The thyroid gland is a small gland located at the bottom of the neck. It is shaped like a butterfly and has a significant impact on your health as its hormones affect almost the entire body. It secretes hormones into the bloodstream after receiving Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH), which is released by the pituitary gland. Thyroid hormones are critical for the body, as they control metabolism, cellular growth, and healing. Metabolism controls body temperature and caloric consumption. Patients affected by thyroid issues often report feeling excessively cold, lack of energy and gain unhealthy weight with normal diet and exercise.
Hypothyroidism and Thyroid Gland
Hypothyroidism is characterized by a lack of thyroid hormones, even when the gland receives stimulation from TSH. This is termed hypothyroidism and is the most prevalent form of the disease. 90 percent of the cases are of Hashimoto’s disease. It is an autoimmune complication in which the immune system targets the thyroid gland itself.
There are many other things that contribute to thyroid issues. For example, the pituitary gland may not be producing enough TSH, which is termed Secondary Hypothyroidism. Other elements such as insufficient iodine, imbalanced nutrition and allergens are also contributing factors.
Hypothyroidism and Metabolism
Thyroid hormones directly affect metabolism. Higher metabolism equates to more calories burned at rest, which prevents fat accumulation. The thyroid gland of patients suffering from hypothyroidism produces lesser amounts of thyroid hormones, causing them to become overweight, feel lethargic and subsequently have higher cholesterol levels.
Tips to Keep Thyroid Gland Healthy
Keeping the thyroid gland healthy significantly reduces the chances of developing hypothyroidism. The following 10 tips will assist in keeping your thyroid gland in good health.
1. Exercise for the Win
Exercise is extremely beneficial for thyroid health. The boost in physical activity signals the pituitary gland to produce more TSH, which promotes thyroid gland activity. This boosts metabolism and catabolizes fat deposits, which is good for health. A brisk 30-minute workout 5 days a week works wonders for the body. Consider choosing High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) routines as they immensely promote metabolic activity.
The Holy Prophet (SAW) was physically fit and active. There is a reported incident of him wrestling with a strong man named Rukhanah and he emerged the victor (reported by Abu Dawud).
2. Say No to Fad Diets and Starvation
Crash diets and starvation are often hailed as revolutionary owing to one unconfirmed medical research or the other. However, what medical research has confirmed is that such activities are bad for health. Limiting the amount of food to well below Recommended Dietary Intake (RDI) forces the thyroid gland to start producing lesser amounts of hormones. Moreover, the gland will release hormones that will reverse T3 for slowing down metabolic activities.
The actual trick lies in consuming a balanced diet at proper timings. Supply your body with ample macro and micronutrients to ensure good health. The Holy Prophet (SAW) provided a simple guideline for eating. “A few morsels that keep his back upright are sufficient for him. If he has to, then he should keep one-third for food, one-third for drink and one-third for his breathing” (Imam Ahmad and At-Tirmidhi and authenticated by Al-Albani).
3. Care for Celiac Disease Patients
In case you suffer from allergies to gluten, skip gluten from the diet. Certain autoimmune disorders, such as Celiac disease, cause allergic reactions due to gluten. Medical studies have linked them to thyroid issues. The molecular structure of the protein in gluten resembles that of the thyroid. This causes the gland to be targeted when the immune systems fire a response to destroy gluten. Food such as wheat, malt, barley, and rye contain high amounts of gluten. They should be completely eliminated or switched with gluten-free versions to protect from such allergic reactions.
4. Brassica Boost
Vegetables under the Brassica genus are an excellent addition to the diet for thyroid gland health. Greens such as kale, cauliflower, and broccoli are good for the thyroid but should be cooked beforehand to ensure they are do not negatively impact the gland. They are goitrogens, which suppress thyroid function if consumed excessively or not cooked properly. Overconsumption is extremely rare, but eating them raw is often associated with medical complications.
5. Increase Antioxidants
Foods such as berries, grapes, garlic, onion, and leeks are full of antioxidants. Not only do they slow down the natural cellular aging process, but they also alleviate the oxidative stress on the thyroid gland. They keep the gland in good health to ensure it continues to produce hormones without causing an imbalance.
6. Dietary Selenium
Selenium is an important dietary mineral essential for converting T4 thyroid hormone to T3. Moreover, it also functions as an antioxidant, which relieves oxidative stress on other organs. Rich sources of selenium are butter, Brazilian nuts, eggs, broccoli, fish, onions, and garlic.
7. Balanced Iodine Intake
Balanced iodine intake is essential for good thyroid gland health. Triiodothyronine (T3) and Thyroxine (T4) hormones are named after the number of iodine molecules in them. The gland fails to synthesize the hormones with limited iodine in the body. It is a fairly common issue that can be treated easily by consuming foods such as iodized salt, seaweeds, dairy products, and seafood, which are rich in iodine.
8. Control Caffeine Intake
Caffeine functions as a stimulant for the body and forces it to go beyond its normal boundaries. Foods such as coffee, tea and carbonated drink high amounts of caffeine. Overstimulating the adrenal glands in the long-run has negative health effects as it raises the cortisol levels. They cause blood sugar levels to spike erratically and reduces the efficiency of producing TSH.
9. Limit Soy in Diet
Soy acts as a goitrogen, which hampers thyroid functionality. However, these effects only become visible upon excessive consumption, as it blocks iodine absorption. For maintaining thyroid health, foods such as tofu and soy milk should be consumed moderately.
10. Time to Cut Processed Food
Food such as Meal Ready to Eat (MRE), frozen food, fast food, and packaged food are heavily processed foods. They contain high amounts of simple carbohydrates, sodium, and saturated fats. They are unhealthy and even short-term consumption has adverse health effects. These force the thyroid gland to go into overdrive, as the body receives a huge influx of simple sugars that are readily absorbed into the bloodstream through the intestines. The gland starts becoming less effective at producing such high amounts of hormones and eventually starts succumbing to stress. This reduces the overall functionality in the long-term, as the thyroid starts producing less hormone owing to fatigue. Substitute processed foods with fresh vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.