For such a small organ, your thyroid does a lot of work in your body. This butterfly-shaped gland, located at the front of your lower neck, is responsible for producing important hormones involved in metabolism, fetal and childhood development, making proteins, and reproduction.
Different disorders can cause the thyroid to produce too many hormones (hyperthyroidism) or too few hormones (hypothyroidism). The thyroid is also susceptible to inflammation and cancer.
Most thyroid complications require surgery or medication, but some lifestyle changes may help with your thyroid’s functioning. Here are a few:
Rethink your morning coffee.
If you take medication for hypothyroidism, avoid drinking coffee too soon afterward. Research shows that coffee can interfere with the way your body absorbs the replacement hormones.
This effect may be due to the caffeine in coffee. You should wait to consume any caffeine-containing beverage, including tea or soda, for at least an hour after taking thyroid medication.
Watch your iodine intake.
Excessive levels of iodine can make thyroid issues worse, especially hyperthyroidism. Watch your iodine intake, particularly if you take iodine-containing medications or receive radiology procedures that involve being injected with iodinated dye.
Avoid foods high in iodine, such as kelp, iodized salt, and iodized cheese, milk, eggs, and saltwater fish.
Cook your goitrogens.
Some foods contain compounds called goitrogens that may disrupt the production of thyroid hormones by interfering with the use of iodine. Foods with goitrogens include soy products and cruciferous vegetables like cabbage, cauliflower, and broccoli.
Goitrogens are more effective in raw foods. Steam or cook these foods instead of eating them raw to reduce goitrogenic properties.
Consider going gluten-free.
Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, also known as Hashimoto’s disease, is a common autoimmune condition that causes hypothyroidism. Research suggests that it is more common in individuals with celiac disease, an autoimmune condition triggered by gluten consumption.
If you’re concerned about your thyroid, ask your doctor whether you should eliminate gluten or be tested for celiac disease. One study, published in July 2019 in Experimental and Clinical Endocrinology & Diabetes, suggested that women with autoimmune thyroid disease may benefit from a gluten-free diet. Avoid drastic dietary changes without consulting your healthcare provider.
Manage your stress.
Cortisol, known as the “stress hormone,” is produced by the adrenal gland as part of the body’s stress response. Cortisol helps your body prepare for the “fight or flight” response. However, chronically high cortisol levels can be harmful to your health over a long period of time. Researchers have even found that cortisol may affect thyroid function, which may even affect brain health.
Managing and preventing stress may help preserve the health of your thyroid. Learn and practice relaxation techniques, like meditation or yoga. Exercise regularly, avoid fatty and sugary foods, try to keep to a regular sleep schedule, and cut back on caffeine, smoking, and alcohol.
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