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 get your body’s most important gland into tip-top condition. And for more on the inner workings of your body, here are 20 Amazing Facts You Never Knew About Your Body.
Eat Fewer Vegetables
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 2015 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.
Hang Up the Phone
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. If you need some help cutting back, consult the 11 Easy Ways to Conquer Your Smartphone Addiction.
Don’t Stop Drinking
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. And if you’re worried about your alcohol consumption, see here to learn What Your Boozing Habits Say About Your Health.
Eat More Seaweed
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.
Stop Using Plastic
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 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.
Stay Away From A Thing Called Triclosan
Triclosan is a common ingredient in many soaps and body washes, but it may have an adverse effect on your thyroid. A study published in Aquatic Toxicology in 2006 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.
Avoid Green Tea
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. To help combat your stress, learn to wholly avoid 20 Mistakes You’re Making That Are Compounding Your Stress.
Take Up Low-Impact Aerobic Exercises
According to some experts, low-impact aerobic exercise is the best kind of exercise to avoid hurting your thyroid. 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.
Or Take Up Yoga
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. And once you master those poses, consider moving on to the Yoga Moves That Will Transform Your Sex Life.
Up Your B12 Intake
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.
Make Sure to Get Your 8 Hours Of Sleep A Night
Even though fatigue can be a symptom of an unhealthy thyroid, you have to do your best to catch some Zs. According to WebMD, making sure to get 8 hours of sleep a night can keep your thyroid functioning normally and effectively. If you need some help getting a good night’s rest, be sure to check out the 65 Tips For Your Best Sleep Ever.
Eat More Selenium
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.
Put the Butts Out For Good
A 2014 study published in the Endokrynologia Polska Journal found that smoking can have various negative effects on the thyroid, including and especially concerning hormone production. Smoking can cause hormone levels to wildly fluctuate. (As if you needed another reason to quit.)
Eat More Blueberries (and Other Antioxidants)
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. If you’re planning on adopting the gluten-free thing in the name of better thyroid health, you may want to learn the 30 Best Ways to Stick to Any Diet.
Steer Clear of Flouride
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.
Get Tested Regularly
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.
Keep Your Adrenal Glands Healthy
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. And if that consistently eludes you, you may want to check out the 11 Doctor-Approved Secrets for Falling Asleep Faster—Tonight.
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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