Thyroid disorders and diabetes are some of the most common hormonal disorders that go hand in hand in a large number of people. Though both thyroid conditions and diabetes have several well-defined treatment strategies, it becomes harder to manage when these conditions co-exist in people. In this article, we will read more about how thyroid disorders affect your blood sugar and insulin levels.
What is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a condition that affects your body’s ability to produce or use a hormone called insulin, which causes high blood glucose (sugar) levels. Your body digests the food you consume and turns it into glucose (sugar). Insulin, a hormone produced by the beta cells in your pancreas, helps the sugar in your bloodstream to enter your cells where it is converted into energy.
When you have Type 1 Diabetes, your pancreas produces little to no insulin. If you have Type 2 Diabetes, your cells become insulin resistant, i.e. they are unable to utilize the insulin present in your body.
What are Thyroid Gland Disorders?
The thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped organ that is present over your windpipe. It releases hormones (T3 and T4) that help control your metabolism, hormone regulation, absorption of glucose from food, stimulating the production of protein and carbohydrate, breakdown of substances like cholesterol, triglyceride, insulin, etc.
When your thyroid gland is overactive, it produces high concentrations of thyroid hormones. This condition is called Hyperthyroidism.
When your thyroid gland is underactive, it produces very low concentrations of thyroid hormones. This condition is called Hypothyroidism.
How do Thyroid Disorders Affect Diabetes?
Having Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes can increase your risk of developing thyroid gland disorders by reducing the levels of Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) in your body. TSH, as the name suggests, acts on your thyroid gland to stimulate the production of thyroid hormones. Insulin resistance, which is a common characteristic of Type 2 diabetes, can lead to the abnormal enlargement of the thyroid gland (goiter).
Similarly, having thyroid gland disorders (hyperthyroidism) can make you more likely to develop Type 2 Diabetes due to increased insulin resistance. Thyroid hormones influence the uptake and breakdown of glucose and insulin.
Thyroid and Insulin
Thyroid hormones play a role in breaking down and eliminating Insulin from your body.
- When you have hyperthyroidism, your body breaks down insulin faster so it stays in your bloodstream for a very short time. Hyperthyroidism can also affect the quantity of insulin produced in your body.
- When you have hypothyroidism, insulin stays in your bloodstream for a longer time as your body takes longer to metabolize it. The duration for which insulin stays in your blood affects your blood glucose levels. Hypothyroidism is also associated with decreased insulin sensitivity, where your cells are unable to utilize the insulin present in your blood.
Thyroid and Blood Sugar
- When you have hyperthyroidism, your body absorbs more glucose from your gut and also converts amino acids into glucose in a process called gluconeogenesis.
- Increased activity of thyroid hormones is also associated with increased breakdown of insulin, which results in elevated blood glucose levels.
- When you have hypothyroidism, insulin remains in your bloodstream for a longer duration. This can lead to low blood glucose levels.
Can Diabetes and Thyroid Disorders be Cured?
Both Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes are lifelong conditions that cannot be cured, but can be effectively managed with medication and lifestyle changes. Some thyroid disorders can be managed with medication, but sometimes hyperthyroidism may require surgical intervention.
Managing Diabetes and Thyroid Disorder
You can take the following measures to manage your diabetes and thyroid disorders
- Take your medications regularly and as prescribed
- Monitor your blood sugar levels and thyroid hormone levels frequently.
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Eat a balanced and healthy diet
- Get regular exercise
Don’t Have Time To Read?
- Thyroid disorders and diabetes are both hormonal disorders.
- Having a thyroid disorder increases your chances of developing Type 2 diabetes, and having Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes can make you more likely to develop thyroid disorders.
- Thyroid hormones influence the breakdown and elimination of insulin in your body, which in turn affects your blood glucose levels.
- Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes are chronic conditions that cannot be cured. Thyroid disorders can be treated with medication and surgical procedures.
- You can manage your diabetes and thyroid disorder by regularly taking your medicines as prescribed, controlling your glucose and thyroid hormone levels, managing your weight, eating a balanced diet and exercising regularly.
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If taken as prescribed, thyroid medications can improve glycaemic control and normalize any blood sugar fluctuations. But, there are no studies to suggest that thyroid medication would adversely affect blood sugar levels.
Yes, studies suggest that having hypothyroidism can increase your risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes by reducing insulin sensitivity and slowing down your metabolism.
Some studies have found that taking metformin may slightly lower the concentrations of TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone) in your body, but metformin does not directly affect the concentrations of thyroid hormones.
Fiber, which is a major component of diabetes-friendly diets, can interfere with the absorption of your thyroid medication. So it is generally recommended to take thyroid medications on an empty stomach.