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It may be tiny and shaped like a butterfly (awwww!), but the thyroid is a crucial component of your body’s wellness—and as such, needs to be cared for and protected. Just consider the thyroid’s main function: it releases hormones that help regulate your metabolism, which in turns serves as a source of energy for essential body functions such as digesting food, circulating blood, and breathing. In other words, it’s a part of you that you’ll want to keep healthy.
According to the American Thyroid Association, approximately 20 million Americans have some form of thyroid disease, with hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism being the most common.
Do you know how to fix your thyroid when it’s out of whack (or how to prevent problems from happening in the first place)? Read on for five fast tips to keep this essential gland working at its best.
READ THIS NEXT: If You Can’t Stop Doing This at Night, Get Your Thyroid Checked.
According to Everyday Health, vitamins and nutrients are helpful in fighting some of the underlying causes of thyroid problems like autoimmune processes and inflammation, and help improve a dysfunctional thyroid.
“For most people, following a nutrient-dense rich diet rich in whole foods is enough to maintain optimal thyroid function,” says Omayra Quijano Vega, MD, a board-certified endocrinologist with Paloma Health. “Some patients might need to supplement their diet with vitamins, minerals and other nutrients to maintain overall health.” These include selenium, zinc, iron, vitamin D, vitamin Bs, vitamin A, and vitamin E.
There’s more than one reason that drinking coffee can affect your thyroid health. “Caffeine speeds up your metabolism,” says HealthMatch. “This can cause temporary relief of hypothyroid symptoms, but can also potentially put more stress on your thyroid.”
In addition, people with thyroid conditions who take hormone replacement therapy have found that caffeine can block its absorption. “You should wait at least 30 minutes after taking your medication before having a cup of joe,” advises Everyday Health.
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Gluten is found naturally in foods such as wheat, barley, and rye, and can also be used as a food additive, explains Healthline. In hypothyroidism, “antibodies that attack the thyroid are present,” says the site. “It is believed that when someone with the condition eats gluten, those antibodies react because the protein structure of gluten is similar to the structure of the thyroid.”
Although research is ongoing, some studies show that reducing your gluten intake can help with the symptoms of hypothyroidism, reports Well + Good.
Stress isn’t good for you, period. It can be harmful to various aspects of your wellness, potentially affecting your sleep, digestive health, sex drive, and increasing the risk of certain diseases. On top of all that, being stressed is not good for your thyroid health.
“Stress alone will not cause a thyroid disorder, but it can make the condition worse,” according to Healthline, which explains that stress can cause the body’s metabolism to slow down.
There are many ways to relax, including techniques like yoga, meditation, tapping, and breathing exercises.
Among the many reasons to make physical exercise part of your routine—it can improve your mood, boost your brain health, and even potentially reduce your risk of dementia, just to name a few—relieving symptoms of hypothyroidism is one of them.
“Exercise can relieve many of the symptoms associated with hypothyroidism and can improve cardiovascular health and muscle mass,” says Healthline, which notes that low levels of thyroid hormones can have a negative effect on cardiac fitness. “Regularly participating in activities like running, walking at a brisk pace, or playing a sport can improve cardiac health,” explains the site. In addition, “the related mood-boosting benefits can also relieve other hypothyroidism symptoms including depression and fatigue.”
It may seem like an obvious way to address thyroid health, but some people are either unaware they have a problem (up to 60 percent of Americans don’t know they have a thyroid condition, says the American Thyroid Association) or try to self-treat their symptoms with over-the-counter supplements—which, unlike taking vitamin supplements to help with thyroid health, can have the opposite effect.
“These are not thyroid supplements, but instead contain T4 and T3 hormones which can negatively impact a person who takes them without proper guidance from a trained health care professional,” warns Quijano Vega. “A lot of times, patients start taking these ‘thyroid supplements’ without realizing the negative and/or deleterious side effects that they can have on their bodies.”
In addition, Quijano Vega advises that “starting a patient on thyroid hormone replacement therapy should always be done under the guidance of a health care professional for proper monitoring of thyroid function tests.”