Thyroiditis: Types and Treatment
Thyroiditis is the term used when the thyroid gland is inflamed. There are numerous types of thyroiditis and treatment varies depending on the variety you are suffering from.
Located in the neck, the thyroid gland produces hormones that regulate our body’s metabolism and the rate at which our cells grow. Thyroiditis results in an overproduction (hyperthyroidism) or underproduction (hypothyroidism) of these hormones.
Whilst specific treatment for thyroiditis will depend on the type you have, most centre around reducing the inflammation.
You can use over-the-counter medicine such as anti-inflammatories for pain (ibuprofen).
Chinese medicine suggests using herbs such as ginseng, ginger, or mint. These herbs have shown great results at balancing the thyroid function.
If you are suffering from an underactive thyroid gland then Indian ginseng and guggul can help stimulate the production of hormones.
Thyroid function is heavily dependent on iodine. A healthy, balanced diet should provide us with sufficient quantities of iodine but there are cases where supplements may be needed. As iodine is mainly found in fish, dairy products, meat and poultry some vegan or vegetarian diets may be low in iodine.
Types of thyroiditis
Thought to be a genetic disorder, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is the most common form of this condition.
An autoimmune condition the body attacks itself and slowly causes damage to the thyroid. This results in hypothyroidism, symptoms of which include:
- sensitivity to the cold
- dry skin
- weight gain
- heavy menstruation
Treatment for Hashimoto’s thyroiditis
There is no cure for Hashimoto’s thyroiditis but treatment is aimed at reducing the effects of the symptoms of hyperthyroidism and supporting our body’s immune system.
With 70% of our immune system found in the intestine it is important to ensure that we maintain a healthy intestinal flora. Probiotics can help, particularly to prevent candidiasis, which can further harm our immune system.
Studies also show that removing gluten from our diet can lower reduce the level of auto-antibodies to normal so avoiding wheat, rye, and barley could help.
Other ways to help your body include:
- spending some time in the sun – vitamin D is essential in regulating our immune system
- relax – stress produces cortisol, which hinders the activation of thyroid hormones
- detox – steer clear of toxic elements like heavy metals, solvents, chemicals and pesticides
- do some light exercise
- sleep well
There are also some illnesses that increase the body’s production of cortisol, such as an overworked liver, hypoglycemia, insulin resistance, etc., so it is important to keep these conditions under control.
Some vitamins and minerals are essential to the thyroid’s ability to function and you should ensure that your diet is rich in the following:
- folic Acid
- vitamin B2, B3, B6
- vitamin A
de Quervain’s Thyroiditis
Thought to be triggered by a viral infection such as mumps or the flu, the intial symptoms begin with pain in the neck. Symptoms of hyperthyroidism then develop and can last up to 3 months, most cases will improve after this time but 20% of patients may end up with permanent hyperthyroidism.
Hyperthyroidism is where the thyroid produces too many hormones usual, symptoms include
- heat intolerance
- loss of concentration
- increased appetite
- weight loss
- increased sweating
- goitre (swollen thyroid gland)
In the early stages of a diagnosis it is recommended to drink infusions of green tea and lemon balm for its antioxidant properties. Taken twice daily it can help reduce the hyperactivity in the thyroid.
Up to six months after pregnancy antibodies may remain in the body that attack the thyroid. This type of thyroiditis can cause an under or over-active thyroid gland.
Silent or painless thyroiditis
Similar to postpartum thyroiditis, this type occurs in both males and females and its cause is unknown.
Thyroiditis caused by medications or drugs
Some medications like cytikines, lithium, amiodarone or interferons cause side effects such as hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism. Symptoms will only cease when use of these medications ends.
Seen in cancer patients receiving radiotherapy or, ironically, during treatments with radioactive iodine to treat hyperthyroidism.
Acute or infectious thyroiditis
Caused by a bacterial infection symptoms of this type of thyroiditis vary from hypo to hyperthyroidism. The patient generally feels unwell from the infection and so may not be aware that they have contracted thyroiditis. Once the infection has been treated symptoms of thyroiditis usually disappear.
Acupuncture and thyroiditis
The symptoms of thyroiditis may be treated with acupuncture. An alternative medicine, acupuncture is derived from ancient Chinese treatments in which a fine needle is inserted into the skin to stimulate the nerves.
Acunpuncture can be used both to treat the condition of thyroiditis by directly affecting those zones which relate to the thyroid but also to relieve the symptoms of hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism. It is a relaxing treatment and can lower cortisol levels.