7 Ways to Heal Your Thyroid and Boost Your Metabolism, Doctors Say
This butterfly-shaped organ is crucial to your health.
Before we get into the nitty-gritty of thyroid disease—What is the number one symptom to look out for? How can you keep your thyroid healthy?—let's start with the basics: What exactly is the thyroid, and what does it do?
"The thyroid gland is a tiny, butterfly-shaped organ found directly behind the voice box on the front of the neck (larynx)," explains Saroj Kumar, MD, owner of Health Review Live. "The thyroid's primary function is to regulate your metabolism." And that's essential: Your metabolism never stops working and is the source of energy for basic bodily functions, according to the Cleveland Clinic. These functions include breathing, blood circulation, regulating temperature and hormone levels, and digesting food.
In other words, you want to keep the process going smoothly. Read on for seven ways to keep your thyroid healthy and your metabolism ticking.
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Stress is harmful to our health in many different ways. It can cause headaches, raise blood pressure, affect libido, and lower immunity—and that's just for starters. Chronic stress can also affect thyroid function by interfering with hormone synthesis, says Kumar, who recommends meditation and deep breathing as two of the many things you can try to reduce stress.
Up your zinc intake
"A zinc deficiency may increase the chance of developing hypothyroidism, since zinc regulates the immune system and thyroid," advises Kumar, who lists foods such as oysters, pork, chicken, beans, nuts, and whole grains as rich sources of zinc. Just be mindful to not consume too much, as an excessive amount of zinc can cause a copper deficiency.
Take care of your gut
A healthy gut is crucial to our well-being in almost too many ways to count, including our brain health and thyroid function. "Because the bulk of the immune system sits in the gut, it is crucial to enhance gut function via lifestyle modifications," says Kumar, who recommends several ways to boost your gut health, including taking probiotics and eating a gut-healthy diet.
Cutting processed and junk foods from your diet can help boost your metabolism (among other benefits; too much junk food can increase your risk for dementia). "Once you learn to detect and eliminate the offenders, you will notice a noticeable improvement in your health," notes Kumar. "Processed food has become so ingrained in our everyday lives that it may seem like a daunting task to eliminate it."
You may not be aware of which foods contain iodine; these include table (iodized) salt, fish and shellfish, dairy, chicken, and beef liver. "A deficiency in iodine is one of the dietary causes of hypothyroidism," explains Kumar. "Iodine is necessary for optimal thyroid function. Consuming the appropriate quantity might provide a boost."
Get enough sleep
As stated above, stress can have a negative effect on your thyroid health—and "inadequate sleep may increase your body's stress burden," warns Kumar. "Prioritizing quality sleep is essential for repairing your thyroid, [and] there are several techniques to sleep better, including establishing a bedtime routine and minimizing caffeine use throughout the day."
Improved thyroid health and a boosted metabolism are just two great reasons to get regular exercise (along with other benefits like brain health). Kumar recommends resistance training to help keep your thyroid healthy, noting that the activity "contributes to muscle growth, which indirectly influences thyroid function." Kumar adds that "exercise can also help people regulate their weight. Many individuals with hypothyroidism are concerned about their weight, since the condition slows the metabolism, making it more difficult to shed or maintain weight."