Your thyroid. The hormones it produces are responsible for a lot: your metabolism, the health of your skin and bones, your sleep quality, headache frequency (or infrequency), and your sex drive, to name just a few. Put another way, it’s one of the most essential glands in your body. And yours may be in trouble. According to the American Thyroid Association, an estimated 20 million Americans have a thyroid condition—and of those 20 million, a staggering 60 percent aren’t aware of it.
But despite these figures, there’s no need to worry. Even if your thyroid isn’t in the shape it should be, getting it up to snuff is as simple as trying out a new yoga pose or making a small change to your diet. So read on, and learn how to have a healthy thyroid.
Yes, really—though only when it comes to cruciferous veggies, like cauliflower, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts. If these vegetables are a core part of your diet and you have thyroid issues, you may want to reconsider. A 2016 study published on PubMed found that, because they are harder for you to digest and metabolize than non-cruciferous vegetables, they have been linked to a higher risk of thyroid-related diseases.
Chatty phone-users, beware. A study published in Oman Medical Journal showed that increased cell phone use altered how the thyroid released hormones. With the amount of negative side effects that occur from altered hormone levels—rapid weight gain and dry skin, for example—you might want to cut back on the lengthy phone conversations.
Yes, this advice is antithetical to anything any doctor would say. But research in Journal of Thyroid Disorders in 2015 showed that sudden cessation of drinking alcohol can skew the results of thyroid exams, leading to false diagnoses. So, if you’re getting an exam any time soon, keep your drinking habits generally the same for the sake of your thyroid health.
Your thyroid needs iodine to make its essential hormones. Seaweeds—like kelp, dulse, and nori—are packed full of iodine for your body to transform into hormones. They also usually contain a lot of other beneficial nutrients, like calcium, potassium, and Vitamins A through E, so the stuff is truly the superfood you’re missing out on.
Bisphenol A (or BPA) is a monomer commonly found in plastic goods—water bottles, Tupperware, that sort of thing. BPA is bad for your body for a variety of reasons, but it can affect your thyroid health as well. A study published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism has found links with this chemical negatively affecting your thyroid. If you’re still regularly using plastic containers or bottles, switch to glass versions, stat.
Triclosan is a common ingredient in many soaps and body washes, but it may have an adverse effect on your thyroid heath. A study conducted by the EPA showed that even minor exposure to the chemical can affect how your thyroid releases hormones. Luckily, it’s now easier than ever to avoid the stuff: In December of 2017, the FDA issued a ruling banning over-the-counter products containing triclosan.
Experts at Precision Nutrition found that links between green tea consumption and an exacerbation of pre-existing thyroid problems. However, there is no evidence of those issues from black tea consumption. So if you’re a regular tea drinker, switch to black—or, if you don’t need the caffeine, stick to herbal blends.
High stress levels can lead to anxiety, insomnia, and increased blood pressure. But there’s another adverse side effect: According to a review on PubMed, stress can make your thyroid slow down its function, which could result in unwanted weight gain. Stress is also one of the environmental factors that causes hyperthyroidism, which is when your thyroid releases too many hormones at once.
According to some experts, low-impact aerobic exercise is the best kind of exercise to avoid hurting your thyroid heath. If you’re suffering from a thyroid condition, you can experience joint paint. So centering your workouts around low-impact exercises—like walking or water aerobics—is the way to go. As a bonus, these exercises are low-effort methods for getting your daily cardio in.
Yogis, rejoice. A study in Yoga Mimamsa found that doing certain yoga poses can help your thyroid hormone release functions. During your next routine, try incorporating poses like boat pose, bridge, and king pigeon pose. These poses help to open up throat circulation and improve energy flow around the thyroid.
A study by the Journal Of Pakistan Medical Association found that there is a link between a Vitamin B12 deficiency and hypothyroidism. To combat that, stock your food stores with B12-rich foods, such as fish, eggs, and milk.
Even though fatigue can be a symptom of an unhealthy thyroid, you have to do your best to catch some Zs. Be sure to get 8 hours of sleep a night to keep your thyroid functioning normally and effectively.
A study in the Molecular Nutrition and Food Research Journal found that selenium, an element found nutritionally in nuts and mushrooms, can keep your thyroid’s hormone production functioning smoothly and effectively. As a bonus, selenium is excellent for overall endocrine system health. If you can’t stomach nuts or fungi, don’t fret: You can pick up supplements at your local pharmacy.
A 2014 study published in the Endokrynologia Polska Journal found that smoking can have various negative effects on your thyroid health, including and especially concerning hormone production. Smoking can cause hormone levels to wildly fluctuate. (As if you needed another reason to quit.)
For better thyroid health, slate antioxidant-rich foods—like pomegranates and all manner of berries—into your diet. A study published in the Clinical Chemistry and Laboratory Medicine in 2008 found a link between antioxidant consumption and overall endocrine system health levels; higher levels of one correlated with higher levels of the other. Plus, antioxidant-rich foods are delicious!
A 2002 study published in the Journal of European Endocrinology found that there was a correlation between people who eat a lot of gluten and people who have a less active thyroid. What’s more, the researchers found that, when those people cut gluten out of their diet, their thyroid function balanced out to normal levels.
A 2015 study in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health found a link between fluoride consumption and a higher rate of inactive thyroids. So check the source of your water—and the ingredients of your toothpaste.
If you think you may be experiencing any symptoms of hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism, persistently mention it to your doctor. Because of the commonality of the symptoms—lots of issues of thyroid health could be indicative of other problems—they may not assume it is a thyroid problem.
Your adrenal glands and thyroid glands are entwined together in your endocrine system. According to Dr. Amy Myers, adrenal gland distress has the ability to affect major metabolic processes, including the ones your thyroid is responsible for. As it so happens, the best way to keep your adrenal glands healthy is one of the ways to keep your thyroid health: Regularly get a good night’s sleep.
It’s a bit of a no-brainer, but is still a point worth hammering home: If you suspect, even a little, that you’re suffering from a condition, be sure to educate yourself completely. And yes, that includes thyroid conditions. Even the subtlest symptom—loss of sleep, altered bowel movements—can be a sign of something more serious. So stay diligent.
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