Why Your Thyroid is So Important and How to Keep it Healthy

Tired? Moody? Gaining weight quickly? It may not be in your head. According to the American Thyroid Association, nearly 20 million Americans have some form of thyroid disease. Thyroid disease is one of the most common hormone disorders after insulin resistance and diabetes. While most sufferers have symptoms due to hypothyroidism (under-active thyroid), a small majority have them from hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid.) 

So, what is the thyroid and what does it do? The thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped gland located in the front of your neck just below the Adam’s apple. It controls how the cells, organs, and glands function, in addition to regulating body temperature and heart rate, and many other metabolic processes.

The thyroid produces three main hormones: triiodothyronine (T3), thyroxine (T4), and calcitonin (which is used in calcium metabolism). 

Every tissue and cell in the body can be affected when the thyroid is not functioning properly. Deficient levels of the active (T3) thyroid hormone can result in the following symptoms: 

  • Weight gain 
  • Fatigue 
  • Weakness 
  • Constipation 
  • Shortness of breath 
  • Depression 
  • Irritability 
  • Poor memory 
  • Difficulty concentrating 
  • Intolerance to cold 
  • Low body temperature 
  • Dry, coarse hair/dry skin 
  • Hair loss 
  • Muscle or joint pain and stiffness 
  • Headaches 
  • Decreased Libido 
  • Elevated cholesterol or triglycerides 

Because many of these symptoms are also signs of aging, people may not relate them to thyroid concerns. As a result, many people may neglect to have their thyroid hormones tested. However, if you feel “off” or experience any or many of the symptoms above, consider visiting with a healthcare practitioner for an evaluation.

To support healthy thyroid function, the following foods may be helpful: 

  1. Roasted seaweed (Organic): Seaweed is naturally rich in iodine. This trace element is required to produce thyroid hormones. Try eating seaweed on its own, in sushi, or toss some packaged seaweed snacks into your next salad. 
  2. Raw Seeds (Organic): Raw pumpkin and sesame seeds are a good source of selenium. For the thyroid, selenium is required for proper metabolism of the less active form of thyroid hormone (T4) to be converted to the more active T3. This mineral is also key in protecting the body from oxidative stress. 
  3. Wild-caught fish: Wild-caught fatty fish are a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids and selenium, which both help decrease inflammation. To get a healthy dose of omega-3 fatty acids and natural selenium, consider adding wild-caught fatty fish to your meals twice a week. (Good sources: wild-caught cod, salmon, or tuna.)