The thyroid gland, found in your neck, has a significant impact on your health and the proper functioning of organs including the brain, heart, liver, and kidneys. However, according to The American Thyroid Association, 20 million people in the US are affected by a thyroid disorder.
So, what can we do to look after our thyroid glands and try to keep ailments at bay?
What you eat is hugely important in caring for your thyroid and there are many simple ways you can adjust your diet to avoid issues in later life.
Firstly, try upping your intake of antioxidants. Your thyroid is vulnerable to oxidative stress, so eating colorful fruits and vegetables every day can help ensure you maintain a proper hormone balance.
You should also try to ingest plenty of selenium, which you can get from nuts, fish, broccoli, and onions. Selenium is important, as the thyroid requires it to change hormones ‘thyroxine’ (T4) to ‘triiodothyronine’ (T3) — a crucial process.
Lastly, pack your diet with enough iodine. Iodine is essential to caring for your thyroid, as without it, our bodies wouldn’t be able to create the hormones T3 or T4. To avoid this, consume plenty of seafood and fortified dairy products.
Check your neck
Keeping an eye on any physical changes to your neck is another good way to detect potential issues and care for your thyroid.
To do this, simply get a glass of water and stand in front of a mirror. Extend your neck by pointing your chin towards the ceiling and take a sip of water. As you swallow, use the mirror to look for any lumps. After, gently feel around your thyroid gland for any enlargements or abnormalities.
If you suspect there may be a problem with your thyroid, there are many medication options available nowadays to treat thyroid disorders and improve overall well-being.
For example, liothyronine is used to treat hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid) by replacing or delivering more of the thyroid hormone to the body. Since underactive thyroids cause a range of life-affecting issues such as depression, fatigue, weight gain, constipation, and hair loss; drugs like this can be extraordinarily beneficial to improving quality of life. Remember to always speak with a doctor first before taking new medication.
Cigarettes are packed with a mix of toxins that can adversely affect your thyroid. For example, smoking can not only cause the rise of T4 levels, but also lower the rate of thyroid-stimulating hormones. So, if you’re serious about looking after your thyroid, you may want to consider giving up.
What to avoid
We’ve looked at what you should eat, but what about what you shouldn’t? To care for your thyroid, try to avoid processed foods that are typically packed with fat, sugar and preservatives.
Processed foods are said to trigger intestinal inflammation, which can cause autoimmune flare-ups. Although not directly linked to the thyroid, the autoimmune system obviously affects many parts of the body. Also, try not to eat very high amounts of raw cruciferous vegetables including kale, cabbage, cauliflower, and brussels sprouts. If these are not cooked and you eat a lot of them, you may be ingesting too much of a chemical called ‘goitrogen’ that can interfere with thyroid processes. However, these are of course very healthy foods, so as long as you cook them properly, you should still enjoy them regularly.
Bear in mind these tips to maintain a healthy thyroid and remember to consult with a doctor if you suspect you may have a problem.