4 Ways to Keep a Healthy Thyroid

The thyroid gland is a small gland that sits in front of the windpipe and that works with pituitary gland to know how much hormone needs to be secreted to keep you healthy. The thyroid gland takes iodine, found in many foods and iodized salt, and converts it to thyroid hormones. [1]There are two conditions that can affect the thyroid gland. One is hypothyroidism, which is when you have an underactive thyroid.[2] The second condition is hyperthyroidism, which is when you have an overactive thyroid and produce too much thyroid hormone.[3] Having a healthy thyroid is important, and treating conditions of the thyroid is important for it to return to being healthy. There are lifestyle changes and medications you can use to get and keep a healthy thyroid.


Using Lifestyle Changes

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    Eat the right vegetables and fruits. Eating fresh vegetables and fruits will help you maintain thyroid and overall health. You should also eat vegetables and fruits high in antioxidants, such bell pepper, cherries, tomatoes, blueberries, and squash. However, when you are working toward thyroid health, you need to know which kind of thyroid issue you suffer from because some vegetables can be more harmful than helpful.

    • For example, if you suffer from hypothyroidism, you should avoid anything in the cabbage family, such as kale, spinach, brussels sprouts, broccoli, and cabbage. These foods interfere with thyroid function.[4]
    • If you are taking certain medications for thyroid health, you should also avoid soy beans until you talk to your doctor.[5]
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    Avoid processed and refined foods. Processed and refined foods are not good for thyroid health. White breads, pastas, sugar, cookies, cakes, fast foods, and prepackaged foods are all processed and bad for your thyroid health. Instead, make meals with fresh ingredients and use as little premade or processed components as possible.

    • Try switching out certain prepackaged things for fresh ingredients. For example, don’t eat instant oatmeal in the morning. Instead, use steel-cut oatmeal and add nuts and spices to it. Avoid canned vegetables and make them fresh. These small steps will help you cut down on processed foods and help your thyroid health.[6][7]
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    Avoid alcohol and tobacco products. Caffeine and alcohol can impact the health of your thyroid. If you have hyperthyroidism, you should ask your doctor before using caffeinated beverages like soft drinks, coffee and tea. However, you should always ask your doctor before you increase your caffeine intake, no matter what kind of thyroid condition you have.[8][9]
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    Find sources of iodine. Since you need iodine to combat thyroid problems, you need to make sure you get enough of it in your diet. Iodine is eaten in dietary forms of iodine by eating foods grown in soil with the appropriate iodine content, such as mushrooms, onions, and garlic. You can also get iodine naturally by eating meat from organic grass-fed animals. Some animal feed adds in potassium iodate, which also adds iodine to the meat you eat. Table salt is also a source of iodine because it has been supplemented with it.

    • You may suffer from a lack of iodine, or iodine deficiency, when you don’t eat enough table salt because this is the primary source of iodine you get on a daily basis. This can occur in diets comprised of foods that are not cooked at home.[10]
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    Increase your selenium intake. The amount of selenium you get through supplementation has an impact on your thyroid health. The link between selenium deficiency was only recently established in the 1990’s in relation to Graves disease, an autoimmune thyroid disease. Selenium supplementation provided a quicker return to healthy thyroid states than other methods.[11]

    • Incorporate more foods that contain high selenium levels, such as brazil nuts, tuna, shrimp, oysters, liver chicken, and turkey.[12]
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    Take vitamin A supplements. Taking vitamin A as supplements has been found to regulate thyroid metabolism and was associated with decreased thyroid hormone levels in obese and non-obese patients studied. A dosage of 25,000 IU a day is recommended to maintain healthy thyroid function.[13]

    • You can also incorporate more vitamin A into your diet with foods such as sweet potatoes, carrots, and squash.[14]
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    Get more aerobic exercise. Intense aerobic activity has been shown to help with higher levels of circulating thyroid hormones. Aerobic exercise is any exercise which increases your target heart rate for a period of 30 minutes. Incorporate more exercises, such as jogging, running, dancing, cycling and aerobics. You should work out for 30 minutes a day at least five times a week. Your target heart rate is calculated by subtracting your age from 220 and multiplying by 0.7.

    • For example, if you are 35 years old, your target heart rate is 220-35 = 185, then 185×0.7 = 129.5.[15]



Using Medical Treatments for Thyroid Health

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    Use radioactive iodine for hyperthyroidism. Radioactive iodine is used to destroy any active nodules in your thyroid in order to stop their uncontrolled production of the thyroid hormone. Radioactive Iodine therapy involves injection of radionuclide tagged iodine into a vein. The iodine is taken up by the thyroid gland, which absorbs the radioactive iodine. The radiation destroys the cells that comprise these active nodules that are producing excessive thyroid hormone, which causes the gland to shrink and symptoms to disappear within three to six months.

    • A single dose of this medication is successful in 80% of cases. [16][17]
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    Take other medications for hyperthyroidism. Your doctor may prescribe you anti-thyroid medications such as methimazole when radioactive iodine is not permitted, such as with pregnant women or children. These medications prevent your thyroid from producing excess levels of the thyroid hormone and start helping symptoms in six to 12 weeks. Methimazole is prescribed at 15 to 30 mg per daily.

    • Treatment of a thyroid storm is treated with beta-blockers, as well as hydration and sedatives. Beta blockers are also prescribed if you have increased heart rate as a result of your hyperthyroidism.[18]
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    Have surgery for hyperthyroidism. Your doctor may suggest surgery with thyroidectomy as the treatment of choice if you did not respond or cannot take the medication, if you are pregnant, or are a child. This procedure is also done in cases for those with large goiters that are unsightly or compressing the trachea.

    • This surgery consists of the removal of the gland. If you have this surgery, you will have to have lifelong treatment to replace your thyroid hormone since you no longer have a gland to produce it.[19]
    • Another option is a subtotal thyroidectomy. A surgeon will remove up to 90 percent of your thyroid gland under general anaesthetic. The remaining tissue may still produce enough thyroid hormone to mean replacement treatments are never required or not required for many years. You should monitor your general health for signs of change to your hormone health if you have a subtotal thyroidectomy.
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    Take synthetic hormones for hypothyroidism. Since the only concern with hypothyroidism is hormone productions, the only medication used for hypothyroidism is synthetic hormones. When the thyroid gland is not producing enough of any hormone, it must be supplemented. This can be supplemented with a synthetic thyroid hormone such as Synthroid, in doses ranging from 50 micrograms to 300 micrograms. Your doctor will use blood tests to determine your specific dose. Your doctor will start you on a lower dose. between 50 to 100 micrograms daily and recheck the blood tests four to six weeks after starting the medication, looking for changes in your hormone levels.

    • Your doctor will also take into account your clinical symptoms, such as weight gain, energy level, fatigue, concentration, depression, or other symptoms of decreased metabolism. If your levels are not to the point of hypothyroidism yet, your doctor may still prescribe a low dose of synthetic hormone to help level out the symptoms.[20]
    • In addition to synthetic hormones, your doctor may prescribe Armour Thyroid, which is actual bovine desiccated thyroid gland to help regulate yours. Starting dose is commonly 60 mg daily, and continued until blood tests indicate a response.[21]



EditUnderstanding Hyperthyroidism

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    Learn about thyroid conditions. There are two common problems that can affect the thyroid. The thyroid can be overactive and overproduce the thyroid hormone, which is called hyperthyroidism. The thyroid can also be underactive and produce insufficient amounts of the thyroid hormone, which is called hypothyroidism. Hypothyroidism is second only to diabetes as the most common endocrine disorder.

    • Both conditions can cause a goiter, which is the enlargement of the thyroid in an effort to increase and manufacture thyroid hormone. A goiter presents as a glandular swelling that can be detected as a swelling in the neck. It is only considered a symptom, not a medical disorder in and of itself.[22]
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    Recognize symptoms of hyperthyroidism. Hyperthyroidism causes an increase in metabolic activity. Symptoms of hyperthyroidism include:

    • Heat intolerance
    • Tachycardia or rapid heart rate
    • Weight loss
    • Sweating
    • Goiters[23]
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    Learn the causes of hyperthyroidism. The most common causes of hyperthyroidism are Grave’s disease, a toxic thyroid adenoma, a toxic multinodular goiter, lymphocytic thyroiditis, heart medications such as amiodarone, or a primary pituitary disorder.

    • A thyroid storm is a rare cause and at the extreme end of the spectrum of hyperthyroidism. In this condition, the patient exhibits symptoms such as increased heart rate, vomiting, fever, diarrhea, dehydration, and altered mental status.[24]



EditUnderstanding Hypothyroidism

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    Recognize the symptoms of hypothyroidism. Hypothyroid symptoms can be vague but as it is so common, it demands an appropriate search for the diagnosis. Every cell in the body requires thyroid hormones and without it, signs of decreased metabolism are present. In cases where the symptoms are prominent, ask your doctor to check your thyroid. The symptoms of hypothyroidism are:

    • Weight gain
    • Depression
    • Dry skin
    • Memory Impairment
    • Poor concentration
    • Constipation
    • Hair thinning or loss
    • Joint pains
    • Goiters
    • Cold intolerance[25]
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    Know the causes of hypothyroidism. Hypothyroidism is most commonly caused by an autoimmune destruction of the gland or by Hashimoto’s disease, which is a condition where the immune system attacks the thyroid gland. It can be due to other etiologies such primary glandular insufficiency for unknown reasons, iodine deficiency, pregnancy, congenital disorders, or issues with the pituitary gland.[26][27]
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    Diagnose hypothyroidism. Most often, hypothyroidism is diagnosed by simple blood tests, such as the TSH test and thyroid hormone test. Generally, once you go to the doctor with the common symptoms of hypothyroidism, your doctor will run blood tests to check your hormone levels.

    • You may want to ask for a test if you are at higher risk of hypothyroidism. Doctors may also suggest it themselves if you are an older woman or if you are pregnant or want to become pregnant.[28]
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    Know the side effects of hypothyroidism. In hypothyroidism, the body has a number of compensatory mechanisms which keep it functioning despite decreased hormone levels. In the event of sickness, such as infection, the body can increase its metabolic rate and the levels may overwhelm the body, causing coma. A severely low thyroid can even result in a myxedema coma, which is an extreme manifestation of hypothyroidism.[29]

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