The thyroid gland is an important element or one’s overall health. Hormones produced by the thyroid influence nearly every cell in the body. Therefore, this gland impacts one’s metabolism, stress response, brain function, and more. Because the thyroid is responsible for regulating so many bodily functions and systems it may be difficult to believe that one can function properly without one. Although it can be challenging, those without a thyroid can live healthy lives through proper treatment and support.
What Happened to the Thyroid?
There are several reasons one may not have a thyroid. Individual situations influence the impact of not having a thyroid. Each person and their situation is unique and should be treated with that in mind.
In rare cases, the body may not produce a functional thyroid. This means that a person may be born with a malformed or non-functional thyroid gland or simply not have one at all. Situations such as these fall into the category of congenital hypothyroidism. In the United States tests are conducted on newborns to confirm the presence of a functioning thyroid gland. If doctors recognize that the child has congenital hypothyroidism, the newborn is immediately enrolled in hormone replacement treatment. In addition to helping maintain bodily function in adults, optimizing thyroid hormones in children helps combat inhibited growth, lethargy, and delayed mental and physical development.
Another reason one may not have a thyroid is that it was surgically removed via thyroidectomy. This procedure consists of removing most or all the thyroid. Such an action can result in one experiencing a severe shift in symptoms relating to hypothyroidism. There are several reasons one may have their thyroid removed.
A thyroidectomy is most frequently done when one has been diagnosed with thyroid cancer. Removal may also be suggested to a patient exhibiting inconclusive thyroid nodule biopsies. In such a situation, it is difficult to fully discount the presence of thyroid cancer depending on other various factors, a thyroidectomy may be the safest course of action.
Goiter, also known as an enlarged thyroid, or the presence of multiple thyroid nodules may prompt a thyroidectomy. In addition to being cosmetically unappealing, thyroid nodules may cause one to have trouble breathing or swallowing. Removal of the thyroid can resolve this issue but it is an irreversible action which should be completed only after careful consideration.
If conditions such as Graves’ Disease (the leading cause of hyperthyroidism) and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis become severe, a physician may suggest thyroidectomy. Although these conditions are classified as autoimmune disorders, they are highly associated with thyroid dysfunction and hormonal issues. Usually surgical removal of the thyroid is only recommended after a patient is treated with all other available options. However, several other countries promote this procedure more than the United States.
Hypothyroidism and the Thyroid
Those without a thyroid may feel that there is a severe lack of information regarding their condition. However, with increased prevalence of thyroid awareness and greater study conducted on hypothyroidism there is actually a great deal of information regarding their situation.
When one’s thyroid is unable to produce adequate levels of thyroid hormones needed for proper bodily function, the individual is diagnosed with hypothyroidism. If a person is lacking a thyroid, there is no gland present to produce the necessary hormones. Therefore, they are considered hypothyroid. Regardless if a hypothyroid patient has their thyroid gland or not, the condition differs little.
Hypothyroidism promotes a wide range of symptoms that are frequently misconstrued as being caused by other conditions. Hypothyroid patients with or without a thyroid gland will likely experience some or all the following symptoms:
- Weight Gain
- Sensitivity to cold
- Reduced cognitive function or brain fog
- Reduced sleep quality
- Muscle and joint pain or weakness
- Brittle hair and nails
- Reduced libido
Although few differences exist when contrasting hypothyroidism with or without the thyroid gland there are some notable differences that are important to understand.
Hypothyroidism Without a Thyroid
Those with hypothyroidism are frequently directed to avoid substances that slow thyroid function. However, if one is without a thyroid there is little need to be concerned about this because it will have no impact on their non-existent thyroid. Therefore, those lacking a thyroid can be more liberal with their diet. However, as with anyone undergoing hormone replacement treatment, it is important not to overconsume soy. When there is an overabundance of soy in one’s system, it can negatively impact absorption of thyroid hormone. This can negatively impact the effectiveness of one’s thyroid medications.
Without a thyroid, the body cannot produce the critical thyroid hormones T4 and T3. Furthermore, conversion of T4 into T3 primarily takes place in the thyroid (conversion can occur in the peripheral tissues but it is not nearly as efficient). Without a thyroid gland, one will almost assuredly be T3 deficient. For this reason, it is important for hypothyroid patients without a thyroid to be prescribed treatments that include T3 in addition to T4.
Those diagnosed with hypothyroidism frequently must have their levels evaluated and have their medications appropriately adjusted to regulate their thyroid hormones. This is because the thyroid’s function can shift irregularly. However, when one is without a thyroid, there is little fluctuation in their thyroid levels because it is supplied from exterior sources. Those without a thyroid can essentially discount the variability of thyroid function and fluctuations. Therefore, optimization and maintenance of hormone levels may be easier.
Living on Without a Thyroid
Life without a thyroid is possible! Although it may seem like those without a thyroid have been forgotten by the medical community that is not the case. Those without a thyroid are considered hypothyroid. Most information regarding the condition pertains to both persons with and without a thyroid gland. However, it is important to recognize the important differences such as dietary variance, a need for T3 medication and fewer fluctuations in thyroid levels. With proper medical assistance and greater knowledge about hypothyroidism, one can live a fulfilling life even if they don’t have a thyroid.