The thyroid gland is a small, butterfly-shaped gland that is located in the front of your neck. A small, unassuming gland; many people overlook the value of a healthy thyroid. In fact, most people wouldn’t be able to say where this gland is even located, much less articulate the importance of it. So, what does the thyroid gland do and why is it important?
The thyroid gland actually supports all of the other organs in the body. This gland produces thyroid hormones that affect our metabolism rate; in effect, determining how fast or slow organs such as the brain, liver, heart and other parts of the body work.
The importance of this function and its wide-ranging effects on other parts of the body ultimately determines how we feel. For example, without sufficient levels of thyroid hormones, we’ll often feel tired, groggy or even cold. Too much of the available hormone often creates feelings of anxiety, nervousness or excessive warmness.
The pituitary gland – a small, pea-shaped gland located at the base of the brain – determines the level of thyroid hormones in the blood. The pituitary monitors and regulates the thyroid’s hormonal level by adjusting the output of the thyroid hormones produced. If the pituitary detects a low level of thyroid hormones, it will pump out more of the hormone. If it detects a high level of thyroid hormones, it will scale back production to stabilize our body.
An underactive thyroid gland (hypothyroidism) can produce a multitude of symptoms, including:
– Excessive tiredness
– Weight gain
– Dry skin
– Feelings of coldness
– Stunted growth (in kids)
An overactive thyroid gland (hyperthyroidism) can also product a multitude of symptoms, including:
– Difficulty concentrating
– Wakefulness (inability to fall asleep)
– Dry skin
– Feelings of warmness
– Weight loss
An underactive thyroid is, by far, the most common type of thyroid disorder. In total, it is estimated that approximately 430 million people are currently affected by some kind of thyroid problem.
As with a multitude of other disorders, thyroid disorders often originate from a diet lacking in essential nutrients. One of the common causes of thyroid dysfunction is iodine deficiency. This nutrient can be difficult to obtain from our modern diets, but it is available in some foods as we’ll discuss later.
On a positive note: all of the essential nutrients necessary for healthy thyroid function are available from food. Subtle changes in our diet can help the thyroid function normally, which we are going to show here.
Here are 5 things that improve your thyroid health:
1. Alternative dairy products
It has been discovered that there exists a link between Vitamin D deficiency and Hashimoto’s disease – the most common type of hypothyroidism. Alternative dairy products fortified with Vitamin D, such as almond or soy milk, can help regulate the levels of Vitamin D. Most alternative dairy products are also a good source of calcium, iodine and protein – all nutrients that assist with healthy thyroid function. Coconut yogurt is a good food for thyroid function as well, as it helps support the production of good bacteria in our bodies while providing most of the recommended daily intake of iodine in just one cup.
As mentioned, healthy iodine levels are essential to normal thyroid function. In addition to providing fiber to our diets and delivering a healthy dose of daily vitamins, cranberries are one of the most iodine-dense foods out there. Consider this: just one cup of cranberries contains 267% of the recommended daily intake of iodine. If the taste of cranberry is a bit sour for the palette, consider adding ½ to one cup of cranberries to a smoothie to dilute the effect.
3. Hemp seeds
Omega-3 foods are becoming the new craze, and for good reason. In addition to supporting a healthy heart and brain, foods rich in omega-3 also contain a good amount of iodine. Most nuts and seeds contain high levels of this nutrient, which can help decrease inflammation and boost our immune system.
4. Coconut oil
Considered the healthiest saturated fat food on the planet, coconut oil is rich in fatty acids – supporting many important bodily functions. Now, there is growing evidence that coconut oil not only helps with thyroid hormonal production, but helps mitigate the side effects caused by an underactive thyroid, including: weight gain, slow metabolism, dry skin, and irregular blood sugar levels.
Somewhat an enigma to most Western diets, seaweed is an incredible source of nutrients. Containing rich amounts of both iodine and selenium, seaweed effectively provides the two of the most critical nutrients to healthy thyroid function. In fact, seaweed has the highest level of iodine in any available food product. Seaweed also contains high levels of calcium, iron and magnesium, while providing more vitamin C than oranges.