The thyroid gland is much more essential than most are taught growing up. Sure, you may have learned about the brain, the heart, our lungs, and your joints, but you likely did not gain a thorough understanding of the thyroid before reaching adulthood. Understanding thyroid health along with conditions such as hypothyroidism is essential whether you have been diagnosed with an underperforming thyroid or an autoimmune disease which has inadvertently impacted the health of your thyroid. With a clear understanding of the thyroid and conditions associated with it, implement a healthy and nutritious diet to keep flares and imbalances at bay as you work towards providing yourself and your thyroid some relief.
What is the Thyroid’s Job?
The thyroid gland is responsible for regulating the hormones in the body by making thyroid hormones and secreting them equally into the blood. It is located in the front of your neck, with glands on both sides beneath the jaw. Thyroid glands are not only responsible for maintaining a hormonal balance in the body, but they are also linked to energy levels, body temperature, brain function, heart function, muscle function, and the proper function of all other organs throughout the body.
A thyroid issue or disease that is ignored can lead to fogginess, confusion, and even life-threatening health issues that impact organs seemingly at random.
The thyroid is a complicated butterfly-shaped gland. Not only is it small, but it is extremely powerful. Some of the most common symptoms associated with the thyroid gland include:
- Hypothyroidism: “Hypo” refers to underperforming, hence the term to describe an underactive thyroid gland. This condition affects nearly 1 to 2% of all people worldwide, but it is seemingly more present in women. When the thyroid is incapable of creating and managing hormones released into the body, the brain, heart, joints, skin, and other organs are put at risk. If the thyroid gland is not working properly, your heart may have difficulty pumping blood, your voice may sound harsh, and you simply may not have energy regardless of the amount of sleep you received the night before. An underactive thyroid requires constant medication, proper nutrition, and regular doctor’s visits to ensure a balance in the body.
- Hyperthyroidism: Hyperthyroidism is another thyroid-centric condition that impacts mostly women. As opposed to the term ‘hypo’, ‘hyper’ describes an overly active thyroid gland. Individuals diagnosed with hyperthyroidism are likely to struggle with keeping weight on their bodies, heart palpitations, and even the inability to absorb nutrients properly.
- Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis: In addition to hypo and hyperthyroidism conditions, the thyroid may also struggle with an autoimmune disease, such as Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. Hashimoto’s is often diagnosed when an individual is already hypo and experiencing swollen glands and other common signs and symptoms of an autoimmune flare-up. Working with an endocrinologist along with additional specialists such as a rheumatologist, a nephrologist, a neurologist, and even a nutritionist is highly advisable for those who have any form of autoimmune active in their bodies.
Nutrition and the Thyroid Gland
If you have been diagnosed with an underactive thyroid gland (Hypothyroidism), or if you have recently discovered you have an autoimmune disease such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, you may be wondering how you can help the health of your thyroid gland in everyday life. While there are no strict diets designed solely for thyroid gland issues, there are a few lifestyle changes you can make to keep flares and imbalances in the thyroid to a minimum.
What to Eat to Improve Thyroid Health
Choosing the right foods for your thyroid can help keep flare-ups and imbalances at bay, especially in combination with adequate exercise and the right medication for your body. Shop for whole fruits, vegetable, grains, and meats the next time you are picking up groceries. Steer clear of a grocery store’s aisles, as they are often jammed packed with starchy, processed, junk food. Stick to the following foods when crafting meals for you and your family each week:
- Meats: Fish, Chicken, Burger, Steak, Shrimp, Brisket, Ribs
- Vegetables: Fresh asparagus, green beans, leeks, Brussel sprouts, mushrooms, onions, celery, avocado.
- Fruits: Raspberries, blueberries, tomatoes, bananas, plums, oranges, apples.
Foods to Limit While Caring for Your Thyroid Gland:
Limit the amount of soy-based food you eat and digest as soy products have the ability to interfere with how your body processes and absorbs the nutrients from the food itself. Ensuring your body has adequate iodine levels by eating iodine-rich foods, or supplementation but being cautions not to take too much as this can cause problems too. Avoid eating starchy, processed foods as much as possible. Sugar and starch are known triggers for inflammation and disruption throughout the body, especially if you have been diagnosed with an autoimmune thyroid disease such as Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis.
Checking your thyroid levels every 3 months can be a great way to assess progress. This can be done via your doctor, endocrinologist, or privately.
Understanding the significance of your thyroid health is imperative whether you have a healthy and working thyroid or if you have recently been diagnosed with an inactive (or overactive) gland. Choosing the right diet and nutrition is one way to combat signs and symptoms that thyroid gland diseases cause to manifest, allowing you to live life without disruption or a constant battle with your metabolism. With the right medication, doctor appointment follow-ups, and choices when it comes to preparing and eating food, find a sense of peace and relief as you move forward with your life while living with thyroid disease.