Your thyroid is a butterfly shaped gland that sits cozily against your windpipe in the front of your neck.
This 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.
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:
- Iodized salt
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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