Updated: Jan 18
(Pexels, 2019) January is Thyroid Awareness Month. One out of every eight Americans will experience a thyroid issue over their lifetime, and 60% of them are in the unknown. Although numerous individuals are conscious that the thyroid gland exists, many are unaware of the importance of the organ or its role in thyroid illness. Therefore, this month’s post will highlight the different health issues linked with thyroid disease. This blog will cover all things thyroid: its function, signs of thyroid illness, how to talk to your doctor, and the influence of nutrition on the thyroid. Thyroid and its function: The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped endocrine gland located at the base of the front of the neck. Its function is to produce thyroid hormones which travel throughout the body via the bloodstream. The hormone regulates metabolism, body temperature, breathing, and fat synthesis in the human body. It also influences skin health, the menstrual cycle, bone loss, and neurological functioning. Thyroid disease symptoms: Thyroid disease occurs when there is an imbalance in the production of thyroid hormones. The types of thyroid disease are: 1. Hypothyroidism, characterized by an underactive thyroid producing insufficient thyroid hormones. Hypothyroidism is commonly caused by the autoimmune disease Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, Early signs: Rapid heart rate, irregular heartbeats, anxiety, insomnia, nervousness, losing weight with increased hunger, increased sweating/heat intolerance, and muscle weakness. 2. Hyperthyroidism. An overactive thyroid overproduces thyroid hormones, leading to thyrotoxicosis. Hyperthyroidism is also associated with Graves’ Disease, an autoimmune disease. Early signs: Tiredness/sluggishness, including physical and psychological, cold intolerance, constipation, loss of hair, increased weight, and depression. For more information, please visit the America Thyroid Association. How to discuss with your doctor: Don’t be ashamed, be open and truthful about your signs and symptoms. Record your questions and concerns before your visit and take them with you. Bring a close friend or family member, if you can. When it comes to hearing from your doctor, having two pairs of ears might be beneficial. Make notes so you may go back and review them l Be familiar with accessing your information, test results, and a prescription list. Finally, there is no such thing as a silly inquiry! Your doctor is there to answer any of your concerns and ensure that you are confident in the treatment you are receiving. Nutritional influences on thyroid: Some nutrients play a crucial role in thyroid regulation: Iodine: Thyroid hormones primarily consist of iodine. Iodine deficiency is the leading cause of thyroid problems across the world. Some primary sources of iodine are iodized salt, fish, dairy, and grains. Caution should be taken when consuming Iodine supplements since too much or too little iodine can cause serious health problems. Vitamin D: A critical nutrient for healthy bone formation and is required as part of the treatment for Graves’ disease to prevent further bone loss. Food sources include milk, dairy products, fish, eggs, mushrooms, and sunlight (inconsistent with fluctuating season and latitude). Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin and should be taken under the guidance of a physician or dietitian. Selenium: It is a vital trace element required for the healthy operation of thyroid enzymes. Brazil nuts, tuna, crab, and lobster are examples of food sources. Vitamin B12: Deficiency is irreversible, and research reveals that 30 percent of anti-thyroid drug users (those used to treat hyperthyroidism) are deficient in vitamin B12. Foods rich in B12 include sardines, mollusks, salmon, liver, muscle meat, dairy, fortified cereals, and nutritional yeast. When paired with an iodine deficiency, consumption of certain cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, and soy is a concern as these foods contain a thyroid-synthesis interfering compound called goitrin.
1. American Thyroid Association (2022). Information on Thyroid Disease and Thyroid Cancer. https://www.thyroid.org/
2. Goldfarb, M. (2021). January is Thyroid Awareness Month. Saint John’s Cancer Institute. https://www.saintjohnscancer.org/blog/endocrine/january-is-thyroid-awareness-month/
3. Harris, C. (2012). Thyroid Disease and Diet — Nutrition Plays a Part in Maintaining Thyroid Health. Today’s Dietitian, 14(7), 40. https://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/070112p40.shtml
4. O'Day, S. (2021). Thyroid Awareness: January and Beyond. Medicare Guide. https://medicareguide.com/thyroid-awareness-january-and-beyond-285923
5. Pexels. (2019). Thyroid Photos. https://www.pexels.com/search/thyroid%20/
6. Unicity Healthcare (n.d.). January Is Thyroid Awareness Month: Calling Attention To Thyroid Disease In Seniors. https://www.unicityhealthcare.com/january-is-thyroid-awareness-month-calling-attention-to-thyroid-disease-in-seniors/.