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How to keep your thyroid in good health

The thyroid is a small pear-shaped gland, located just below the neck, that controls your weight, regulates your energy level, causes mood swings and hampers preg-nancy for those planning a baby. For over 10 million women across the globe, this regulator has been acting up. Look at these simple but significant diet and lifestyle changes that can keep your thyroid in good health.

A dysfunctional thyroid is bad news for the whole body. Every body cell uses thyroid hormones produced by the thyroid gland. For the normal functioning of the body, these hormones must be produced and secreted in determined amounts. The problem starts when the gland becomes over or underactive producing higher or lower amounts of hormones than required by the body.

There was a time when it was unusual for young women to have thyroid problems. It was an ailment that worried women above 40. However, according to research estimates, almost 30-35 per cent of young women are affected with thyroid problems today. Nor is this phenomenon limited to one country or even continent, but is seen globally.

The Problem

Both an overactive (hyper) and under-active (hypo) thyroid produces innumerable symptoms including increased sensitivity to cold, joint pains, weight gain, fatigue, dizziness, ear problems, memory problems, hair loss, constipation, dry skin, brittle nails and so on.

Abnormal weight gain that defies explanation is one of the major symptoms of a thyroid problem. Recent studies have showed that an under-active thyroid might be the number one cause of weight problems.

In women, inability to conceive can be due to thyroid- related problems. So women who have any of the above symptoms and are finding it difficult to conceive should undergo a thyroid diagnosis test.

The Solution

Iodine is crucial for the production of thyroid hormones. Even a minute amount of iodine is sufficient for normal production of thyroid hormones, and iodised salt is usually enough to provide the required amount. However, there are foods that block iodine absorption (goitrogens) and can nullify the benefits of iodised salt. What are these foods?

Dietary vegetable oils, polyunsaturated oils and hydrogenated fats are believed to be the cause for the increased incidence of thyroid problems. The most common source of hydrogenated fats and polyunsaturated oils are soybeans. According to research estimates, nearly one-third of teenagers with autoimmune thyroid problem were more likely to have been fed on soy formula as infants. Peanuts, peanut butter, cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli can also inhibit the production of thyroid hormones.

Strong tea, coffee and tobacco should be avoided when suffering from hyperthyroidism. Cigarette smoke has various toxins (thiocyanate, in particular) that are especially dangerous to thyroid, and can trigger thyroid disease in susceptible people. Cigarette smokers are also more likely to develop thyroid eye complications of Graves’ disease, and treatments for eye problems are less effective in smokers. So, in addition to all the other health problems related to smoking, there is often an increased risk and worsening of thyroid disease and its complications.

A thyroid-friendly diet is actually about limiting the consumption of foods that contain goitrogens and possibly avoiding oils that block iodine.

Vitamin D deficiency is linked to thyroid as well. Experts suggest that adequate bone-building nutrients such as vitamin D are particularly important during and after treatment. Foods that contain vitamin D include dairy, eggs and mushrooms. Sunlight is a potential source, but the amount of vitamin production depends on the season and latitude. Supplements having vitamins and nutrients such as riboflavin, lecithin and thiamin may help. Ideally, you need 60,000 Iu of Vitamin D a month. You can obtain this through a monthly sachet of calcirol.

Catch It Early

Early detection is key. If you experience any of the symptoms discussed above, make sure you ask your doctor about a simple blood test called a thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) test that can detect a thyroid gland gone haywire.

Lifestyle Changes

Healthy nutritious food and low stress levels can minimise the chance of developing thyroid problems.  A low glycaemic index diet (a diet based on controlling blood sugar) helps in controlling thyroid. Cut down on foods with high sugar and fat. Regular exercise is crucial. Exercise not only enables weight-loss but also releases ‘happy hormones’ in the body reducing stress and helping you cope with low moods and depression.

An under-active thyroid can respond to natural remedies such as acupuncture, yoga and panchakarma ayurveda and benefit from taking flaxseed oil, zinc and multi-vitamins.

Homeopathy plays an important role in the treatment of thyroid. The homeopathic treatment helps in controlling the progress of the disease and prevention of other complications. Irrespective of the treatment option that you may select, there are foods that promote thyroid health and those that aggravate the condition. Foods that provide extra iodine and omega-3 fatty acids are good for thyroid health.

The bottom line is that a sensible diet and lifestyle can help prevent or control thyroid malfunction.

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