Hyperthyroidism or overactive thyroid happens when the thyroid gland goes into overdrive and produces too much thyroxine, which is the thyroid hormone. Hyperthyroidism can result in an abnormal increase in the body’s metabolism rates. This can cause irregular and rapid heart beat, sudden weight loss, nervousness, irritability and sweating. Other symptoms of hyperthyroidism are increased appetite, changes in pattern of menstruation, trembling of fingers and hands, increased heat sensitivity, difficulty sleeping, muscle weakness, fatigue, increased and frequent bowel movements and an enlarged thyroid gland. The enlarged thyroid gland will show as a swelling at the base of the neck and is called goiter.
There are various causes of hyperthyroidism – toxic adenoma, Graves’ disease, Plummer’s disease or thyroiditis. The thyroid gland and its hormones are critical for maintaining body temperature, regulate protein production, maintain optimal heart rate and it affects the way the body utilizes carbohydrates and fats. It also produces calcitonin which a calcium regulating hormone.
Hyperthyroidism can be treated using anti-thyroid medications. Sometimes or a portion of the thyroid gland will be surgically removed. Hyperthyroidism must be treated at once to prevent complications. Most people respond well to treatment.
Kelp is a form of seaweed and there are more than 30 types of this plant growing on our ocean beds. It is rich in nutrients and is classified as brown algae. Kelp contains around 21 amino acids, 70 minerals, trace elements, enzymes, potassium, calcium, iron, enzymes, magnesium, manganese and iodine. It also contains polysaccharides and vitamin B1, B12 and B2. It provides various health benefits to the circulatory system, heart, glands like the thyroid and also has cancer fighting properties and provides healthy teeth and bones.
Kelp is easily used in our diet for it is available in many forms – powder, granules, liquid, and meal. It can be sprinkled on various foods as a replacement for salt or taken as a supplement. Sea kelp is also available as animal feed for livestock and can also be used in pet feed for dogs, birds, cats etc.
Kelp is also used as an organic fertilizer to improve nutrient-deficit soils.
Kelp Benefits for Hyperthyroidism
Deficiency in iodine can cause brain damage, mental retardation, goiter, developmental and growth abnormalities and such. According to the WHO, around 30% of the entire population of the world (which accounts for around 2 billion people) suffers from iodine deficiency. This deficiency is mainly due to poor quality of soil in many regions. The recommended daily dosage of iodine is 1.1mg (upper limit).
While an excess of iodine through supplements can cause hyperthyroidism, there are many studies which suggest that kelp and its supplements do not have such high levels of iodine to cause toxicity and lead to thyroid problems. However, in the case of a 39-year old woman with hyperthyroidism and enlarged thyroid, without any genetic predisposition to thyroid disorders, it was found that she had been given an overdose of kelp supplements. She had been on an herbal kelp tea diet prescribed by a Chinese alternative medicine practitioner for four weeks. This caused an overdose of iodine and symptoms of hyperthyroidism.
She required anti-thyroid drugs to treat her condition. Hence, while iodine content in kelp can benefit thyroid disorders, the intake must be regulated.
Always consult your doctor if you plan to include kelp in your diet and you suffer from hyperthyroidism. Excessive kelp is said to induce hyperthyroidism due to the high levels of iodine present in it. Kelp not harvested in protected waters can be contaminated with high levels of lead, cadmium, aluminum, mercury, arsenic and other toxic metals. Pregnant and breastfeeding women are advised against using kelp supplements. If you are taking anti-arrhythmia medications, let your doctor know before taking kelp supplements for both have high levels of iodine. Kelp maybe discontinued a few weeks before or after surgery or before an X-ray is due which requires contrast media.
Excess kelp may cause diarrhea since it has laxative properties. This could cause dehydration.
Some people may suffer from allergies to any of the nutrients contained in kelp like iodine. If you develop allergic reactions like difficulty breathing, swollen lips, hives or faster heartbeat, discontinue usage and consult your doctor.