According to The American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists, at least 30 million Americans have a thyroid disorder, half of whom are silent sufferers, and remain undiagnosed. Women are 10 times more likely to have a thyroid problem than men, particularly among those over 35 - studies show that the risk of a thyroid disorder among people from this age group is high (more than 30% likely).
So, what exactly is the thyroid and how does it affect the body? Located in the neck, just above the 'Adam's apple' the thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland, that can have a dramatic impact on a variety of bodily functions. Your thyroid produces Thyroid Hormone (TH), which regulates, among other things, your body's temperature, metabolism and heartbeat.
Things start to go wrong when your thyroid is out of balance. If it's sluggish, it produces too little TH, and when amped up, it produces too much. Because thyroid hormones that have gone haywire are far reaching in the body - symptoms range from the brain to the bowels - diagnosing this particular disorder can be challenging. However, if your thyroid is on the blink, watch out for the following symptoms:
- Feeling exhausted and run down
- Feeling jittery and anxious
- Appetite or taste buds are altered
- The brain feels fuzzy
- No interest in sex
- Bowels are unpredictable
- Skin is dry
- High blood pressure
- Weight gain
- High cholesterol
If however, you're still unsure about whether you have a thyroid problem or not, read Signs You May Have a Thyroid Problem.
Hypothyroidism (when the body lacks sufficient thyroid hormone) is especially common, and diet and lifestyle habits are a major contributor. When working on correcting thyroid issues it is important to calm the immune system down by reducing sources of inflammation. Inflammation is a result of poor diet and other stresses, dramatically altering the conversion of TH.
8 Habits that could contribute to Hypothyroidism
1. Low-fat dieting: Proper amounts of fat are important for regulating hormones and normal brain function.
2. Consuming too much soy: Soy may seem like the perfect food due to its low calories and carbs, but it may also interfere with hormones and digestion. Also, in proper thyroid function, iodine plays an important role, but too much soy from milk and tofu can block iodine absorption from food.
3. Trying to fit too much into your schedule: Saying yes to plans and meetings too often will result in less time for yourself, which may result in feeling burn-out. Before you say yes to anything, take a pause, look at your calendar and see if that plan works well for you. It is important to make time for play, relaxation and meditation.
4. Drinking diet soda: While diet soda may seem like it is controlling your weight and giving you energy, what you may not realize is that it is full of chemicals that can create a toxic environment in the body. Diet soda also contains fluoride which blocks receptors for thyroid hormone.
5. Consuming alcohol regularly: Drinking alcohol may lead to blood sugar fluctuations, causing stress on the thyroid-adrenal-pituitary (hormones that control vital systems in the body) feedback loop. This repeated process can negatively effect the endocrine system, leading to dysfunction and causing the signaling system to fail. Consequently, this creates a situation whereby you are more likely to become fat, fatigued and depressed.
6. Consuming vegetable oils and fats: The thyroid gland relies on healthy fats and cholesterol to release the right amount of hormones for the whole body. Consuming vegetable oils such as margarine, can contribute to leaky gut syndrome, which causes undigested food particles to get into the blood stream. This undigested food may then over-activate the immune system. As a result, the body starts to attack small organs without having a good defense system such as the thyroid gland.
7. Consuming too much gluten: Most people with thyroid problems, are likely to be gluten intolerant. To test your intolerance, try an elimination diet for 30 days. If you feel better without gluten, your thyroid will likely be working better too.
8. Consuming too much sugar: Refined sugar depletes vitamins and minerals - the building blocks to a healthy thyroid, strong adrenals and sufficient metabolism. The Standard American diet may also be a contributing factor to thyroid problems, because highly variable blood sugar fluctuations put extra stress on the thyroid and adrenals over time.
Disclaimer: These are suggested lifestyle changes, to promote better health and do not necessarily contribute to prohibiting or improving hypothyroidism.