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Pediatric Thyroid Problems on the Rise: Natural At-Home Prevention
Pediatric thyroid problems and thyroid cancer is the fastest-growing medical problem in today's youth. Find out what is causing this epidemic and how to prevent the spread below.
Did you know that thyroid cancer is the fastest-growing health problem among children today?
New studies show that in the past 30 years, the rate of pediatric thyroid cancer has increased by over 30 percent. The statistics for thyroid problems in children, such as an overactive or underactive thyroid, are rising at an even faster rate.
Why are today’s children having more thyroid issues than before? How can parents identify thyroid issues and prevent them from worsening? Read on to find out more about these shocking statistics below.
According to several studies on pediatric thyroid cancer, it is one of the fastest-growing cancers in children. In fact, a study published in 2009 and published in Clinical Thyroidology found that in the past 30 years, the rate of thyroid cancer in children increased by 1.1 percent per year, which means that children today have a 30 percent higher chance of being diagnosed with thyroid cancer as children in previous generations- but the statistics are still rising.
Statistics show that girls are more likely to have thyroid cancer than boys- about 1 in 100,000 girls have thyroid cancer while 1 in about 200,000 boys have thyroid cancer. Children younger than 10 have about five cases per million per year. Children between ages 10 and 18 have about 18 cases per million.
According to studies, most children suffer from thyroid problems because of trouble with their immune systems caused by an overactive autoimmune response. According to Dr. Moltz, pediatric thyroid expert, the most common cause of overactive thyroids in children is condition called Grave’s disease, which is an autoimmune condition which causes the body to produce antibodies that cause the thyroid to produce too much thyroid hormone.
Medical professionals are less-sure what causes a sluggish thyroid in children- although some studies have linked thyroid problems with a lack of iodine in the diet. In fact, iodine is added to salt in hopes of ensuring that Americans get enough iodine in the diet. However, too much iodine can also have a detrimental effect on the thyroid- as shown by numerous studies from around the world including a 2008 study conducted in Brazil.
These studies found that too much iodine suppresses an enzyme called thyroid peroxidase (TPO), which is necessary to regulate the proper amount of thyroid hormone production. In some cases, reducing the amount of iodine in a person’s diet was able to restore the normal balance of the thyroid even in sluggish patients.
Basically, studies found that too much iodine had a detrimental autoimmune effect on the body and caused the thyroid to produce too-little hormones. In both cases, it seems that thyroid issues in children are often related to the autoimmune system.
Thyroid cancer and other thyroid problems are on the rise among children of all ages. In some cases, it can be difficult to identify if a child has thyroid issues- particularly if the thyroid gland is not enlarged. Use the following symptom checker to determine if your child may be at-risk for thyroid problems or thyroid cancer:
Since thyroid cancer in children is still rare, current medical treatments offer two options. In most cases, surgery is prescribed to treat thyroid cancer. The enlarged thyroid is removed (sometimes only half of the thyroid is removed) and the child is given medication or other traditional cancer treatments.
If a child has thyroid problems- but no diagnosed cancer- there are other possible options. In general, a child can either take hormone supplements to reverse the thyroid imbalance, or, the child can undergo a natural thyroid treatment to regulate hormones without medicine. In some cases, a doctor will recommend removing some or all of a child’s thyroid even if the thyroid is cancer-free- as the thyroid can enlarge without the presence of cancer.
Currently, three common medicines are given to children with thyroid issues. These oral treatments are easy to take and work toward lowering hormone levels and preventing hyperthyroidism. Two common medications are propylthiouracil and methimazole. Doctors may also prescribe radioactive iodine taken orally in addition or instead of the other medications. This will shrink thyroid enlargement and reduce thyroid hormone levels.
Children who have too-low levels of thyroid hormones usually are prescribed a thyroid replacement hormone. The child will have to take this hormone indefinitely until the hormones regulate on their own. Frequent doctor visits and tests are necessary to ensure the hormone levels remain in the correct balance.
Unless thyroid cancer is present- in which case surgery is currently the best-known treatment option- parents can help prevent or reverse thyroid issues by providing a set of lifestyle changes that can prevent autoimmune over-blow and regulate the thyroid to produce the correct amount of thyroid hormones. In general, these tactics should work equally well for both sluggish and over-active thyroid hormones. As always, when attempting a treatment method, discuss the idea and any potential side effects with a qualified health professional.
Remove Junk Food: Children often are fed a steady diet of junk food- which is disaster for the thyroid. Just like adults, children need a diet rich in healthy nutrients from healthy meat sources, fresh fruits, and a variety of vegetables. Most children eat too many grains, which can cause blood sugar spikes that are detrimental to thyroid health. As much as possible, do not allow your children to eat junk food, refined grains, processed foods, and anything you can purchase at a gas station.
Try Adding Protein: Research shows that protein is used to transport thyroid hormones to all the body’s tissues. This means that in a diet lacking in protein, thyroid hormones that are made may not be moving to the correct location. Try upping the amount of protein in your child’s diet, such as through the addition of eggs at one meal a day, or adding in more sources of fish or other healthy protein. Even beans and legumes can provide a healthy dose of protein for children. Avoid soy protein sources- which are known endocrine disruptors.
Serve the Right Fats: A lack of fat in the diet- particularly for children who have rapidly changing hormone levels- can cause the thyroid to revolt. A huge variety of fats are quite beneficial for thyroid regulation. Children should not worry about eating too much fat, unless they are consuming unhealthy fats like canola oil, corn oil, soybean oil, and hydrogenated oil products. Fats from olives, avocado, flax, fish, nuts, cheese and dairy, butter, omega-3 fats, and coconut are all amazingly healthy for growing children.
Provide the Right Nutrients: Just like everything else in the body, the thyroid requires the right building blocks of nutrients to function properly. You can provide these nutrients in the form of fresh foods, or add in supplements to fill in any nutrient gaps. Studies show that the following nutrients are most effective in boosting thyroid function:
Offer Probiotics: Since the autoimmune system is linked with most cases of pediatric thyroid issues, it is important to regulate the immune system to prevent autoimmune diseases from forming in the first place. In many cases, autoimmune problems occur with an imbalance of bacteria in the body. Providing a daily probiotic, as well as a variety of fermented foods, can help children restore their autoimmune balance and reverse any problems associated with bacterial imbalances. In addition to thyroid issues, behavioral issues, nervous system disorders, and even some mental problems have been linked to an imbalance of bacteria in the intestines.
Remove Stress: Children in today’s world face a huge amount of stress from over-scheduling, the pressures of finding a career early, and other day-to-day stresses. Removing stress can help prevent chronic inflammation in the body which can lead to thyroid problems. Help your children have dedicated times to relax- both daily in small sessions and periodically for longer periods throughout the year.
Although the rate of expansion of thyroid problems in children is alarming- it appears it is a highly treatable condition. Few children die from thyroid problems and thyroid cancer, which is good news. However, thyroid problems in children show a baseline problem with how children today are raised and fed. Simply by changing the lifestyle and diet of children, many of the triggers for autoimmune problems and thyroid imbalances are removed.
Additionally, feeding children a healthy diet right from the start will offer them a foundation of health that can prevent many common health problems that occur in adulthood as a result of an unhealthy lifestyle and diet. Even if your children show no signs of thyroid issues today, changing unhealthy lifestyle habits will help them grow into the best adults they can be as they age.
Napolitano G et al. Is zinc deficiency a cause of subclinical hypothyroidism in Down syndrome? Ann Genet 1990
Chanoine JP. Selenium and thyroid function in infants, children and adolescents. Biofactors 2003
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