Thyroid gland disorders are incredibly common. The symptoms you may experience vary depending on whether your gland becomes over active or under active. Luckily there are plenty of modifiable factors that are under your control.
A fast metabolic rate is high up on nearly everyone’s wish list. Your metabolism controls the rate at which your body burns calories, but it also determines your energy level.
People with an efficient metabolism find it relatively easy to maintain a healthy weight and they usually have high energy levels that are consistent right through the day. If you are feeling tired and sluggish, that’s a hint your metabolism is not efficient.
Many different factors affect your metabolic rate. You can’t do anything about some of them, such as your genes or your age; but luckily there are plenty of modifiable factors that are under your control.
Your thyroid gland is largely responsible for controlling your metabolism. Not only that; it also determines your energy level, your body temperature, your fertility and several other important body functions.
Thyroid gland disorders are incredibly common. The symptoms you may experience vary depending on whether your gland becomes over active or under active. In some thyroid conditions, hormone levels remain normal but the tissue of the thyroid is diseased. Inability to lose weight, oedema, depression and scalp hair loss are all very common symptoms of an under-active thyroid.
In the vast majority of cases, thyroid gland disorders are caused by one or more of the following factors:
- Nutrient deficiencies
- Immune system dysfunction
- Exposure to environmental chemicals
- Genetic factors
Luckily nutritional medicine has a lot to offer to improve the health of your thyroid, improve your energy levels and help you maintain a healthy weight.
I have found that the most important nutrients for the thyroid gland are iodine, selenium, vitamin D and zinc. Deficiency of these nutrients is extremely common, particularly in people with a thyroid problem.
Here are some other tips for keeping your thyroid gland healthy:
- Consume adequate high quality protein. The thyroid gland requires the amino acid tyrosine in order to manufacture thyroid hormones. Tyrosine is found in protein-rich foods such as red meat, fish, poultry, but also almonds, avocados, bananas and pumpkin seeds.
- If you have an under-active thyroid gland, avoid consuming large quantities of goitrogens. These are substances that can suppress the thyroid gland if consumed in very high amounts. Foods rich in goitrogens include raw vegetables such as cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts; as well as soy, millet, peanuts and corn. Cooking these foods is advisable and inactivates the majority of goitrogens.
- The majority of thyroid conditions are caused by an autoimmune disease; meaning the immune system is responsible for causing the thyroid to become either under active or over active. Research has shown that gluten intolerance can be a triggering factor in autoimmune thyroid disease. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, oats, spelt, kamut and barley. Many thyroid patients benefit from following a gluten-free diet.
- Ensure you have a healthy liver. The liver is the main site of conversion of thyroid hormone (T4) into its more active form (T3). A sluggish or fatty liver may impair the efficiency of this process.
- Ensure your diet contains adequate levels of beneficial fatty acids, as found in oily fish (salmon, sardines, tuna, anchovies, mackerel), raw nuts and seeds, cold-pressed vegetable and seed oils, avocados and organic coconut oil. These fats can reduce inflammation in autoimmune thyroid disease, and improve the health of thyroid cells.
- Minimise your exposure to the heavy metals mercury, cadmium and lead, as they can interfere with the manufacture of thyroid hormones.
- Minimise your exposure to pesticides and insecticides, chemical antiperspirants and deodorants and other toxic chemicals, as some have been linked with the formation of thyroid nodules, cancer and autoimmune thyroid disease.
- Get your doctor to examine your thyroid gland for lumps, bumps or enlargement. If any lumps are found you need to ask your doctor for an ultrasound scan of the thyroid gland.
- If you are fatigued, ask your doctor to do a blood test for thyroid function.
Many factors can undermine your metabolic health. Armed with the right information, there is a great deal you can do to improve your health and well-being.
Dr Sandra Cabot practices in Camden, Adelaide and Merimbula. She is well known for her work on liver health, and is the author of over 20 ground-breaking books.
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