Located at the base of the neck, the thyroid gland secretes several hormones that regulate metabolism. The foremost job of these hormones, which includes thyroxine (known as T4) and triiodothyronine (known as T3) is to help cells convert calories and oxygen into energy. If the thyroid secretes too much of these hormones, a condition called hyperthyroidism occurs, which thrusts the body into overdrive. But when too few hormones are produced a condition called hypothyroidism everything slows down, from your pulse and temperature, to your energy level, and the rate at which you burn calories. Hypothyroidism is much more common than hyperthyroidism and usually crops up in women, people older than 60, and those with a family history of thyroid problems.
Some foods support normal thyroid activity especially seafood and seaweed, which are loaded with iodine; Brazil nuts, which are the richest natural source of selenium; and whole proteins such as fish, chicken, turkey, and eggs, which contain L-tyrosine. On the other hand, some foods contain goitrogens, substances that interfere with normal thyroid activity. Cooking generally inactivates goitrogens, but if your thyroid activity is significantly low, it may be best to avoid these foods until you’ve corrected the problem. Such foods include cruciferous vegetables, soy, kohlrabi, mustard greens, radishes, rutabaga, spinach, turnips, pine nuts, peanuts, and millet.
If you find that you are unusually fatigued, have unexplained weight changes, sore joints and muscles, or notice that your neck is enlarged, ask your health care provider to check for thyroid problems. If you smoke and are at risk of hyperthyroidism, it’s important to quit. According to research published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, women who smoke have twice the risk of developing hyperthyroidism than non-smokers. Exercise is an important factor in the treatment of hypothyroidism. Exercise increases tissue sensitivity to the thyroid hormone and stimulates thyroid gland secretion. Start with an exercise regime of 15 to 20 minutes per day and increase the duration as your stamina increases. Walking, swimming, running, and cycling are all good options for those with thyroid conditions.
Iodine: forms part of the foundation of thyroid hormones T4 contains four iodine atoms, and T3 contains three. If you suffer from hypothyroidism, it’s wise to work with your health care provider before taking large doses of iodine since taking too much can aggravate the thyroid. Typical dosage: 150 mcg per day.
L-tyrosine: can be helpful for those suffering from hypothyroidism. Not having enough L-tyrosine limits the amount of thyroid hormone the body can make, so taking supplements can kick-start a sluggish thyroid. Typical dosage: Because L-tyrosine supplements can be too stimulating for some people, start with 200 mg or less per day and work up to 500 mg if you tolerate it well.
Selenium: is critical because it helps convert thyroid hormones to an active form. Typical dosage: 200 mcg daily.
Zinc: is another mineral that is important for proper thyroid function. In a four month clinical study, researchers at the University of Massachusetts found that the thyroid hormone levels in zinc-deficient women improved significantly after a daily dose of zinc. Typical dosage: 15 mg of zinc daily. Because long-term zinc supplementation can block copper absorption, take 1 to 2 mg of copper daily as well.