Many people are raising awareness about the thyroid gland. Yes, you’ve heard of it, but can you tell exactly where it is and what it does? The condition of your thyroid affects various critical body functions. But surprisingly, up to 60% of people with thyroid dysfunction are completely unaware of their condition.
What Is The Thyroid?
The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland in the front of the neck. Even though it’s small, it’s a significant gland in the endocrine system which plays a major role in the human body. It connects and controls most of the hormones our body needs to function well.
Despite its small size, the thyroid gland releases different hormones affecting every cell, tissue, and organ in the body. Here are some functions of the this gland:
- regulates the body temperature and metabolism
- maintains a steady heart rate
- influences mood
- facilitates cognitive function
- modulates the amount of cholesterol in the blood
- improves bone health
What Are The Different Thyroid Hormones?
The hormones produced by the thyroid are the Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) which is needed to make other hormones; Thyroxine (T4) which is the inactive form of the thyroid hormone; and Triiodothyronine (T3) which is the active form of the thyroid hormone responsible for the increase in metabolic activity.
Thyroid hormones maintain homeostasis that targets practically every tissue in the body. Homeostasis is required to provide metabolic regulation throughout life. They are constantly altering due to internal and environmental stimuli, including feeding, fasting, and changes in climatic circumstances.
These hormones also work in tandem with other endocrine components to help the body to adapt to physiological and pathological demands such as growth, weight change, pregnancy, and aging.
What Are The Symptoms Of An Unhealthy Thyroid?
Over time, the thyroid may become imbalanced due to harmful dietary and lifestyle decisions. And when this happens, hormone production suffers dramatically. As a result, you are at high risk for various disorders. Some symptoms of an imbalance in thyroid hormones are:
- A lack of energy
- Weight loss
- Weight gain
What Are The Two Thyroid Problems?
Hypothyroidism is a disorder in which the thyroid produces and releases insufficient hormones into your system. This slows your metabolism, impacting your entire body. Another name for this ailment is underactive thyroid disease.
People of various ages, genders, and races can be affected by hypothyroidism. It’s a prevalent ailment, especially among women over 60. Women are typically more prone to develop hypothyroidism after menopause.
The symptoms of hypothyroidism include:
- Gaining weight
- Muscle weakness
- Tingling in the hands
- Unable to withstand cold temperatures
- Experiencing low sexual interest.
It can become a severe and sometimes fatal medical problem if you do not seek hypothyroidism treatment. Symptoms might worsen, leading to:
- Heart problems
- Trouble breathing
- Inability to maintain a normal body temperature
- Developing a goiter
Hyperthyroidism is a disorder in which your thyroid produces and releases excessive amounts of the thyroid hormones T3 and T4. This process speeds up your metabolism. An overactive thyroid is another name for this condition.
Hyperthyroidism is a very uncommon condition. Although hyperthyroidism may affect anybody, it is more frequent in women.
The symptoms of hypothyroidism include:
- Vision changes
- Increased appetite
- Weight loss
- Frequent bowel movements
- Menstrual changes
If left untreated, your vascular and skeletal systems are at risk. Other complications include congestive heart failure, osteoporosis, and stroke.
Thyroid abnormalities are also becoming more closely linked to an increased risk of acquiring other ailments. Examples of these are:
- Metabolic syndrome
- Cardiovascular disease
- Renal disease
- Anxiety disorders.
7 Lifestyle Habits You Can Change to Keep Your Thyroid Healthy
Poor Sleeping Patterns
Sleeping well has a direct impact on your mental and physical well-being. If you don’t get enough sleep, it may negatively affect your energy, productivity, emotional balance, and even weight.
Sleep and your circadian components are fundamental to achieving optimum thyroid functions. Your sleeping patterns may influence your susceptibility to illnesses.
According to one study, those who get less sleep—less than seven hours—are more likely to develop hyperthyroidism. Those who sleep more than eight hours may be more susceptible to overactive and underactive thyroid function.
Sleep also keeps cortisol, the stress hormone, in check. Additionally, getting enough sleep helps maintain a strong immune system. Thyroid dysfunction is more likely to occur in persons with weakened immune systems.
To sleep better, stay away from bright screens 1-2 hours before bedtime. Regular exercise, avoiding caffeine, and deep breathwork can help you relax more. Setting up a healthy sleeping environment in a comfortable way enables you to stay asleep for more extended periods of time. Keeping it cool and dark will also make your brain secrete more melatonin to make you fall asleep faster.
Unhealthy Eating Habits
Foods with low nutritional value are one of the primary root causes of thyroid disorders since it is a nutrient-dependent gland. And the deficiency in these nutrients will negatively affect thyroid hormone production.
A well-balanced diet is essential for lifelong thyroid health. You can achieve this by increasing your intake of the following:
- Antioxidant-rich fruits
- Lean meat
- Whole grains
- Probiotic foods
- Omega-3 fatty fish
- Extra-virgin olive, avocado, and coconut oil
It would also help if you tried limiting your consumption of processed foods. Those with high trans fats, sugar, preservatives, and even those with “sugar-free” substitutes can only hurt your health.
Nutrients Needed For The Proper Functioning Of Thyroid
According to the American Thyroid Association, iodine insufficiency is one cause of thyroid problems. Iodine must be consumed as part of our diet because the body needs it to manufacture TSH. And since our bodies can’t make iodine, it should be a part of your diet. The following is a list of foods that are excellent sources of iodine:
- Table salt
- Saltwater fish
- Dairy products
- Any iodized product
To avoid disrupting your thyroid hormone levels, it would be best if you would consume them in moderation.
A lack of vitamin D may progress to Hashimoto’s disease, an autoimmune disorder that causes hypothyroidism. Vitamin D deficiency is also dangerous for people with hyperthyroidism, making them prone to bone loss.
Dairy products, eggs, mushrooms, and fatty fish are all excellent sources of vitamin D. One way to obtain enough vitamin D naturally is through regular sun exposure.
Another mineral responsible for sustaining the thyroid hormone and metabolism is selenium. However, because your body does not produce selenium. The only method to obtain it is by supplementation and consuming foods like:
- Organ Meats
- Brazil nuts
- Sunflower seeds
Vitamin B12 is needed to develop red blood cells and cognitive function. So it isn’t surprising that a vitamin B12 deficiency affects 40% of hypothyroidism patients. Animal products are good sources of vitamin B12. Examples are:
- Muscle meat
- Milk and other dairy products
Balance, just like with everything else, is required to keep things running smoothly. Too little or too much of certain foods is unhealthy for your body. These are just a few guidelines for a thyroid-friendly diet.
However, it is important to consult a medical practitioner before developing a diet plan for your thyroid health. Checking with a physician is especially crucial if you currently have a condition affecting your thyroid.
A sedentary lifestyle with low physical movement results in people having low thyroxine. Take note that it’s the hormone responsible for essential body functions like heart rate and energy levels. The lack of physical activity is unhealthy and puts people at risk of an underactive thyroid.
Several benefits of regular exercise include:
- Enhances the different thyroid functions
- Relieves thyroid disease symptoms like muscle loss and low energy
- Helps with improving your cardiovascular fitness
- Increases strength and muscle mass
- Regulates metabolism
- Improves mood
- Helps you lose weight
Regular exercise is beneficial to your health. Just don’t go overboard. Overexertion can impair the body’s capacity to transform the inactive thyroid hormone, T4, into active thyroid hormone, T3. And when this process does not happen effectively, it might create hypothyroidism symptoms.
Low-impact exercises are perfect for persons who have or are at risk of having a thyroid condition. Other low-impact workouts such as walking and yoga are better fitness options to prevent joint discomfort. Joint pains and muscle tenderness are usual side effects if you have thyroid problems.
Every single organ system in the body is affected by the consequences of cigarette smoking. The thyroid gland also suffers just as much as the lungs and heart from the damaging effects of tobacco.
Tobacco smoke includes chemicals affecting the thyroid gland’s function and the thyroid gland itself. Tobacco contains cyanide, which, when smoked, transforms into the chemical thiocyanate.
Thiocyanate hinders the absorption of iodine, reducing the production of hormones T4 and T3. It causes a rise in iodine excretion from the kidneys. This raises the risk of inflammation of the thyroid gland and has constitutional symptoms, including fever, nausea, and stomach discomfort.
The apparent benefits of smoking pales in comparison to the advantages of quitting. Because the bottom line remains—smoking won’t do anything but exacerbate thyroid symptoms, speed up the progression of thyroid illness, and reduce the efficiency of thyroid treatment.
Drastic Changes In Diet
In this fast-paced world, when we rarely have time to exercise, a quick weight loss, such as a crash diet, is quite enticing. A crash diet is when you dramatically reduce your calorie intake for a few days. Subsequently, this has become a recent trend among people.
If you’re rapidly trying to lose weight in a short period, you need to keep in mind that starving yourself is not a wise idea. One of the numerous issues with crash diets and fasting is they are particularly damaging to your thyroid.
When you drastically limit your calorie intake or deprive your body of food for extended periods, you signal your body and, more specifically, your thyroid that you are experiencing hunger. And then, it will do everything it can to keep you going.
One of its survival tactics is for the thyroid to produce reverse T3, a hormone responsible for slowing your metabolism. This can lead to weight gain even if you don’t eat as much as usual. Thus, if you’re trying to lose weight, crash diets will only worsen it in the long run.
And although the promise of quickly losing weight is appealing, crash diets have a number of drawbacks, so you should reconsider putting your body through one.
The key to good health is to consume lots of nutritious foods like fresh vegetables and fruits, lean meat, and drink lots of water. Limit the intake of refined sugar and sweeteners, and other junk food. Keep in mind that weight loss will not happen unless hormones are balanced.
Poor Stress Management
The term “stress” appears to be all too common in the modern environment. Chronic stress is when you feel a persistent and prolonged experience of being under intense pressure. Another reason is being completely overburdened with responsibilities.
Poor handling of stress might not only harm your general health and well-being, but it can also negatively affect your thyroid. When you are stressed, your body releases the cortisol hormone. Thus, it is more difficult for your thyroid gland to generate the necessary hormones. Stress can also make you more susceptible to Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and slow down thyroid function.
Stress affects the thyroid by slowing your body’s metabolism. This is another reason why stress and weight gain are correlated. When we are stressed, hormone levels drop because thyroid activity slows down. Stress can also raise thyroid receptor cell resistance to the thyroid hormone and impair the immune system.
Stress management and mindfulness strategies should be included in your everyday routine. Taking time to reflect, calm your mind, and meditate can aid in the relaxation of the body. As a result, relaxing reduces stress and lowers its negative effects on your thyroid.
Unwinding and relaxing can be accomplished through a variety of means. Some people find engaging in craft activities helps them achieve a state of mental peace. Moreover, some people find doing yoga, deep breathing methods, and writing down their thoughts help in achieving their peace of mind.
And for some, even just going for a walk or being outside significantly improves their mental health.
Each year, the expansion and evolution in the coffee market reveal more and more people are choosing this delicious drink. Many working individuals have demanding schedules and rely on coffee to wake them up and to feel energetic so they can get through their day.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the average coffee drinker in the United States consumes 3.1 cups of coffee per day. However, it has been demonstrated in a number of studies that coffee results in an increase in the amount of sugar in the blood. This can cause difficulties with the thyroid and exhaust the adrenal glands.
Coffee also influences the function of the thyroid when you are drinking several cups of coffee. As a consequence, this results in an overproduction of the stress hormones cortisol and epinephrine. This can lead to having your body in a prolonged state of anxiety.
Many workers have shifted to decaf coffee beverages to avoid the negative consequences of caffeine. But decaffeinated coffee is subjected to extensive chemical treatment to remove the caffeine. As a result, decaf is not as beneficial to your health as you think it will be.
There is a lot of media advertising promoting decaf as a healthy alternative. Nevertheless, drink it in moderation. Because chemically processed foods are devoid of nutrients and may worsen health issues.
Consuming an excessive amount of caffeine can lead to a variety of adverse health effects, including:
What Are The Early Warning Signs Of Thyroid Problems?
A thyroid problem may be present if your body exhibits weariness and fatigue after a full night’s sleep. Other telltale signs are:
- Undesired weight changes
And suppose you are experiencing the ailments mentioned above despite maintaining a healthy diet and a consistent exercise routine. In that case, it may be an indication that it is time for you to make an appointment to have your thyroid examined.
Symptoms that go undiagnosed and untreated can lead to conditions such as chronic heart disease, vision problems, and even thyroid cancer. In order to identify the course of treatment that will be most effective for you, please discuss your options with your primary care physician.
Improving your thyroid health is possible if you maintain an up-to-date knowledge of thyroid diseases. The essential habits to keep your thyroid functioning well are maintaining a healthy lifestyle, making regular doctor visits, and adhering to the prescribed medical treatment plan.