The thyroid has the power to affect weight gain, digestion, and overall energy. But what can you do to keep it in tip-top shape? The first step is awareness! Learn about the micronutrients that are integral to thyroid health, and you’ll be in a better position to understand what this little gland needs to be successful.
The Important Role of the Thyroid
Wait a minute – where is the thyroid, and what does it do? Shaped like a tiny little butterfly, the thyroid gland is positioned in the neck, and it’s a super-important part of the endocrine system.
In addition to making hormones and helping to regulate metabolism, the thyroid is also linked to many other important systems in the body, including those that involve the heart, skeletal system, digestive tract and nervous system. Though it’s little, the thyroid has big responsibilities!
What Happens When the Thyroid Works Too Fast, Or Too Slow
There are two conditions commonly linked with the thyroid – hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism. The easy way to think about these is to imagine the thyroid working too fast (hyperthyroidism) or working too slow (hypothyroidism).
With hyperthyroidism, individuals may experience rapid weight loss, an abnormally fast heartbeat, and anxiety. Hypothyroidism seems to hurtle the body in the other direction, causing consistent weight gain, constipation, and overall fatigue.
Iodine and Selenium – Micronutrients that Help the Thyroid
Researchers have found that iodine and selenium are absolutely essential for proper thyroid functioning. In fact, iodine deficiency is globally recognized as a leading cause of brain damage – one that most doctors acknowledge is preventable by getting sufficient iodine in the diet.
Possible Thyroid-Friendly Diet
Some experts suggest that a Mediterranean diet is helpful for supporting proper thyroid functioning, as it may reduce the likelihood of intestinal inflammation. You’ve probably heard of this healthy diet plan before – fish, nuts, whole grains, beans, fruits, veggies, etc.
There’s also some research to suggest that certain healthy foods may mess with the thyroid if they aren’t prepared properly. The idea behind this is that cruciferous vegetables – cauliflower, cabbage, kale and bok choy, to name a few – should be cooked first instead of eaten raw. While these veggies are loaded with healthy nutrients like vitamin C and folate, eating them raw in high doses may throw off the thyroid.
Even with these theories, however, not all research suggests that a healthy diet alone is enough to do the trick and enjoy stellar thyroid health. There are many medical professionals who argue that some individuals are simply prone to thyroid imbalance – regardless of their dietary habits – and may benefit from a hormone or supplement prescribed by their health care provider.
Thyroid Hormones for Hypothyroidism
For those who follow all the dietary advice from their nutritionist and still suffer from hypothyroidism, an iodine supplement or thyroid hormone may be the next step recommended by a doctor. And for these individuals, the list of dietary rules is not a joke. Certain foods and medications – like walnuts, too much fiber, soybean flour, antacids, calcium supplements, and other prescriptions – can block prescribed thyroid hormones altogether.
So, what to do? A healthy diet is always a great place to start. But sometimes consulting your doctor is necessary to get the thyroid back on track.