8 Daily Habits for A Healthy Thyroid

October 08, 2021

8 Daily Habits for A Healthy Thyroid

In this article:

  • The importance of a healthy thyroid
  • What causes hypothyroidism?
  • 8 daily habits to maintain a healthy thyroid

The importance of a healthy thyroid

Many people don't know about the importance of the thyroid gland until something goes wrong. This small, butterfly-shaped gland is part of the endocrine system located in the neck and releases "thyroid hormones" which control your metabolism. Specifically, it manages the production and release of two hormones, T4 (thyroxine) and T3 (triiodothyronine). Thyroid hormone levels are extremely influential to the body's metabolism, which is the process that controls how food is transformed into usable energy. Metabolism also regulates body temperature, and when hormone levels are too high or too low, the pituitary gland compensates for the over/underactive thyroid hormone production by adjusting the amount of hormone it creates. This hormone is called thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) and it helps restore healthy thyroid function, putting the body back into balance.

There are two main thyroid conditions that can influence how much thyroid hormone is released. Having an overactive thyroid that produces too much thyroid hormone is called hyperthyroidism. Conversely, having an underactive thyroid that doesn't produce enough thyroid hormone is called hypothyroidism. Of the two, hypothyroidism is more common, with a rate of about 4.6 percent of Americans ages 12 years and older developing this thyroid disease.

The signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism often go unnoticed at first, but can worsen over time. Typically these symptoms include:

  • Low energy levels
  • Increased sensitivity to cold
  • Constipation
  • Dry skin
  • Weight gain
  • Puffy face
  • Hoarseness
  • Muscle weakness
  • Elevated blood cholesterol level
  • Muscle aches, tenderness, and stiffness
  • Joint pain, stiffness, or swelling
  • Irregular menstrual periods
  • Thinning hair
  • Slowed heart rate
  • Depression
  • Impaired memory
  • Enlarged thyroid gland (goiter)

Thyroid problems can be properly diagnosed through blood tests, imaging tests, and physical exams conducted by a healthcare professional or endocrinologist.

What causes hypothyroidism?

Hypothyroidism and other thyroid disorders are often caused by other underlying conditions such as:

  • Thyroiditis: Thyroiditis is inflammation or swelling of the thyroid gland. This influences how much thyroid hormone is produced.
  • Hashimoto’s thyroiditis: Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is an autoimmune disorder in which the immune system mistakenly attacks and damages the thyroid.
  • Postpartum thyroiditis: Postpartum thyroiditis is a temporary thyroid condition that affects 5% to 9% of women after childbirth.
  • Iodine deficiency: Iodine plays a role in the production of thyroid hormone. An iodine deficiency can kickstart the onset of thyroid disorders.
  • A non-functioning thyroid gland: About 1 in every 4,000 newborns is born with a defective or non-functioning thyroid gland. However, thyroid function is tested on all newborns while in the hospital.
  • Type 1 diabetes: Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disorder which makes you more susceptible to developing other autoimmune and thyroid disorders.
  • Thyroid surgery: Thyroid surgery, often used to treat thyroid cancer, can also cause further thyroid issues and may decrease the body's levels of calcium.

8 Daily Habits for a Healthy Thyroid

With the exception of iodine deficiency, preventing the listed causes of hypothyroidism can be quite difficult. However, there are simple lifestyle changes that may help to improve the symptoms of hypothyroidism or keep the symptoms of these underlying conditions at bay!

  • Pregnant women should take an iodine supplement: Iodine can be found in table salt, dairy products, and fish. The daily recommended intake is 150 mcg for adults, but this number nearly doubles to 220 mcg and 290 mcg for pregnant and breastfeeding women, respectively. Side effects of iodine deficiency often include goiter and/or hypothyroidism. In many cases, a healthy diet should provide an adequate amount of iodine, but while pregnant it is recommended that women take a prenatal and postnatal vitamin containing iodine. Be sure to closely measure iodine levels in order to avoid excess iodine, which can suppress thyroid hormone production.
  • Speak to your doctor about thyroid medication: One of the most effective and safest ways to treat and manage hypothyroidism is with specific thyroid medication. A healthcare professional will also be able to advise on which supplements to take and which to avoid in order to maintain good thyroid health. The more diligent you are at sticking to this regimen, the less likely you are to experience flare-ups.
  • Vitamin D: Insufficient vitamin D has been linked to Hashimoto’s disease and may be harmful to those with hyperthyroidism. Dietary sources of vitamin D include fatty fish, milk, dairy products, eggs, and mushrooms. Additionally, vitamin D can be produced within the body when exposed to the sun. For those in the Northern Hemisphere, a vitamin D supplement is recommended alongside a healthy diet.
  • Eat your veggies: Oftentimes those with hypothyroidism are told to avoid eating cruciferous vegetables like turnips, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and cabbage as they can contain goitrogens which inhibit thyroid hormone production. However, this is only true when eaten raw, in excess, or in the case of severe iodine deficiency. In order to maintain a balanced diet, don't skip out on your veggies!
  • Choose lean proteins: Some studies show that higher-protein diets may help increase the rate of your metabolism. In order to keep protein levels high without adding extra fat or sugar to the diet, try a lean protein supplement such as collagen. One scoop of Amandean's Marine Collagen is gluten-free and contains just ~35 calories with no added sugar or sweeteners. It’s easy to add to your morning coffee, tea, or even water without adding more fuss to your day.
  • Selenium: Selenium is another mineral needed for thyroid function. Selenium can be taken in supplement form or added to your diet through food like Brazil nuts, sunflower seeds, tuna, and shellfish.
  • Maintain a healthy weight: Keeping your body at a healthy weight can be difficult when dealing with hypothyroidism. However, studies have shown that high-intensity aerobic exercises like fast-paced walking, running, biking, hiking, and rowing are all extremely effective forms of weight loss, and may help speed up the metabolism by increasing thyroid hormone levels. Weight loss may also decrease the risk of developing thyroid cancer.
  • Keep alcohol and caffeine consumption to a minimum: Alcohol can slow the immune system when consumed in excess. Having a hard time cutting back on coffee? Check out these natural coffee substitutes!

Not surprisingly, many of the "run of the mill" health and wellness tips you hear, like exercising, eating a healthy diet, and managing stress, can also have a positive benefit on the health of your thyroid and body as a whole. There is no single "cure" for hypothyroidism. For a personalized approach to managing hypothyroidism, it often takes work with an endocrinologist and nutritionist to eliminate potential irritants and discover a balanced diet that works for your body.

Summary Points

  • This small, butterfly-shaped gland is part of the endocrine system located in the neck and releases "thyroid hormones" which control your metabolism
  • Insufficient vitamin D has been linked to Hashimoto’s disease and may be harmful to those with hyperthyroidism
  • In order to keep protein levels high without adding extra fat or sugar to the diet, try a lean protein supplement such as collagen
  • Studies have shown that high-intensity aerobic exercises like fast-paced walking, running, biking, hiking, and rowing are all extremely effective forms of weight loss, and may help speed up the metabolism by increasing thyroid hormone levels




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