January is Thyroid Awareness Month and we believe it is important to share information on this less well-known organ that has so many important functions in the body!
What is the thyroid?
The thyroid is a gland that is butterfly shaped and is located at the front of your throat, sitting on top of your windpipe. If it is swollen at any time you can usually feel it directly underneath your skin. It is responsible for creating and releasing hormones that have certain functions in the body.
What does the thyroid do?
The thyroid produces hormones (T3,T4, among others) that manage certain functions such as metabolism, energy levels, heart rate, temperature, sleep habits, bowel movements, skin and hair health. Thyroid hormones are also found in skeletal muscle and are active during exercise.
Common Causes of Thyroid Diseases
Usually if you’re getting enough iodine, you should have normal thyroid function. One cause of many thyroid problems is inflammation and many people manage thyroid disorders through medication, rest, exercise, and anti-inflammatory diets.
The four most common thyroid disorders:
Hyperthyroidism– Overactive thyroid gland and symptoms include irritability, hyperactivity, mood swings, persistent thirst, mood swings, muscle weakness, diarrhea, and itchiness.
Hypothyroidism– Underactive thyroid gland and symptoms include weight gain, irregular menstrual cycles, thinning hair, depression, memory issues, tiredness, a puffy face, and coarse hair and skin.
Hashimoto’s Disease– Inflammation of the thyroid gland and symptoms are similar to hypothyroidism but also include swelling of the thyroid and enlargement of the tongue
Tumors– Cancer found in the thyroid gland and symptoms can include difficulty swallowing pain in the neck and throat, and changes to the voice.
Women are more likely than men to have thyroid issues with 1 in 8 women developing a thyroid disorder in their lifetime. Thyroid disorders most often present themselves after pregnancy and after menopause. Unfortunately, there is no way to cure or slow the progression of thyroid disease, you can only manage the condition with medication and by adjusting your lifestyle.
Lifestyle factors that can lessen thyroid disease symptoms
-Getting adequate sleep, around 7-9 hours is sufficient
-Maintaining healthy relationships with loved ones
Lifestyle factors that can negatively affect thyroid function
-Smoking (negatively impacts TSH levels which can cause a decrease in thyroid function)
-Alcohol consumption (has a toxic effect on thyroid cells and their function)
-BMI (high BMI has been thought to be linked to hormone resistance which would mean thyroid hormones T3 and T4 are not as effective in the body)
-Chemicals (exposure to industrial chemicals and pesticides can affect normal thyroid gland function)
-Heavy metals (arsenic, mercury, cadmium, and lead all negatively affect thyroid gland function)
Foods and vitamins/minerals that affect thyroid function
-Soy (inhibits thyroid function, this is why your doctor may advise you to avoid soy depending on the thyroid medication you are taking)
-Vitamin D (higher Vitamin D levels cause higher thyroid hormone levels and lower TSH levels. Deficiency in Vitamin D has been linked to autoimmune thyroid disorders. Thyroid hormones can be more or less available depending on the season which is very closely related to Vitamin D levels. The less sunlight you get the less Vitamin D you produce.)
-Deficiencies in Vitamin A, B12,B6, E, have been linked to thyroid diseases.
-Supplementation with Vitamins C,E,A,B12,B6 have been suggested to improve thyroid health.
-Selenium (deficiency in this mineral have been shown in certain thyroid diseases and selenium supplementation is used to treat certain thyroid autoimmune diseases)
-Zinc (is crucial in the formation of thyroid hormones like TSH,T3.T4. Low zinc levels have been reported in people with hypothyroidism, and there have been positive results on thyroid hormones when supplementing with zinc,)
-Iron (is active in the synthesis of thyroid hormones and there is a higher risk of anemia if you have hypo or hyperthyroidism. Additionally a decrease in thyroid hormone levels in iron deficiency and anemic people have been observed.)
The thyroid is a rarely talked about organ but it’s function is essential to our health and it regulates important processes in the body such as metabolism and body temperature. For the month of January, consider getting your thyroid checked by your doctor in honor of thyroid awareness month. It is never a bad time to take a deeper look into your internal health and to make sure your lifestyle supports a healthy thyroid!
*This article is not intended as medical advice and should not be interpreted as such. Consult your physician before making any changes to your diet/exercise regimen in regards to thyroid disorders.*