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I’ve heard about the thyroid, but I never knew much about it. So when I set out to write an this article, I was determined to find out what exactly it does, and why it is important to keep it healthy. Shockingly, there are many functions that coincide with the thyroid, and there are also many different illnesses and diseases that can come from an unhealthy gland.

What does your thyroid do?

Your thyroid is a little butterfly-shaped gland in your throat, and it helps regulate your body’s energy and metabolism (and now we’re all paying closer attention :)) which includes how fast or slow your brain, liver, heart, muscles, and other parts of your body work. Your thyroid also helps with muscle building and regulating body temperature. Get cold hands or feet? that could be because of poor thyroid function, or a lack of healthy circulation, or both. 

The thyroid secretes 3 major hormones thyroxine (T4), triiodothyronine (T3), and calcitonin. T3 and T4 are the hormones that are responsible for the metabolism and have an affect on almost every cell in our bodies. Calcitonin aids in helping regulate the calcium levels in the body and leads the bone-building process as well.

“T4 is a mostly inactive hormone and is the forerunner to T3, which is the predominant and active hormone and which has the greatest affect on our health and well-being. The body is designed to convert T4 to T3, but many people have trouble with this conversion, mostly due to stress, hormonal and gut imbalances, and nutritional deficiencies” (Experience Life).

In order for your thyroid to function properly, an efficient amount of iodine is needed, however; Iodine deficiency disorders (IDD) effect anywhere between 800 million and 2 billion people worldwide. In the ocean, iodine is in abundance; but, in our soil iodine is hard to find.

In the 1900s there was a major iodine deficiency problem. Since then iodine has been added to most table salts, dairy products, and baking products. However, there are still many people who have low levels of iodine, which then can lead to hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, Hashimoto’s disease and thyroid gland enlargement. In order ensure that you’re getting enough iodine and that your thyroid will remain healthy because of it, below are 6 different foods you can eat to keep it in check.

6 Iodine Rich Foods That Promote a Healthy Thyroid:

  1. Eggs (free range, organic and local is best) 
  2. Seafood (also organic, wild caught) 
  3. Cranberries
  4. Organic Green Vegetables
  5. Organic Sea Vegetables/Seaweed (Kelp, Dulse, Nori, Wakame, Arame, Kombu and Hijiki)
  6. Himalayan sea salt or Celtic sea salt

But how do you know that you have thyroid dysfunction? What are some of the signs and symptoms to becoming aware that their might be something wrong?

8 Symptoms of Thyroid Malfunction:

  • Feeling unmotivated or blue
  • Constipated
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Mood swings
  • Reproductive issues (miscarriages, infertility, or premature births)
  • Chronic muscle or joint pain
  • Irregular temperature regulation (always hot or cold)
  • Inconsistent appetite  

The Risks of Hyperthyroidism and Hypothyroidism:

Hyperthyroidism is when your thyroid produce too much hormones, and hypothyroidism is when your thyroid produces too little hormones. More often than not, may people have hypothyroidism rather than hyperthyroidism.

Hypothyroidism means that your thyroid is sluggish and is not up to par when it comes to efficiency. A deficiency like this can lead to obesity, joint pain, depression, fatigue, heart disease, poor memory and focus, hair loss, and an intolerance to cold.

The problem is that when many have hypothyroidism and a lack of iodine in their bodies, normally their diagnosed with something else. Since many of the problems/side effects are similar to others, specific thyroid problems tend to get overlooked.

It is important to get your iodine levels tested. Typically people with hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid) are more in need of iodine while people with hyperthyroidism (an overactive thyroid) may not need any more iodine in their diet or supplement routine at all.

What is Hashimoto’s disease?

Hashimoto’s disease is an autoimmune condition that causes the antibodies to attack the thyroid tissue. This autoimmune disease affects 90 percent of Americans with hypothyroidism. This disease is more common among women and can cause mental health issues, heart problems, and birth defects.

It all connects, in order to maintain a healthy thyroid so you don’t have issues with hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, and hashimoto’s disease can help be prevented by a healthy intake of iodine. With that, there are also some foods to stay away from.

5 Foods That Harm Thyroid Health (Avoid!):

  • Refined sugar
  • Hydrogenated oils
  • Soda pop, alcohol, excessive amounts of coffee
  • Soy products
  • Refined gluten grains

It’s amazing to see how everything connects in the body. Learning about the thyroid and iodine really opened my eyes to see the importance of eating iodine-rich foods. The real struggle can be realizing that even though many of the symptoms of a thyroid deficiency can also be side effects to other problems, how can I make sure that I’m taking care of my thyroid?

I’m going to start by making sure that I am eating those iodine-rich foods from the list above. It is so important to have a healthy iodine intake because it truly does affect so many other things within the body, especially hormones!

My mother tried to tell me the importance of iodine when I was younger, but I never fully listened. Doesn’t that happen a lot with our parents when we’re teenagers? Doing my own research now has helped me to see the importance, and I am thankful that she took the time to learn it for herself and my family years ago. Even though I didn’t listen then, I’m ready to start listening to my body now so that I can have a healthy, happy, properly working thyroid.