Why Keeping Check of Thyroid Health is Vital
Nowadays more and more people, mainly women, are susceptible to some form of a thyroid problem. Some suggest it’s linked to increased stress, iodine deficiencies in certain parts of the world and poor diet.
Whatever the reasons may be, it’s touted that around 35% up to 50% of women may have some issue with their thyroid.
The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland wrapped around the trachea in our neck. It is mainly responsible for the production of the hormone Thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3) and these hormones notify all the cells about how much energy to use, regulating growth and metabolism, and the temperature of cells like a thermostat – basically, ensuring a cell does what it’s supposed to do when it’s supposed to do it. In fact, all of the 40 trillion cells in our body have without exception a thyroid hormone receptor.
Thyroid gland health
The most common way we measure the health and performance of the thyroid gland is by the levels of Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) which is produced by the pituitary gland. Traditionally the levels of TSH between 0.5 – 5.0 are considered normal. Under this level is labelled as Hyperthyroidism and above is called Hypothyroidism.
Hyperthyroidism is pretty rare; only about 1% have it, but Hypothyroidism is quite common with about 1 in 3 having some issue.
The most common causes of hypothyroid (under-functioning) is a lack of iodine and the autoimmune disease Hashimoto’s. Other conditions in Hypothyroidism are Thyroiditis, Postpartum thyroiditis (usually a temporary malady after childbirth). The symptoms of hypothyroidism are slower metabolism, weight gain, depression, memory problems & poor focus, dry & rough skin, coarse hair and hair loss and constipation.
Hyperthyroidism (over-functioning) can cause Graves’ disease, when the gland becomes overactive, or the appearance of nodules growing on the gland. The symptoms to watch out for are increased heart rate, weight loss, diarrhoea, hair loss, finer, more brittle hair, thin, papery skin, anxiety and agitation.
What to do
Now as with everything the holistic approach is best. So naturally coupled with expert medical advice, the most basic things we can address for thyroid improvement are diet, exercise and stress limitation.
But as always these are not quick fixes: we can’t run 50 meters and expect to be fit or eat a boiled brussels sprout and believe we are now healthy. There have to be meaningful long term lifestyle changes, which ultimately prove to be very enjoyable.
Finding the right kind of exercise regimen that suits you is important, whether it be hiking, swimming, bike riding, Tai Chi, yoga, etc. (all great exercises for beginners or those of us a little out of shape).
As usual, a balanced diet that is specific to you is important. It’s highly advised to check for allergies as we want to always try and reduce inflammation rather than increase it. Try to avoid sugary food, partially hydrogenated fats you know the things we find in junk and other processed food.
What we should increase is the intake of iodine (depending on the type of thyroidism being treated) and some of the best foods for that are sourced from the sea. Food with high iodine levels:
- Shellfish (oysters 3ounces 100mcg)
- Fish (3 ounces of cod 150mcg)
- Seaweed (nori has 110mcg/5g)
- Dairy (greek yoghurt 1 cup/110mcg)
- Eggs (1/25mcg)
- Sea salt
Bear in mind that the recommended daily dose is 150mcg for a grown adult upto 290mcg for breastfeeding mothers and exceeding this could be detrimental.
Cooking veggies is a good tip since some contain goitrogens that when eaten raw can inhibit the uptake of iodine.
Allowing the digestive system to complete its natural processes is crucial. This will happen only if we don’t eat anything for at least 5 hours. So be wary of constant snacking (even healthy snacks) as this never lets the body complete the necessary digestive cycles.