Your thyroid creates and produces hormones that play a role in metabolism and many different systems throughout your body. When the thyroid secretes too much or too little of such hormones, this could lead to thyroid diseases. Find out how you can improve thyroid function naturally and through medical interventions.
In this article:
Keep Your Thyroid Healthy With these Steps
Thyroid and Its Functions
The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped endocrine gland in the lower front neck. The thyroid lies approximately between the below Adam’s apple and the collar bone.
As a part of the endocrine system, the thyroid is responsible for the secretion of hormones called thyroid hormones. These hormones are the T3 hormone and the T4 hormone. These thyroid hormones control the metabolism of the body.
The T3 and T4 hormones tell the body’s cells the amount of energy to use. A properly functioning thyroid maintains the right amount of hormones to keep your metabolism at a normal rate. When there’s a drop or increase in T3 and T4 levels in the body, the thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) will be sent to the thyroid to stabilize the levels.
There are several diseases of the thyroid. The most common ones are hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism.
Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland is underactive or does not produce enough hormones. Common symptoms include:
- dry skin and hair
- muscle aches
- sensitivity to cold
- weight gain
A simple blood test is done to determine if you have an underactive thyroid. Men and women can have hypothyroidism, although it is more prevalent in women. Some babies are born with an underactive thyroid, while children may also develop this condition.
On the other hand, hyperthyroidism or an overactive thyroid is a condition where the thyroid produces too much thyroid hormones.
An overactive thyroid can cause a wide range of symptoms, including:
- nervousness, anxiety, and irritability
- mood swings
- tiredness and weakness
- sensitivity to heat
- swelling neck
- Irregular heartbeat or palpitations
- Weight loss
Hyperthyroidism can be caused by Grave’s disease, lumps on the thyroid, or some medicines such as amiodarone. Hyperthyroidism diagnosis often involves your doctor determining if the thyroid gland is bigger than usual or if your pulse is too fast.
Ways to Improve Thyroid Function
Foods alone won’t cure overactive thyroid. However, the right nutrients can help minimize your symptoms and restore thyroid function.
A diet with an adequate amount of iodine can be beneficial for managing hypothyroidism. Iodine is a vital mineral for thyroid hormone production. Good sources of iodine include fish, seaweed, eggs, and dairy. Adding iodized salt to your food may also aid in iodine deficiency.
Selenium and zinc work similarly to “activate” thyroid hormones and regulate TSH hormone. Dietary sources of selenium include Brazillian nuts, seafood, and organ meats. Good zinc sources include oysters, beef, crab and lobsters, pork chop, chicken, and fortified cereals.
Some compounds found in food are called goitrogens, which may interfere with the thyroid’s normal function. Some examples of foods that contain goitrogen are:
- Soy-based foods such as tofu and edamame
- Vegetables such as kale, spinach, cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower
- Fruits and starch including cassava, sweet potatoes, peaches, and strawberries
- Nuts and seeds including peanuts, millet, and pine nuts, peanuts
Regular exercise has long been proven to help lead a physically and mentally healthier life.
In the case of hypothyroidism, regular exercise may help increase T3 and T4 hormone levels in the body. This is supported by a study where T3 and T4 levels were measured among 20 ambulatory treated hypothyroid patients. As the TSH levels decreased in the exercise group, their T3 and T4 have significantly increased.
Regular exercise may improve thyroid function for people with hypothyroidism, alongside a healthy diet and medication.
People with diabetes are at a higher risk of thyroid diseases than those who do not have, especially for Type 1 diabetes.
If you have diabetes and a positive thyroid test, there are a few things you can do to help manage these comorbidities:
- Getting enough sleep
- Exercise regularly
- Watch your diet
- Take your medications as directed
- Get regularly tested as advised by your healthcare provider
A person with an underactive thyroid may not need any treatment if there are no symptoms or mild symptoms. Otherwise, daily hormone replacement therapy may be prescribed.
Daily Hormone Replacement for hypothyroidism involves taking daily hormone replacement tablets, called levothyroxine, to raise your thyroxine levels.
For overactive thyroids, the following medical interventions can be used to improve thyroid function:
- Radioiodine treatment is a type of radiotherapy used to teardown cells in the thyroid glands to reduce its ability to produce thyroid hormones.
- Thyroidectomy mainly involves surgery to remove a part or all of your thyroid so that it no longer produces thyroid hormones.
- Beta-blockers are used to ease hyperthyroidism symptoms, such as a rapid heart rate, tremor, and palpitations, although they do not affect thyroid hormone levels.
The thyroid gland secretes hormones, collectively called thyroid hormones, that affect metabolism. In some cases, the thyroid may produce or too little of these hormones, which leads to thyroid disease. With some lifestyle changes, thyroid diseases can be treated with medications, surgery, or therapy to result in normal thyroid function.
Do you have concerns about your thyroid health? Feel free to contact us or leave a comment below.