Understanding the Risk Factors for Thyroid Disease
Thyroid disease is very common, but there are some people who are much more likely to develop a thyroid condition than others. What are the risk factors for thyroid disease? The main or primary cause of Thyroid disease is hereditary, if your mother or father has thyroid disease, then there is a high probability that you will inherit it. Women are much more likely than men to develop a thyroid condition.
Why is it important to know your risk factors for thyroid disease? Whether your thyroid is overactive or underactive, the initial symptoms of thyroid disease can be subtle. For example, you may note that you are a little more tired, have cold hands and feet, or have experienced weight gain and dismiss this as being due to age, or being less active. In other words, the symptoms are often very “nonspecific” and easily attributed to something else.
Having an awareness of your risk factors may prompt you to learn about the symptoms of hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism so that you will recognize them more quickly if they should appear. People often note, in retrospect, that they have been suffering symptoms of thyroid disease for many years prior to their diagnosis. The symptoms of thyroid problems are usually more recognizable in men than in women.
Let’s take a look at the possible risk factors for thyroid disease.
Women face a greater risk of developing thyroid disease than men. While experts vary in their estimates, it’s said that women are anywhere from six to eight times more likely to develop a thyroid condition than men. This may be due to an increased risk of hormonal influences.
A personal history of undiagnosed, untreated misdiagnosed or undertreated thyroid disease increases your current risk of thyroid disease with severe side effects. For most people, thyroid disorders are hereditary. It is estimated that 80% of the population are at risk for thyroid disease. To further compound the problem if after a pregnancy you had postpartum thyroiditis that resolved itself, you are at increased risk of developing a thyroid problem again after pregnancy or later in life. A personal history of any autoimmune disease (such as Lupus, Rheumatoid Arthritis, or Celiac disease) may increase your risk of developing an autoimmune thyroid disease such as Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis or Graves disease.
A family history of thyroid disease increases your risk of developing thyroid disease. Thyroid disorders are usually hereditary. According to Dr. Broda Barnes and Dr. Thierry Hertoghe estimated that 80% of the population are at risk for thyroid disease. The risk is greater if you have a first-degree female relative (mother, sister, daughter) with thyroid disease. A family history of having an autoimmune disease also increases your risk of developing an autoimmune thyroid disease such as Hashimoto’s disease or Graves disease.
Surgical removal of all or part of the thyroid usually results in hypothyroidism, an underactive thyroid.
Radioactive Iodine Treatment (RAI)
Radioactive iodine treatment to the thyroid, which is used to treat Graves disease/hyperthyroidism, and is often used as part of thyroid cancer treatment after surgery, typically results in hypothyroidism.
The risk of developing autoimmune thyroid disease or a temporary thyroiditis increases slightly while pregnant or during the first-year postpartum. Roughly 7 percent of women who give birth develop postpartum thyroiditis, but this often goes undiagnosed as symptoms such as fatigue, mood swings, and hair loss are common symptoms in the postpartum period, are over looked by their doctors and the current thyroid blood tests are not a valid measure for treatment.
If you are, or were a smoker, you have an increased risk of developing autoimmune thyroid disease. Cigarettes contain thiocyanate, a chemical that adversely affects the thyroid gland and acts as an anti-thyroid agent. Researchers have found that smoking may increase the risk, severity, and side effects of hypothyroidism in people with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, and smoking worsens the effects of thyroid eye disease, a complication of Grave’s disease. Smoking also reduces the effectiveness of treatment for thyroid eye disease.
- (from fruit fumigants and processed bakery products, that new car smell, paint, carpet)
- (chloramine byproduct from drinking water chlorination)
- *Ammonium perchlorate
- (rocket fuel found in tap water)
- (naturally occurring in well water plus drinking water fluoridation and in your tooth paste)
- (from cigarette smoke)
Chemical GOITROGENS expose you to an increased risk of developing autoimmune thyroid disease. The Goitrogen that you are constantly exposed to is Bromide, as it is even put into our food sources.
Lack of sufficient Iodine—iodine deficiency—increases the risk of hypothyroidism and goiter (thyroid enlargement.). Iodine is essential to convert the T4 into an active form the body can use. Many doctors fail to give their patients iodine, when giving their patients Thyroid medications.
Medications and Treatments
Certain medical treatments and drugs increase the severity of an underactive thyroid. These include Interferon Beta-1b, Interleukin-4, immunosuppressant’s, antiretroviral’s, monoclonal antibody (Campath-1H), bone marrow transplant, and (Cordarone) amiodarone, among others. Lithium can affect the thyroid gland in several ways. This medication used for bipolar disorder is linked to goiter, autoimmune thyroiditis, and hyperthyroidism.
Some foods—when eaten raw and in large quantities—naturally contain chemicals that can promote a goiter as it cancels out the iodine, that is essential to make the thyroid into an active form the body can use increases the persons hypothyroidism symptoms and decreases the quality of their lives. These chemicals are known as goitrogens. Some foods that are high in goitrogens include cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage, brussel sprouts, broccoli, turnips, rutabagas, kohlrabi, radishes, cauliflower, African cassava, millet, and kale.
Note: Those with underlying thyroid antibodies and a tendency toward autoimmunity appear to be at more risk.
Soy is considered a goitrogen, and some studies have shown that soy increases the persons symptoms who already suffer from hypothyroidism. It also interferes with thyroid medication absorption. Many experts recommend that people with autoimmune thyroid disease or goiter who have not had their thyroid surgically removed avoid overconsumption of soy products, and in particular, concentrated and processed forms of soy such as those found in pills and powders.
Exposure of the neck area to radiation, such as in medical treatments for head or neck cancer, or X-Rays, increases the risk of autoimmune thyroid disease, and thyroid cancer. Accidental radiation exposure in the environment, like that experienced by people who were exposed to radiation-contaminated air, food, milk, and water after the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear accident, also increases the risk of autoimmune thyroid disease and thyroid cancer.
Too much stress—including major life events like death or divorce, or major physical stress like a car accident—is considered an environmental risk factor for autoimmune thyroid disease.
The adrenals play a major role with the Thyroid. The adrenals are your “lifesaving” organs because they control your body’s hormones and help you survive in stressful situations. They act as control organs for your “fight or flight” response and secrete many of our most important hormones including: pregnenolone, adrenaline, estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, DHEA and cortisol.
When your adrenals are constantly stressed, this sets off an autoimmune, inflammatory response in your entire body. The adrenal-hypothalamus-pituitary feedback loop regulates the secretion of cortisol. All of your organs and your immunity are impacted negatively by the resulting constant assault of cortisol. Low adrenal function can actually cause someone’s thyroid problem to be much worse than it would be otherwise.