January: Thyroid Awareness Month

Your thyroid is one of the most important organs in the body, but often the health your thyroid goes unchecked until there is an issue. My own personal thyroid issues and having to get a fine needle aspiration biopsy of the thyroid is what made me finally fully commit to living a more holistic lifestyle. Nodules or abnormalities in the body are often detected by imaging examinations, which is how my nodule was initially discovered. However, it is not always possible to tell from these imaging tests whether a nodule is benign (non-cancerous) or cancerous, which is why many doctors will recommend a needle biopsy, also called a needle aspiration, which involves removing some cells—in a less invasive procedure involving a hollow needle—from a suspicious area within the body and examining them under a microscope to determine a diagnosis. Thankfully, my nodule was non-cancerous and the whole experience prompted me to make my health more of a priority.

Located in the front of the neck just below the Adam’s apple, this butterfly-shaped gland secretes hormones that control some major functions including weight management, how we use energy, how we metabolize food, and even how we sleep.

Holistic Thyroid Care

Find Your Voice

If you look at the anatomy, you find the thyroid gland located in the throat, the center of our communication with the world. Some people with hypothyroid tend to “swallow down” what they really want to say. It’s been very healing for them to learn to speak their truth. On the flip side, some people with hyperthyroid are talking too much, and can benefit by listening more. If you need some inspiration on finding your voice, join me in the January LIVE WELL Challenge.

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Food IS Medicine

The thyroid gland needs specific vitamins and minerals to properly do its job. Research shows that there are a few key nutrients that are highly valuable for thyroid health:

  • Iodine

Primary sources: Sea vegetables: Kelp, nori, kombu, dulse, arame, wakame, hijiki
Seafood: Haddock, clams, salmon, shrimp, oysters, sardines
Iodized sea salt

Secondary sources: Eggs, spinach, garlic, asparagus, Swiss chard, mushrooms, summer squash, sesame seeds, lima beans

If you have Hashimoto’s, read this article about iodine 

  • Selenium
    Tuna, mushrooms, beef, sunflower seeds, Brazil nuts, organ meats, halibut, soybeans
  • Zinc
    Beef, turkey, lamb, fresh oysters, sardines, soybeans, walnuts, sunflower seeds, Brazil nuts, pecans, almonds, split peas, ginger root, whole grains, maple syrup
  • Copper
    Crabmeat, oysters, lobster, beef, nuts, sunflower seeds, beans (white beans, chickpeas), shitake mushrooms, pearled barley, tomato paste, dark chocolate
  • Iron
    Organ meats, oysters, clams, spinach, lentils, soybeans, white beans, pumpkin seeds, blackstrap molasses
  • Vitamin A (beta-carotene)
    Broccoli, asparagus, lettuce, kale, carrots, spinach, sweet potatoes, liver, winter squash/pumpkin, cantaloupe
  • Vitamin C
    Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, greens (mustard, collard, kale, turnip), parsley, peppers (chili, Bell, sweet), strawberries, guava, papaya, citrus, kiwifruit
  • Vitamin E
    Peanuts, almonds, sunflower seeds, beans and soybeans, asparagus, leafy green vegetables, whole grains, liver
  • Vitamin B2 (riboflavin)
    Egg yolks, organ meats, wild rice, wheat germ, Brewer’s yeast, mushrooms, almonds
  • Vitamin B3 (niacin)
    Poultry (white meat), peanuts (with skin), wheat bran, rice bran, liver, Brewer’s yeast
  • Vitamin B6 (pyroxidine)
    Fish (tuna, trout, salmon), liver, bananas, brown rice, wheat germ, sunflower seeds, walnuts, beans (navy beans, garbanzos, pinto beans, soybeans, lima beans), Brewer’s yeast

Foods that may disrupt our thyroid function

Soy:  There are some studies showing that the isoflavones in soybeans can inhibit the enzyme which adds iodine to the thyroid hormone known as thyroid peroxidase (TPO). These studies indicate that soy isoflavone might bond with the iodine we do have, diminishing the reserve for thyroid production. The issue lies with the levels of iodine we have. If levels are sufficient, eating natural soy should not be a problem. Natural soy is a tremendous help to many women in regulating menopause symptoms, so this is an important nutrient to consider.

Brassica family of vegetables:  This group of vegetables includes brussel sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli, and cabbage, which studies show can reduce the thyroid hormone in a similar way to soy. Goiter, an enlarged thyroid, is linked to iodine deficiency. The compounds categorized as goitrogens can be found in small amounts in many other foods as well, including spinach, peanuts, and strawberries. It’s ok to eat them, but by pairing them with iodine-rich foods, we can counteract the metabolization reducing iodine.

Gluten: There is a theorized connection between gluten intolerance, celiac disease, and autoimmune thyroid issues.

An estimated 15 million of Americans have undiagnosed thyroid problems. To help with early detection and in some cases help you find lumps or enlargements in the neck that may point to a thyroid condition, you can perform a simple Neck Check self-exam. Here is a step-by-step guide.

How to do the Thyroid Neck Check

All you will need is:

A. Handheld mirror
B. Glass of water

  1. Hold the mirror in your hand, focusing on the lower front area of your neck, above the collarbones, and below the voice box (larynx). Your thyroid gland is located in this area of your neck.
  2. While focusing on this area in the mirror, tip your head back.
  3. Take a drink of water and swallow.
  4. As you swallow, look at your neck. Check for any bulges or protrusions in this area when you swallow. Reminder: Don’t confuse the Adam’s apple with the thyroid gland. The thyroid gland is located further down on your neck, closer to the collarbone. You may want to repeat this process several times.
  5. If you do see any bulges or protrusions in this area, see your physician. You may have an enlarged thyroid gland or a thyroid nodule that should be checked to determine whether further evaluation is needed.

Your thyroid gland makes hormones that help control the function of many of your body’s organs, including your heart, brain, liver, kidneys, and skin. Making sure that your thyroid gland is healthy is important to your body’s overall well-being.

Some patients who have an enlarged thyroid gland may also produce too much or too little thyroid hormone. Because many symptoms of thyroid imbalance may be hard to recognize and may be mistaken for symptoms caused by other conditions, the best way to know for sure about your thyroid health is to ask your doctor for a TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone) test, a simple blood test that measures whether your thyroid gland is functioning normally. If you have a family member with thyroid disease, are over the age of 60, or have any symptoms or risk factors associated with thyroid disease, you should talk to your doctor about getting a TSH test.

References:

American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists http://www.thyroidawareness.com/

Neck Check: http://www.thyroidawareness.com/neck-check

Simple Dietary Changes That Can Help Your Thyroid Naturally: https://www.womentowomen.com/thyroid-health/simple-dietary-changes-that-can-help-your-thyroid-naturally/

Thyroid biopsy: http://www.radiologyinfo.org/en/info.cfm?pg=thyroidbiopsy

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