January is national thyroid awareness month! What a wonderful time to learn more about the thyroid, how it functions, and what role nutrition plays on our thyroid health. The thyroid gland is an unique butterfly shaped endocrine gland that sits in the lower front portion of the neck.
What is the function of the thyroid gland?
The thyroid works by producing thyroid hormones, secreting these hormones into our
bloodstream, which then impact various tissues within our bodies. Thyroid hormones play a key role in how our bodies utilize energy, and have an impact on growth and development. Since the thyroid influences how our bodies utilize energy, there is the potential for it to influence our body weight when it is not functioning properly. Depending on which condition you may be impacted by, it may slow down (which may increase our weight) or speed up the metabolism (which may decrease our weight).
The main conditions that impact the thyroid include:
- Hypothyroidism, which is an underactive thyroid (may slow down our metabolism)
- Hyperthyroidism, which is an overactive thyroid (may speed up our metabolism)
- Goiter, an enlarged thyroid gland
- Thyroid cancer
How do I know if my thyroid is working properly?
Symptoms may vary depending on the type and severity of the thyroid condition. Some common signs that may indicate an issue with the thyroid include unintentional weight loss or gain, a slowed or rapid heart rate, difficulty tolerating temperatures, depression, anxiety, a change in menstrual cycle, and more. Always discuss any symptoms you have with your primary care physician and remember to obtain your yearly physical.
What role does nutrition play in thyroid health?
There is no single diet per say for the thyroid. However, there are some nutrients that are essential to support the general function of the thyroid. The two major micronutrients:
1. Iodine is one of the main nutrients that help to produce our thyroid hormones. The
general population tends to get enough iodine through foods that are fortified with iodine, with one major source being iodized salt. Additional examples include dairy products, seafoods, and seaweed.
2. Selenium is essential for antioxidant defense (which reduces harmful compounds) within the thyroid and the metabolism of thyroid hormones. The richest sources of selenium include Brazil nuts, seafoods, and organ meats, but can also be found in grains (such as cereal, brown rice, oatmeal, whole wheat bread) and dairy products (such as cottage cheese, milk, yogurt).
In general, a balanced diet that includes a variety of nutritious, whole foods is key to supporting a healthy thyroid as a variety of micronutrients are thought to potentially impact thyroid health. Aim to emphasize the consumption of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and healthy fats.
Schedule an appointment with one of our awesome dietitian’s at The Rite Bite Nutrition for personalized guidance and education based on your medical history, preferences, lifestyle, and more!
Until next time,