Steps You Can Take to Keep Your Thyroid Healthy… And Why it Matters
Chances are, either you or someone you know has thyroid issues. Most thyroid problems present as “hypothyroid”, or underactive thyroid. Women are five times more likely to suffer from hypothyroidism than men, and it’s estimated that millions of people remain undiagnosed.
For such a small gland in the body, the thyroid plays a huge role and is vitally important in keeping our entire body functioning well.
The thyroid gland is responsible for influencing most of the body’s organs, including the heart, brain, liver, kidneys and skin. When the thyroid isn’t functioning well and is untreated, it can lead to elevated cholesterol and heart disease, infertility, osteoporosis, and there is research that links thyroid disease to autoimmune disorders, diabetes, arthritis and anemia.
Symptoms of hypothyroidism include a slower metabolism leading to weight gain, extreme fatigue, constipation, dry skin and hair and hair loss, muscle aches. If you experience any of these symptoms, make an appointment with your physician to have your thyroid checked and make sure it is producing a normal amount of thyroid hormone and that there are no lumps or nodules that could present a problem.
The thyroid gland relies on a sufficient supply of iodine, which it uses to make two different thyroid hormones which then control the signals for so many of your body functions. The foods we eat can either help or hurt! In addition, environmental products take their toll. There has been over 85,000 synthetic chemicals introduced since the 1900s and only a handful have ever been tested for safety. We know that many of these are linked to health issues including thyroid problem.
So how can we be proactive in maintaining a healthy thyroid over the years? The good news is that you can influence the health of your thyroid with the foods you eat and by reducing your exposure to certain day to day toxins.
Let’s start with some dietary suggestions:
- Eat plenty of seafood, or even sea veggies like Nori and Wakame. These are higher in iodine, and the thyroid gland depends on enough iodine to function properly.
- Leafy greens (except kale if you are iodine deficient), which are high in magnesium
- Carrots, sweet potatoes, bananas, tomatoes
- Nuts – high in selenium which helps protect your immune system and thyroid, and helps convert iodine from a food to a usable nutrient
- Take multivitamins with the best vitamin and mineral absorbtion, especially thyroid loving nutrients such as Vitamins A,D,E, niacin, zinc, selenium and manganese
- AVOID – refined baked goods, refined pastas and soft drinks. These are high in bromine, which interferes with the utilization of iodine in the body
- Avoid fatty/fried and sugary foods
- Limit soy if you know you are iodine deficient. Soy can intercept your body’s ability to make hormones from iodine
Environmental/Household changes you can make:
- Limit exposure to pesticides
- Limit exposure to cleaning toxins – convert your home to green/clean products!
- Minimize your exposure and usage of antibacterials, especially Triclosan which is an endocrine disruptor
- Minimize your exposure to Phthalates (Avoid plastics with a #3 resin identification code and replace synthetic fragrances with 100% natural essential oil alternatives)
- Avoid Teflon non-stick cookware. This contains PFOAs, which have been shown to affect the thyroid and lead to obesity (among other negative effects!) Consider using either cast iron, stainless steel, or non-stick ceramic, which is lightweight and super easy to clean!
Lastly, get plenty of sleep! Our bodies do all the repair work while we are sleeping, and most adults don’t get enough. According to the National Sleep Foundation, adults need 7-9 hours per night. All of these tips are important for general well-being, and can help protect such a small but important gland in your body!