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Your Best Thyroid: Part I

The Thyroid

Your thyroid is a butterfly shaped gland that sits cozily against your windpipe in the front of your neck.

thyroidThis gland is responsible for generating the thyroid hormones, triiodothyronine (T3) & thyroxine (T4), as well as calcitonin, which is responsible for calcium homeostasis. The production of these hormones is controlled by thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) which is in turn regulated by thyrotropin-releasing hormone (TRH). T3 & T4 regulate the body’s metabolism & also control how sensitive the body is to other hormones.

Thyroid Dysfunction

The two most common thyroid disorders are hyperthyroidism & hypothyroidism, hypothyroidism being the more common of the two. Hypothyroidism is a condition in which the thyroid underproduces T3 and T4, setting off a chain reaction in the body that leaves the sufferer feeling tired, irritable, and unable to lose weight despite their best efforts. Brittle hair, dry skin, constipation, depression, and joint pain can also be symptoms of hypothyroidism. While a blood panel and visit to your doctor is the surefire way to tell if your thyroid hormone production is low, you can also measure your body temperature every morning, which will give you an indication of the state of your thyroid. If you repeatedly measure below 97.8, you may have an underactive thyroid.

Eating for a healthier thyroid gland

There are two key nutrients to talk about when discussing the health of your thyroid: tyrosine and iodine. Tyrosine is a non-essential (meaning it cannot be synthesized by the body and must be included in the diet) amino acid, from which T3 and T4 are synthesised. A deficiency in tyrosine can lead to underproduction of these hormones. Tyrosine can be found in cheese, yogurt, milk, avocados, sesame seeds, and bananas.

Iodine is an essential trace mineral that has the potential to be behind an underperforming thyroid; its potential is greater than tyrosine because iodine is scarcely found in any appreciable amount in the Western diet. Iodine, being a main constituent of T3 & T4, has the ability to make or break your thyroid health. Below is a list of foods that contain iodine:

  1. Seafood                                                                                                                                                                 
  2. Kelp
  3. Iodized salt
Kelp

Kelp

That’s about it. Now you may have some idea of why iodine deficiency is so common. When was the last time you ate kelp? If you’re like most Americans, the answer is probably ‘never’. While you may use iodized table salt (created for exactly this purpose) in your salt cellar, it is probably not enough to give you the daily intake of iodine that is recommended (150 micrograms). For this reason, you should invest in a multivitamin that includes your daily recommended intake of iodine so that your thyroid has the nutritional support it needs.

This article has already gotten pretty lengthy so I will cut it into 2 parts. Part II will discuss lifestyle factors that could be affecting the health of your thyroid gland.

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On to the first post! 

I want to talk a little bit about taking care of yourself during the holiday season. I think one thing that trips most people up, whether they recognize it or not, is the time change. For us in the South, days are drastically shorter, temperatures much colder, and there seems to be much more time (and much more inclination) to sit around and just…nibble. If you’re trying to control your weight over the dark winter months, this time when the sun goes down around 6 & you’ve parked it in front of the TV or computer can be a major hazard. Luckily, I am going to outline 5 ideas for keeping you trim through the holidays.

1. Only keep the healthy snacking foods around. Out with the Doritos or pretzels & in with the berries or air-popped popcorn. If you are truly being driven to your wit’s end when it comes to snacking during the winter, at least snack on stuff that is going to do minimal damage; in the case of blueberries or strawberries, you may even be doing yourself a favor by adding those anti-oxidant rich foods into your diet.

 

2. The simplest and most obvious is to just get out of the house. Get up, get moving! Take your loving dog on a walk, take your loving significant other with you, listen to your favorite podcast or whatever you need to do. Removing yourself from the situation of mindless night-time snacking is the objective. Make sure if you are walking alone at night you stay in well-lit areas, take your phone, only put one ear-bud in, and stay aware of your surroundings at all times. Safety first.

3. Close the kitchen. This is a pretty popular strategy for those of us with late-night snacking habits. I make dinner around 6/6:30, eat, and then immediately go back in and (because I have the luxury of a small kitchen & no children) clean the space top to bottom. All of the dishes go in the dishwasher, pans get scrubbed, counter-tops wiped, and lights get turned out. The kitchen is effectively ‘closed’ for the night. This puts up a pretty effective mental barrier that no more access to the kitchen is allowed for the night.

4. Mini Work-out. Sometimes distraction can be the best technique for success in these meVSmyself situations. I either slip in a workout or yoga DVD, do exercises (push ups, planks, mountain climbers) during commercials, or do the deck of cards workout. The deck of cards workout is easy– just assign an exercise to each suit (clubs=pushups, spades=situps, diamonds=squats, hearts=burpees) and start pulling cards! An 8 of hearts, for example, would be 8 burpees. Continue until you’re either out of cards or out of energy. Beware the self-reward path, however! If you tend to reward yourself after exercise, this may not the best route for you to follow if you know you’ll wind up in the kitchen with a spoon in the peanut butter afterward.

5. Get a hobby. A good cure for the snack-attack is to just occupy those hands. You can take up quilting, knitting, sketching, painting, blogging, anything to take your hands and mind away from the kitchen. Hell, even cleaning might be a good idea to distract you from the munchies.

 

There you have it! 5 quick ideas to try to soften the blow of those shorter days & longer opportunities for munching. If you have other ideas that have helped you avoid extra calories in the fall and winter evenings, post below!

 

-NTF

 

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