The thyroid gland, shaped like a butterfly, sits quietly in the front region of your neck. Despite its somewhat odd choice of residence, this gland is essential for producing hormones, many of which will affect your overall metabolic rate and your efforts at the gym. If it doesn’t function well, you’ll shortly notice the signs of thyroid problems.
Thyroid issues are surprisingly common, affecting more than 20 million people in America alone. But what do you need to know about it?
5 Reasons Why People Get Thyroid Problems And How They Can Avoid It (Causes of Thyroid Problems)
The thyroid glands don’t work alone – they cooperate with your adrenal glands to produce hormones. Adrenal glands are responsible for releasing cortisol, which is a stress-management hormone.
Excess amounts of stress can strain the adrenal glands, causing them to produce excess cortisol that you become increasingly more resistant to. This imbalance causes your metabolism to slow down, leading to weight gain, more stress, insulin resistance, blood sugar issues, and slowed-down or halted thyroid function.
You can manage stress by:
- Eating well
- Having a good sleep schedule
- Maintaining a daily to-do list
- Taking time out for self-care or “selfish” relaxation
- Venting to trusted friends or family
- Eating all your required nutrients, vitamins, and minerals
Autoimmune conditions are the most common cause, arguably, for thyroid problems. Autoimmune diseases are disorders where your immune system mistakes you for a threat and starts to attack the rest of the body. Common conditions (and medical circumstances) that lead to thyroid problems are:
- Graves’ disease
- Hashimoto’s disease
- Thyroid surgery
- Genetic conditions
- Radiation therapy
To avoid late detection that causes complications, make sure you’re aware of your bloodwork. Go for scheduled check-ups, ask questions if you have concerns, and don’t hide symptoms. Early diagnosis can work many real wonders on your outlook.
Chronic inflammation is the start of many, many diseases – and thyroid problems are one of them. Normal soreness is healthy and occurs when you get injured – hence why cuts “burn” or muscles feel sore after a workout. They are inflamed and, therefore, healing.
But when the gland has to produce inflammation constantly, it can wind up developing into chronic inflammation. This condition can trigger cortisol production in the body, and it also leads to higher production of certain hormones in your body.
Here are some ways to reduce chronic inflammation:
- Eat anti-inflammatory meals and shun inflammatory ones
- Learn to manage stress better (see above for tips!)
- Make sure you exercise for a minimum of 150 minutes per week
- Balance and maintain a healthy weight
- Keep an eye on your blood sugar
There are toxins everywhere, and they all cause hormone functions to suffer, leading, then, to the suffering of the thyroid gland itself.
The most common toxins that affect people this way are polybrominated diphenyl ethers, or PBDE, polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCB, and many, many more. As a rule, it’s a good idea to stay clear of any product unless you know its ingredients for sure.
5. Overdoses Or Underdoses Of Vitamins
In many cases, a lack of nutrition is what leads to diseases. In the case of thyroid problems, overdoses are also a common factor to take into consideration. Here are some common vitamin over- and underdoses that lead to thyroid issues:
Yes, you need iodine for hormone production, and a lack of it can also cause thyroid problems. But did you know that consume an excess of 400 mcg of iodine per day can lead to many complications, including to the thyroid?
For the thyroid to carry out its peroxidase function healthily and positively, it needs iron. Without it, thyroid hormones cannot be synthesized, and iron-deficiency anemia opens up the door to many different diseases, too.
· Vitamin A
Vitamin A is capable of binding to the hormone receptors in the thyroid, increasing one kind of hormone but not the other, more desirable one. You can lose as much as two-thirds of your thyroid hormones by not paying attention to vitamin A!
The thyroid needs selenium to convert certain types of hormones to others. This nutrient helps to protect against autoimmune diseases and also works to encourage healthy thyroid function. A deficiency may lead to hypothyroidism.
The more selenium you take, the more chromium you excrete. As such, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on your daily intake of this lesser-known vitamin.
Avoiding Thyroid Problems
1. Avoid Toxins
Many chemicals can be toxic to the thyroid gland, and these are chemicals you’ll want to avoid. These chemicals are often called endocrine disruptors, and they often severely affect your hormonal system, as that term suggests. Chemicals to avoid are:
- Perfluorinated Chemicals. Known merely as PFCs, these chemicals are used for protecting against water, fire, and stains.
- This is commonly found in toothpaste, soaps, and other antibacterial products.
- These are found in soft plastics and scented materials.
- Nonstick coatings. Used most in pans and cooking material, this can cause hormone level imbalance.
- Bisphenol-A. Already infamous, BPA is found in the linings of food cans as well as in cheap plastics.
Of course, it is unlikely that you will be able to altogether avoid these chemicals – so reduce your exposure. You can do so by:
- Using essential oils as fragrances
- Use glass, porcelain, or ceramic containers instead of plastic
- Using ordinary soap and water to clean hands
- Buy more fresh or frozen produce instead of canned foods
- Make sure your home has enough ventilation
2. Don’t Do Starvation Diets
Fad diets are popular for their quick effectiveness, but they’re objectively terrible for your body in many ways. Not only are you likely to gain all the weight back the second you stop the diet, but you’re also slowing down your metabolic rate and opening yourself up to thyroid issues.
According to a study in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, fasting causes your primary thyroid hormone that regulates metabolism to decrease efficiency by 53%. Many other thyroid hormones also saw a decrease in levels. In addition, cortisol levels leap up when you starve yourself, causing stress to you because it thinks your body is in danger. You may begin to retain a lot of fat as a result.
So don’t do starvation diets – no liquid cleanses, no super low-calorie days, nothing at all that could cause your body to believe it is starving.
3. Eat Well
A healthy diet is one of the most crucial parts of keeping your thyroid in good working order. This is because a whopping 71% of the body’s autoimmune system lives in the gut. They’re called gut-associated lymphoid tissue, or GALT, and researched has linked their inflammation to thyroid diseases.
Many doctors recommend a Mediterranean diet for managing inflammation. It’s not strictly necessary, but your meals should include:
- Lean proteins
- Fatty fish; examples include herring, mackerel, and salmon
- Three to four servings of fruit daily
- Four to five servings of vegetables daily
- Healthy fats; examples include nuts, olive oil, and avocados
However, there are also foods you need to avoid – some of which may surprise you! You should steer clear of:
· Processed Foods
These foods are full of sugars, dyes, added preservatives, trans fats, and all sorts of dangerous ingredients. They’re bad for the entire body, too, not just your thyroid.
To be fair, soy has plenty of positive benefits for overall health. Unfortunately, more and more research has shown that soy affects the body’s ability to absorb levothyroxine, which can interfere with hormone-related medication.
· Raw Cruciferous Vegetables
Yes, even these veggies, commonly touted as extremely healthy, but be wary of eating them raw. Raw cruciferous vegetables have goitrogens, which are natural chemicals that can cause thyroid system issues. Examples of these veggies are Brussels sprouts, kale, cauliflower, watercress, and cabbage.
4. Reduce Endurance-Based Exercise
Endurance exercises, such as spin classes, long-distance running, and other similar forms of activity, may be harmful to your thyroid if you’re doing it in excess. This is for the same reason that starvation diets are bad for you – your cortisol levels skyrocket, your hormones produce less, and you begin to store fat and get hungry quickly.
So, what kinds of workouts can you do? High-intensity workouts, especially circuit training, are good options. Short exercises of up to 40 minutes can work best, allowing for maximum fat burning without the excessive, cortisol-boosting cardio.
5. Stop Smoking
Cigarette smoke is packed with toxins, including thiocyanate, which disrupts iodine processes, thereby blocking the thyroid from producing its natural hormones. Smoking can also change the way you produce hormones, and research indicates that smokers have a higher risk of Graves’ disease, which is one of the leading causes of hyperthyroidism around the world.
Of course, kicking an addiction to smoking is easier said than done. Don’t be afraid to seek help from a doctor. With medical understanding, positive thinking, and a genuine desire to quit, you can leave your smoking days behind.
The gland of the thyroid is susceptible to radiation, and it’s among the most sensitive organs to this situation. Remember, X-rays aren’t just the stereotypical kind you see in movies! They also include:
- Dental X-rays
- MRI scans
Research conducted by the National Cancer Institute found that people who receive dental X-rays are much more likely to develop thyroid cancer – up to five times more likely, in fact!
But you can’t avoid X-rays, so what can you do? Whenever you need to go through a procedure involving radiation, ask for a thyroid shield! It is basically an apron made from lead that drapes over your neck as the technician takes the image.
Thyroid problems are the first step in a vast host of other diseases. It is wise to start now in living a healthier lifestyle, so your risk for developing this condition is much, much lower. You don’t have to be the perfect model citizen – just take care of yourself and make sure you eat well, exercise smartly, are careful about X-rays, and never miss an annual check-up!