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As a hormone regulator of the body, the thyroid gland is connected to all sorts of important body functions for daily living. Muscle strength, body temperature, cholesterol levels, heart rate, and others hinge on the health of the thyroid gland to continue working properly. Yet, according to the American Thyroid Association (ATA), more than 20 million people in the United States experience thyroid concerns, with nearly 60% unaware of these issues. However, with small changes to your lifestyle, you can maintain your thyroid gland and keep it in top shape.
As part of the endocrine system, the thyroid affects nearly every organ within the human body. Its glands store, produce, and release hormones into the bloodstream, assisting in a multitude of functions, including the rate you burn your calories, helping build proteins and storing energy as necessary fat, and assisting in the regulation of metabolism. If the thyroid gland is not at top performance, this can have adverse effects on your metabolic rate.
The thyroid gland needs to be in good balance for optimal overall health. When the thyroid is underactive or going through hypothyroidism, it no longer produces enough thyroid hormones for the body. This can result in slower metabolism, which can affect weight management, induce fatigue, and hinder healthy digestion. On the opposite spectrum, hyperthyroidism means an overactive thyroid that over-produces more hormones than is needed by the body. The fast metabolic rate can also affect weight management, as well as certain nervous system issues, daily moods, and sleep.
However, there are certain vital nutrients that are important for the thyroid gland. Knowing which key nutrients you need can help you maintain your normal body functions and overall balance of your health for proper metabolism and weight management.
One of the most important nutrients for thyroid health is iodine, a trace element that makes up the building blocks for thyroid functioning. Iodine helps produce the hormones for your body, supporting all tissue. A report back in 2012 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, indicated how middle-aged women in the United States have the lowest levels of iodine in their system.
Iodine is usually highly present in iodized salt, as well as certain dairy products, seafood, and meat. However, a Harris Poll survey reported that Americans get around 70% of their sale from processed foods which don’t contain iodine. Supplementation can help correct this thyroid imbalance, particularly in certain multivitamins that contain iodine, or a thyroid health-specific supplement. As the body cannot make iodine on its own, getting iodine from outside sources, diet or supplementation, is important.
There are still other nutrients vital to thyroid care. Selenium is a mineral that contains enzymes to protect the thyroid gland when it undergoes stress. Selenium also helps regulate hormone synthesis, playing a hand in the conversion process of the Thyroxine (T4) compound into its more active compound, Triiodothyronine (T3). The proteins and enzymes that selenium produces are then utilized to regulate metabolism, as well as help keep the balance between thyroid hormones in important organs such as the heart, the kidneys, and the brain.
Selenium deficiency may cause fatigue and certain cognitive concerns. Without enough selenium, T3 will not be as readily available for the body to utilize. Implementing a diet with selenium-rich foods however, which include tuna, mushrooms, soybeans, and beef, can help with low levels of the nutrient, including an appropriate supplement.
Antioxidants and B vitamins help regulate oxidative stress, an especially useful defense for the thyroid gland to keep working at maximum efficiency. Vitamin B12 is a B vitamin with strong links to thyroid functionality, helping with the production of T4. Previous studies have stated that as many as 40% of individuals with hypothyroidism are deficient in Vitamin B12, along with an additional 58% reporting improvements in energy when taking B12 supplements. Additional vitamins, including Vitamin A, C, and E, are just as vital, as they relieve any oxidative stress within the thyroid gland, thus inhibiting the damage of important tissue cells.
Keeping tabs on your nutritional profile can have benefits for all aspects of your health. As the thyroid gland is dependent on the nutrients, vitamins, and minerals you obtain, changing your diet is a great way to become proactive. The key to optimal health is balance; a balance of nutrients, exercise, and overall healthy life choices to keep your organs working at maximum efficiency. Acquiring dietary supplements, such as multivitamins with a long portfolio of important nutrients including B vitamins and minerals, or a supplement aimed specifically at thyroid health, can also be a great addition to any health regimen.