Dr. Chen Weighs In on Thyroid Supplements for Men’s Health

Texas Diabetes and Endocrinology’s very own Dr. Jean Chen recently shared her expertise on thyroid supplements with Men’s Health. In the article, Dr. Chen and other endocrinologists explain the importance of checking with your doctor for thyroid concerns and why thyroid supplements could do more harm than good. Dr. Chen says doctors generally don’t recommend thyroid supplements because they are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. 

To learn more about the risks of thyroid supplements, read the article here.

To learn more about the diagnosis and treatment of thyroid conditions, schedule a consultation with one of our board certified endocrinologists in Austin or Round Rock by requesting an appointment online or call (512) 458-8400.

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thyroid nodules
National Thyroid Awareness Month: What you Need to Know about Thyroid Nodules

A thyroid nodule is a growth of thyroid tissue that can sometimes present as a lump in the thyroid gland. According to the National Library of Medicine, thyroid nodules are detected by physical examination in approximately 5-7% of adults. Thyroid nodules are fairly common, and most nodules are benign or non-cancerous. In fact, it is estimated that nearly 90% of nodules are benign. However, although less common, some nodules do contain cancer. 

This National Thyroid Awareness Month, we’re sharing what you need to know about thyroid nodules.

Unfortunately, there is no known cause for most thyroid nodules, even though they are common. There are a few risk factors for developing thyroid nodules, including:

Causes and Risk Factors

  • Increasing age
  • Living in areas of iodine deficiency
  • Exposure to radiation
  • Smoking

Thyroid Nodule Symptoms

Generally, thyroid nodules do not cause symptoms and blood tests like thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) are normal. Though rare, some patients have described symptoms such as:

  • Pain in the neck, jaw, or ear
  • Difficulty breathing or swallowing
  • Hoarseness
  • A feeling of fullness in the neck

Because symptoms do not usually occur, it’s important to get regular checkups and that you make sure your doctor checks your neck.

Diagnosis and Treatment

It is not possible to differentiate benign from cancerous nodules by symptoms or clinical exams alone. Once a nodule is discovered specialized tests, such as an ultrasound and fine needle biopsy, may be recommended. If you have been diagnosed with a nodule, we offer a Thyroid Nodule Fast Track Program which guarantees you an appointment within two weeks.

Our thyroid ultrasounds and biopsies are done on-site in the comfort of an outpatient setting for your convenience. If you have a thyroid nodule that requires a biopsy, this procedure will be performed in our office with ultrasound-guided technology. In some cases, benign nodules may need to be removed surgically. If surgery is not recommended, your doctor will monitor the nodule for changes. 

Thyroid patients can expect to see their endocrinologist in addition to a physician extender in developing and maintaining a treatment plan for their condition. We don’t believe in a “one size fits all” treatment plan. Our providers take the time to get to know their patients and work diligently to find a plan that is based upon the patient’s needs.

Contact Texas Diabetes Thyroid Specialists Today

To schedule an appointment with an endocrinologist at our Central Austin, South Austin or Round Rock location, call 512-458-8400 or request an appointment online.

Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook and Instagram and check back with us each month as we provide you helpful wellness and health information.

Is there a connection between your thyroid and high cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a substance that your body needs to build cells and produce hormones and vitamin D. You’ve probably heard about the importance of monitoring your cholesterol levels, but did you know that there can be a connection between your thyroid and high cholesterol? In some cases, treating an underactive thyroid could resolve cholesterol problems.

What causes high cholesterol?

There are a few main causes of high cholesterol to consider:

  • Diet – Consuming too many foods that are high in fat.
  • Genetics – Some people inherit genes that cause them to produce too much cholesterol.
  • Hypothyroidism – The decreased metabolism caused by this condition can impact your levels of total cholesterol. 

What is the connection between your thyroid and high cholesterol?

Thyroid hormones regulate your body’s metabolism. If you are affected by hypothyroidism, your metabolism is slowed. This impacts the breakdown of cholesterol and triglycerides in your body, leading to high cholesterol levels.

If you have high cholesterol levels, it’s important to talk with your doctor about whether a thyroid screening can be ordered to avoid undiagnosed hypothyroidism and to ensure you are receiving the correct treatment.

What are some lifestyle changes that will help lower cholesterol?

If you still have high cholesterol after testing for and treating a thyroid diagnosis, there are some steps you can take to help get your cholesterol back into balance – the biggest changes being your diet and exercise routine.  

Incorporate more foods into your diet that substitute monounsaturated fats and try to eliminate trans fats, which are often found in processed foods. It’s also helpful to make sure you are getting enough omega-3 fatty acids and soluble fiber in your diet. Eating more foods like salmon, almonds, oats, beans, and vegetables will help you to accomplish this. 

Consistent exercise is also an important step to lower your cholesterol. Try incorporating more walks into your day or take a yoga class! Exercising for at least 30 minutes a day can make all the difference.

We know that these big lifestyle changes can be overwhelming, but we’re here to help! Our NextStepMD Weight Loss Program is designed to help you lose weight, maintain weight loss, and gain better control of your health. We offer one-on-one sessions and work closely with our patients to recommend the methods that offer the greatest opportunities of success. We’ll educate, motivate and support you as you establish new habits. Our medical team will help guide you through the program with ease and support!

Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook and Instagram and check back with us each month as we provide you helpful wellness and health information.

Thyroid Conditions

Thyroid.  For many of us, the word conjures up a sense of curiosity, wonderment, even awe!  What is the thyroid gland and what exactly does it do?  How do you know if you’ve got a thyroid problem? 

Let’s start with the basics. The thyroid gland is a small, butterfly shaped gland that sits in the base of your neck.  It makes thyroid hormones (thyroxine and triiodothyronine) which regulate your metabolism.  Metabolism is a series of processes that control how your body creates and uses energy.  So…why do we hear so much about thyroid and thyroid dysfunction?  Well, it turns out that there are some pretty common illnesses that can affect thyroid health.   

A thyroid hormone deficiency is a state called HYPOTHYROIDISM.  You may have this if your thyroid gland is the target of an autoimmune attack (this is called Hashimoto’s disease) or if you’ve had your thyroid gland irradiated or surgically removed.  Since thyroid hormone is your source of metabolism, untreated hypothyroidism can cause a multitude of symptoms: fatigue, lethargy, weight gain, dry skin, depression,  constipation, hair loss, cold intolerance, irregular menstrual cycles in women-these are all symptoms of slowed metabolism. The solution is simple-take thyroid hormone replacement which comes as an oral supplement.

A thyroid hormone excess is a state called HYPERTHYROIDISM. You may have this if your gland is the target of an autoimmune attack (this is called Graves disease) or if you thyroid gland grows renegade chunks of thyroid tissue that lose the ability to regulate the amount of thyroid hormone they produce.  These so called “hot nodules” manufacture extra thyroid hormone without your body’s permission.  Finally, you can develop hyperthyroidism if your thyroid gland becomes acutely injured – an injured thyroid gland sheds pre-formed thyroid hormone.   This is called a thyroiditis. Medications, autoimmune attacks, viruses and pregnancy can cause thyroiditis.   Hyperthyroidism can also cause of multitude of symptoms: rapid heart rate, weight loss, tremors, palpitations, frequent and loose stools, anxiety, irregular menstrual cycles in women-these are all symptoms of accelerated metabolism.  The solution is not quite as straightforward as it is for a hypothyroid state but a hyperthyroid state can certainly be treated. Depending on the underlying cause, a hyperthyroid state can be treated with surgery (removal of the thyroid gland), medications, or irradiation. In some cases of thyroiditis, the thyroid gland heals on its own.

The thyroid gland is also prone to structural illnesses. Thyroid glands often grow NODULES – a thyroid nodule is an abnormal growth of thyroid cells that forms a lump within the thyroid gland.  While the  vast majority of nodules (probably more than 95%) are benign, some nodules do contain cancers within them so timely evaluation is important.  Thyroid ultrasound is an important tool used to assess nodule size and characteristics.  If necessary, a thyroid fine needle aspiration biopsy can be done to assess the potential for malignancy.  This is a relatively easy and straightforward procedure that can done in the physician’s office with the aid of an ultrasound machine.

Finally…a word about thyroid hormone replacement.  Oral thyroid hormone supplementation comes in various forms:

One synthetic version of thyroid hormone is called Levothyroxine-this is synthetic thyroxine also known as T4. There are several branded versions of Levothyroxine: Synthroid, Levoxyl, Unithroid, Tirosint are some common ones.  Generally speaking, branded levothyroxine preparations are usually consistent in terms of potency from batch to batch. Generic formulations may not be as consistent so your provider may specify a branded version.

Another synthetic version of thyroid hormone is called Liothyronine.  This is synthetic triiodothyronine also known as T3. The most common branded version of Liothyronine is called Cytomel.  Liothyronine is absorbed in a more rapid fashion and some patients report an increased sense of well-being when it is used in combination with Levothyroxine.  Although the guidelines published by the ATA (American Thyroid Association) conclude that Levothyroxine should remain the standard of treatment for hypothyroidism, many physicians do prescribe combination therapy with Levothyroxine and Liothyronine in patients who may not feel as well on Levothyroxine monotherapy.

The nonsynthetic version of thyroid hormone is dessicated animal thyroid extract.  This is exactly what it sounds like-it’s thyroid hormone extracted from the thyroid glands of animals-most commonly, pigs. Animal thyroid extracts were first used to treat hypothyroidism in the late 19th century but became largely replaced by synthetic versions.  One concern: animal thyroid extracts have more T3 in relation to T4 compared to the ratio produced by a healthy human gland.  T3 may place a more potent metabolic demand on the heart and in some individuals can precipitate dangerous heart rhythms. For this reason, your provider may be reluctant to prescribe this type of thyroid hormone if you are older and/or have an underlying heart condition.

In addition to thyroid health, there are numerous factors that contribute to a person’s physical and mental sense of well-being, or lack thereof.  Among these factors: diet and sleep patterns, coexisting disease states, relationships with other human beings, the quality of the surrounding environment, the ability to navigate stress, etc…. When we feel unwell, we are best served to step back and take a look at the big picture.  Because while the thyroid gland is indeed a powerful factory of thyroid hormone production and thyroid hormone itself is an incredibly capable hormone, the thyroid is only one small part of a much more complex and sophisticated piece of machinery we call the human body. 

If you have been thinking of having your thyroid levels checked out the endocrinologists at Texas Diabetes can help walk you through the process. When you trust Texas Diabetes & Endocrinology with your thyroid condition, you are assigned your own, personal team of carers who will get to know you and tailor a treatment plan that fits your individual needs.

Schedule your appointment with us today.

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