The thyroid is a small but influential gland present in the neck. It serves a variety of functions in the human body. The thyroid can be vulnerable to a variety of dysfunctions, but lifestyle factors and proper supplementation can make a notable difference in preserving the wellbeing of this important gland. Today, we take a closer look at thyroid health as we recognize January as Thyroid Awareness Month.
What Does the Thyroid Do?
The thyroid is a gland that produces hormones, which in turn affect the functioning of various major organs and bodily processes inside you. Multiple hormones are produced by the thyroid, but the most important one is known as thyroxine.
The hormones produced by the thyroid are distributed throughout the body via the bloodstream. These hormones play a part in the functioning of the brain, heart, liver, skin, and other organs. Two functions that the thyroid contributes to include metabolic functioning and the regulation of body temperature.
Most individuals are fortunate to have a healthy thyroid. However, various thyroid conditions exist and they are somewhat common. Hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism (an underactive and overactive thyroid, respectively) are two of the most common conditions. Others include thyroiditis (thyroid inflammation), Graves’ disease (an autoimmune condition), and goiter (thyroid swelling). There are various causes and treatment methods for each of these conditions.
Diet and a Healthy Thyroid
Diet factors certainly play a role in maintaining healthy thyroid functioning. A natural and balanced diet containing a wealth of vegetables and fruits, as well as lean proteins and fish, helps keep the thyroid healthy.
Foods to be avoided for the sake of thyroid health include processed foods high in sugar content, preservatives, trans fat, and high fructose corn syrup. Additionally, some cruciferous (or cabbage-related) vegetables can affect the thyroid if eaten raw and too frequently. These include Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, kale, and others.
Supplements for a Strong Thyroid
Using supplements to bolster your thyroid health can be very useful. However, doing so is not a replacement for a healthy diet. Talk to your doctor before trying any new supplements.
Vitamin D can be a helpful supplement for improving the health of the thyroid. Vitamin D is helpful to the immune system and therefore helpful in avoiding autoimmune disease that can be associated with thyroid dysfunction. If someone is deficient in vitamin D (and many people are) while experiencing thyroid issues, then supplementing with vitamin D might make a positive difference.
Selenium is a mineral necessary for the thyroid to produce hormones. A deficiency in selenium can contribute to various types of thyroid dysfunction. Selenium is also important because it helps prevent oxidative stress to the thyroid.
Vitamin A is necessary for the synthesis of thyroxine (the most important hormone produced by the thyroid). At least one study has shown vitamin A supplementation effective in reducing hypothyroidism in women.
Iron is useful for the thyroid, and, like vitamin A, this is because it’s related to thyroxine production. Science has shown that individuals experiencing a certain type of thyroiditis were likely to be iron deficient. Therefore, increasing iron intake might help combat thyroiditis.
Iodine is a mineral that can be useful in improving thyroid health, since iodine deficiency has been linked to both goiter and hypothyroidism. Although iodine deficiency is rare in developed countries since it is very common in salt and other foods, it still is a condition to keep a lookout for.
Zinc is another mineral needed by the thyroid to produce hormones such as thyroxine. Without enough zinc, the thyroid may not produce enough of the hormones for which it is responsible.
In taking care of your thyroid, you help to take care of a range of vital bodily functions, including ones not mentioned here. Through a healthy, varied diet and the supplements listed above, you can help ensure that your thyroid is functioning properly for a long time to come. Don’t wait! Don’t let January get away from you before taking your thyroid awareness up a notch.