The thyroid is an important gland, and problems with this gland may be more common than we may think. Millions of people in India suffer from thyroid diseases. The disease can affect anyone at any age. Hypothyroidism is more common compared to hyperthyroidism. To spread awareness about thyroid disorders, Medicircle is speaking to eminent doctors so that people are able to manage this condition well with expert insights and advice.
Dr. Akshat Chadha is a General Physician along with an MBA in healthcare management with expertise in lifestyle medicine. As a doctor, he has done extensive work in the field of lifestyle and disease management with special emphasis on Thyroid, Diabetes, PCOD, and Obesity.
Understand what’s thyroid gland and hypothyroidism is
Dr. Akshat explains, “Thyroid is a gland which is based at the base of the neck and there is another core gland called the pituitary gland, which is in the brain. So, when we talk about hormones of the thyroid, we have two hormones that are a T3 (triiodothyronine) and T4 (thyroxine), which is secreted by the thyroid gland, and the TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone), which is secreted from the pituitary gland located in the brain. So, the pituitary gland and the thyroid gland work with each other and that's how the thyroid hormones are regulated.
Underactive thyroid is known as hypothyroidism and overactive thyroid is referred to as hyperthyroidism. It could be very rare that the pituitary gland could be causing hyper or hypothyroidism. 40-50 years ago, the basic cause of hypothyroidism was iodine deficiency. But now this deficiency is eliminated because of iodine in the white salt.
So, today when we are talking about the causes of hypothyroidism, the most common cause that we are looking at and rather talking about is something called autoimmune thyroiditis, predominantly Hashimoto's thyroiditis. So, what is Hashimoto? What does autoimmune thyroiditis mean? Autoimmunity is a condition where the body starts attacking its own thyroid gland. In this scenario, what happens is that because the body is attacking, the thyroid becomes underactive. However, hypothyroidism is still not as bad as the other auto autoimmune conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and sjogren’s syndrome because it's an easily manageable condition.
There is also family history involved in hypothyroidism which is very common and it is extremely important to understand that the condition is at least five times more common in women than in men. There are other causes like if certain medications if used over a long period of time can cause hypothyroidism. Then, there are certain factors like surgery or radioactive iodine which can eventually lead to hypothyroidism. There are certain factors like radiation for chemo of head and neck cancer and immunotherapy which can also lead to an underactive thyroid,” informs Dr. Akshat.
Lifestyle has a major impact on your thyroid health
Dr. Akshat points out, “All your habits put together is something which forms your lifestyle. Your thyroid is a metabolic gland. How quickly the food that you eat breaks down and gets created into energy depends on your metabolism. We always say that the person is prone to putting on weight, that's because of their metabolism. So, when we talk about the thyroid, being a metabolic gland, if you have to support it, then adequate exercise, good sleep pattern, etc. would play a major role in helping you rev up your metabolism. We need to take care of the stress levels too. If we are negative and if we are stressed, we don't feel like doing things. We are not able to sleep well. We don't get up with proper energy the next day and we feel fatigued. So, when we don't do these things properly, what are we doing? We reach out for things like comfort food, sugary foods, which eventually load up the thyroid which is trying to compensate for the metabolism, and eventually, you realize that the thyroid-stimulating hormone is getting affected which impacts the thyroid health.”
Dr. Akshat further says, “When we talk about food, there are minerals and nutrients like zinc, selenium, and L-tyrosine. All these have an impact on the underactive thyroid. However, you may or may not require to use a supplement of these. I don't believe in self-supplementation. Nuts and seeds and maybe a little bit of wheatgrass, green leafy vegetables, magnesium can play a major role in thyroid health. There should be a balanced diet of enough proteins, enough fiber, and even carbohydrates. You don't have to cut out carbohydrates completely and there should be no fat diets. If these things can come together with eating on a timely basis and eating the right way, it would help. Make sure your gut is healthy, and there is nothing like acidity, constipation, indigestion because that indicates that you are not digesting well, and that would eventually come on the metabolism. Taking care of the gut health, taking care of water intake is extremely important. So, 100% it’s your lifestyle that plays a big role in your thyroid health,” says Dr. Akshat.
Millions of people suffer from thyroid problems
Dr. Akshat emphasizes, “Hypothyroidism affects around 10 - 11% of the population and hyperthyroidism affects 3 - 4% of the people. So, when we combine that, it's roughly 15%. There are roughly about 150 million people who are actually suffering from thyroid disorders as we speak now. Now, the important part is that when we talk about hypothyroidism (11% - 10%), only 2-3% or maybe a maximum of 4% could be Hashimoto, that is the autoimmune but the other conditions are actually something called subclinical hypothyroidism. Subclinical is an area where there is a constant debate going on whether to start the medication or not to start the medication. I am not getting into that but the point is, if you talk about our population, the current population is about 1.3 – 1.4 billion people. If you take out the percentage it would be a huge number of people suffering from thyroid disorders in our country.”
No evidence to prove a connection between thyroid and Covid
Dr. Akshat says, “Studies are still going on but currently, as we speak at this point, there is no evidence to prove that a person suffering from thyroid disorder is more prone to getting Covid attack. But having said that my personal view would be that if you have uncontrolled thyroid disease whether it's hyper or hypo, it is a point of concern for me from a doctor's perspective, because I feel thyroid has a lot of vague symptoms, like fatigue and lethargy, which prevents a person from following the desired lifestyle. I think if you can take care of yourself and if you take care of your lifestyle parameters, you can take care of your thyroid, which will further help you build your immunity. Then you will be in a zone where you can protect yourself from Covid. Being a thyroid patient, if you are suffering from Covid, it does not at all mean that your recovery is going to get hampered. But if you take care of yourself whether you have thyroid ailments or not, you will recover well from Covid,” mentions Dr. Akshat.
(Edited by Amrita Priya)