right now to naturally boost and balance your thyroid health:

    Do these things and you will naturally boost your thyroid function and improve your immune system, boost your metabolism and lose weight naturally. It will help you feel a whole lot better a whole lot quicker too!

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    Symptoms Of An Underactive Thyroid

    Many symptoms of an underactive thyroid are the same as those of other conditions, so it can easily be confused for something else.

    Symptoms;usually develop slowly and you may not realise you have a medical problem for several years.

    Common symptoms include:

    • pain, numbness and a tingling sensation in the hand and fingers
    • irregular periods;or heavy periods

    Elderly people with an underactive thyroid may develop memory problems and depression. Children may experience slower growth and development. Teenagers may start;puberty earlier than normal.

    If you have any of these symptoms, see your GP and ask to be tested for an underactive thyroid.

    Read more about getting tested for an underactive thyroid

    How Are The Causes Of An Underactive Thyroid Diagnosed

    Why Your Doctor Is Wrong About Thyroid Testing

    See your GP or doctor for a proper diagnosis if you have any of the symptoms of an underactive thyroid. They will do the following:

    • Ask you questions about:
      • your symptoms, such as tiredness, weight gain, constipation, cold sensitivity and changes to your hair, skin or nails
      • any;family history of thyroid problems
      • any operations, x-rays or illnesses you have had
      • medicines you may be taking.
    • Do a physical check, including:
      • weighing you
    • Take blood tests to assess:
      • thyroid hormone levels, which include T3, T4 and TSH
      • thyroid antibodies in your blood
      • cholesterol levels, because underactive thyroid can cause your bodys LDL cholesterol level to increase . ;

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    How To Care For Hashimotos Disease

    When your doctor diagnosed you with Hashimotos, you likely had blood tests to check levels of your thyroid stimulating hormone , thyroid hormone and possibly antibodies to thyroid peroxidase . You probably also had a physical exam of your thyroid, and possibly an ultrasound to see if it is enlarged. From these tests, along with your symptoms, your doctor will have devised a treatment plan. Here are some Hashimotos disease treatment options:

    Should People With Thyroid Problems Avoid These Foods

    Soy: If you have hypothyroidism, yes. Eating too much soy causes problems only for those with hypothyroidism, which occurs when your thyroid gland does not make enough thyroid hormones, Dr. Nasr says.

    The main problem is that soy may hinder absorption of the hormones that such patients take.

    Some studies show that if you eat a lot of soy, or drink a big glass of soy milk, within one hour of taking a thyroid hormone, it might affect absorption, Dr. Nasr says. Many individuals depend on a consistent absorption of those hormones to achieve a steady state.

    Generally, expertsrecommend that people who have a borderline thyroid one thats a littleunderactive but youre still trying to preserve thyroid function do not toconsume large amounts of soy every day, he adds.

    Turnips and rootvegetables: No. These vegetables aresometimes thought to cause thyroid problems, but thats not the case, Dr. Nasrsays. They are good for your diet, regardless of any thyroid issues.

    One root vegetable that is the exception is cassava, a common staple in certain parts of Africa. This plant is known to produce toxins that can slow an already underactive thyroid, especially in the presence of an iodine deficiency, Dr. Nasr says. But thats not relevant here in the United States, unless you cook cassava and you eat it every day.

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