Your thyroid might not be a pain in the neck, but it is a butterfly-shaped gland that can be found at the base of your neck. Hormones produced and stored by your thyroid primarily function to regulate your growth, repair, body temperature, and metabolism. These thyroid hormones can affect nearly every cell in your body, so, yes, you need to be aware you have such a gland and that it is to be treated with TLC (thyroid loving care).
You probably rarely give your thyroid a single thought, but when it’s out of whack, you will experience problems that will leave you baffled, likely not knowing what the source of the problem is or what you can do about it.
These symptoms can include feeling jittery and anxious, being inexplicably sad or depressed, dealing with hampered cognitive function, experiencing dry and itchy skin, in a state of exhaustion, or having a sudden loss of interest in sex, among other conditions that will likely send you to your doctor seeking a diagnosis.
Thyroid Problems Target Women More Than Men
About 30 million Americans have a thyroid disorder, per health.com, with about half of those – or 15 million – suffering in silence because they remain undiagnosed. This is according to The American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists, with women about 10 times as likely as adult males to be experiencing a thyroid problem.
Two Common Types of Thyroid Issues
Thyroid disorders are usually related to either the thyroid gland’s overproduction of thyroid hormones (hyperthyroidism) or an underproduction of the hormones (hypothyroidism), with the latter being the more common affliction of the two. Worldwide, hypothyroidism affects 1 to 2 percent of the population, per healthline.com. Sufferers might experience tiredness, hair loss, weight gain, a sensation of being cold, and feeling down in the dumps, as well as assorted other symptoms.
How Does the Thyroid Work?
When functioning properly, the thyroid gland, receives a signal from the pituitary gland known as TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone) and releases thyroid hormones into your bloodstream. This occurs when thyroid hormone levels in the bloodstream are low. So far, so good.
Things go awry when the thyroid gland fails to send out the needed thyroid hormones despite a sufficient level of TSH being transmitted. This is known as primary hypothyroidism, which is associated with a slower metabolism, per healthline.com.
Ninety percent of hypothyroidism cases are the result of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, an autoimmune disease in which your immune system mistakenly attacks the thyroid gland. A lesser type of hypothyroidism – secondary hypothyroidism – occurs when the pituitary gland is on the blink.
Nutrients Beneficial to Thyroid Health
The following nutrients are necessary for maintaining optimal health of your thyroid:
- Iodine. This is a mineral essential to the production of thyroid hormones. An iodine deficiency is fairly common, affecting about a third of the world’s population, per healthline.com. However, people in developed countries, such as America, who eat a healthy, balanced diet rarely have such a problem. Iodized table salt can help remedy any iodine shortage.
- Selenium. Not only does selenium stimulate thyroid hormones so they can be employed by your body, its antioxidant properties can play a role in protecting the thyroid gland from damage meted out by free radicals. Foods rich in selenium include tuna, sardines, eggs, legumes, and Brazil nuts.
- Zinc. Zinc shares the role of activating thyroid hormones with selenium, in addition to its ability to help your body regulate TSH. If you happen to be deficient on zinc – and a visit to your physician and a test can confirm that one way or the other – you can find an abundance of zinc in foods such as beef, chicken, and oysters as well as other shellfish. Eat up, as needed.
Other foods helpful for people with hypothyroidism include fruits such as bananas and oranges, gluten-free grains and seeds, and dairy products such as milk, cheese, and yogurt. By the way, your doctor can diagnose hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism via blood tests, per webmd.com. In fact, per mayoclinic.org, doctors can now detect thyroid disorders earlier than ever, sometimes even before you experience symptoms.