Most people know the term Thyroid, but very few people actually know what it is and what it does, let alone how to keep it healthy. We know how to look after our heart, lungs, and liver, but this lesser known organ isn’t often given the same level of care.
As part of Thyroid Awareness Month we want to help you understand what your thyroid really is, the facts you should know, and most importantly, how to keep it healthy!
What is the Thyroid?
The thyroid is an endocrine (hormone) gland in the front of the neck, just below the Adam’s apple. It creates two hormones: thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3), which are responsible for a huge number of bodily process such as digestion, metabolism, weight loss, fertility, aging, and many more!
The thyroid gland is made up of two small lobes, which are joined by a small bridge of thyroid tissue known as the isthmus. These two lobes are located on either side of the wind-pipe.
6 Facts About Your Thyroid
- Your thyroid impacts literally every cell in your body: the thyroid regulates metabolic functions which helps your tissues produce proteins.
- Your thyroid is the body’s heating and cooling system: when your pituitary gland gets cold, it gives the thyroid a signal to produce hormones to get the metabolism going and warm you up. When you get too hot, the opposite happens.
- Thyroid disorders are common and mostly affect women. About one in 20 people have a thyroid disorder, whether temporary or permanent.
- While common, thyroid disorders are difficult to diagnose: most symptoms come on gradually, and are often non-specific. However, if left untreated, can lead to insomnia, fatigue, heart problems, weight loss, sudden weight gain that won’t come off, hair loss, digestive issues, skin problems, depression and anxiety.
- Anxiety and insomnia can be signs that your thyroid is over active: hormones are major players when it comes to your mental health.
- In most cases, a thyroid issue is a life-long disease, but it is also easily managed with medication once it has been properly diagnosed.
How to Keep Your Thyroid Healthy
Thyroid health isn’t something often given much thought, despite how important it is to our body’s function. Ways to keep your thyroid healthy are:
- Eat your 5 a day: a balanced diet is key to maintaining thyroid health
- Make sure you eat enough iodine, since your thyroid needs it to function. You can take an iodine supplement or simply eat more iodine-rich foods, such as seafood and dairy products
- Cook your dark leafy greens: having a plate full of broccoli, pak choi, kale, and other similar veggies is a great idea, but make sure you’re cooking them properly, especially if you like stir-fries. Uncooked dark veggies can supress the thyroid gland.
- Eat 1 brazil nut a week: Brazil nuts are rich in iron and selenium, which is important for converting T4 and T3. Don’t go overboard, however. Just one brazil nut a week will keep you healthy and lower cholesterol.
- Avoid extreme dieting: your thyroid is happiest when you’re eating a balanced diet with regular meals. When you stop eating, or drastically change your diet, your thyroid panics, slowing the metabolism to prevent starvation. If you want to work with your thyroid to lose weight, avoid processed foods and eat little and often.
If you are concerned that you may have hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid) or hyperthyroidism (an overactive thyroid), it’s best to consult your doctor. They can talk you through the best options and advise you on maintaining a healthy thyroid gland. You can also take a thyroid function test or thyroid ultrasound to check your thyroid health. Click here to make an appointment with us today.