5 Habits that Are Brutal for Your Thyroid
Shakespeare’s famous words “though she be but little, she is fierce” are the perfect description for your thyroid. It’s a tiny gland found in your neck, and its main job is to produce and release two hormones: T3 and T4. Those hormones are responsible for the metabolism process of every single cell in your body.
Your thyroid brings balance to each body system, controlling things like heat balance and heart rate. So, when your thyroid hormones are off, the rest of your body probably will be too…and you’re going to start feeling it.
What can you do to change that story and keep your thyroid healthy?
Below we will dive into the 5 worst habits for thyroid health.
Once you know about them, you can do something to fix them!
1. Avoiding the Doctor
Here’s the truth – about 60% of those with thyroid disorders do not know they have that problem. If you have any of the symptoms below, it is important to go see your doctor right away.
Here are the common side effects of hypothyroidism (having too little thyroid hormones):
- Trouble tolerating cold temperatures
- Dry skin
- Weight gain
- Puffy face
- Elevated blood cholesterol level
- Decreased sweating
- Muscle aches, weakness, tenderness, or stiffness
- Joint pain
- Heavy periods/irregular periods
- Dry or thinning hair
- Slowed heart rate
- Impaired memory
- Goiter (an enlarged thyroid gland)
Here are the common side effects of hyperthyroidism (having too much thyroid hormones):
- Unintentional weight loss
- Rapid heartbeat (over 100 beats per minute)
- Irregular heartbeat
- Heart palpitations
- Increased appetite
- Nervousness, anxiety, irritability, or mood swings
- Shakiness (often in your hands)
- Changes in menstrual cycle
- Increased sensitivity to heat
- More frequent bowel movements
- Muscle weakness
- Skin thinning
- Fine, brittle hair
Your doctor will order a simple blood test to check your levels of T3 and T4, as well as Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) produced by your pituitary gland. A diagnosis leads to a treatment plan that can change your life.
Similarly, if you have been diagnosed with hypo- or hyperthyroidism, it is important to visit the doctor regularly to monitor your levels and adjust your treatment plan as necessary.
2. Eating the Wrong Foods
Every single person with a thyroid disorder should take a nutritious diet very seriously. Not only will good foods encourage good thyroid health, but eating correctly can help counteract some of your negative thyroid disorder symptoms like fatigue and weight changes.
Essentially, pay attention to the basics:
- Eat plenty of fruits and veggies
- Choose whole grains instead of simple carbs
- Avoid processed food and fast food
- Get enough fiber
But there are also a few thyroid-specific eating tips:
- Iodine: Iodine plays a big role in creating your thyroid hormones. Those with hypothyroidism may need more iodine to encourage hormone production, while those with hyperthyroidism may need to lower their iodine levels. Pay attention to things like iodized salt, seaweed, nuts, and seafood. Utilize their iron if you have hypothyroidism, choose different options if you have hyperthyroidism.
- Gluten: People with thyroid disorders are more likely to have celiac disease than those without. Continuing to eat gluten when you shouldn’t will only add to inflammation and your uncomfortable symptoms.
- Goitrogens: Cruciferous veggies are labeled “goitrogens” – a substance that disrupts thyroid hormone production. This includes broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, bok choy, collard greens, turnips, and more. These should be greatly limited for those with hypothyroidism. If you do choose to eat them, make sure you cook them well first. This helps lower the goitrogen levels.
3. Not Getting Enough Exercise
Fatigue is one of the most common complaints with an unhealthy thyroid. As you can imagine, this makes it pretty hard to find motivation for regular exercise. Yet staying sedentary is one of the worst things you can do for thyroid health.
One study looked at hypothyroid patients in two different groups: one did daily exercise the other group did not do any exercise. The researchers took a blood test before the study to get base levels, then took another test 3 months later. T3 and T4 were “significantly raised” in the group who exercised regularly. Unsurprisingly, the group that exercised also dropped some weight – an important finding considering weight gain can be a complication of poor thyroid health.
The researchers concluded that “every hypothyroid patient should do regular physical exercise along with thyroxine replacement to improve thyroid function.”
Aside from balancing your thyroid hormones themselves, exercise can also help alleviate the symptoms you suffer with. Exercise can improve your mental health and boost your energy too.
But what type of exercising should you do? Perhaps stick with low-impact exercises. If your thyroid disorder causes muscle pain/weakness, high-impact exercise will only exacerbate the problems. Instead, try:
- Any sort of water exercise (swimming, water aerobics, etc.)
- Strength training
Here’s a great thyroid disorder workout routine you can try from somebody who suffers from hypothyroidism:
Here’s an important final note: You only want to begin an exercise regimen once your thyroid medication has brought more of a balance to your thyroid hormones and your doctor gives you the okay. Exercising while your thyroid hormones are completely out of whack can cause more harm than good!
4. Missing Out on These 4 Helpful Supplements
While medication will be your first line of defense against a thyroid disorder, there are some natural nutrients that can boost your thyroid health and help fight against the uncomfortable symptoms.
- Vitamin D
Human beings do not spend nearly as much time out in the sun as they used to – and it shows. Somewhere around 40% to 75% of all people are actually deficient in vitamin D. That’s a problem for all sorts of body systems, including your thyroid.
Research has shown that being deficient in Vitamin D is “significantly associated with degree and severity of the hypothyroidism.” Similarly, studies show that low D can “exacerbate the onset and/or development of Graves’ disease” – which happens to be the No. 1 cause of hyperthyroidism.
Additionally, getting proper vitamin D can boost your energy and mood – warding off two common symptoms of a thyroid disorder.
You can improve your vitamin D intake in three ways.
- Spend a few minutes outside each day without sunscreen – not long enough to get pink from the sun
- Eat more eggs and seafood
- Take a vitamin D3 supplement (avoid D2)
- Vitamin B12
It is quite common for those with hypothyroidism to be deficient in B12. This can be a big problem for those with a thyroid disorder because the symptoms of low B12 are symptoms you are probably already experiencing with an unhealthy thyroid, such as:
Getting enough B12 is essential for gaining energy and strength.
You can get plenty of B12 through a diet filled with eggs and high-quality meat, but someone with a thyroid disorder may also benefit from a supplement with extra B12.
Your body only needs a tiny bit of selenium, but that tiny bit goes a long way. One of selenium’s big functions in the body is helping metabolism – which as we know, is the work of your thyroid hormones. So, it makes sense that getting enough selenium is key for thyroid function.
Luckily, it’s pretty easy to get. Top food sources include:
- Nuts (especially Brazil nuts)
A well-rounded diet should, therefore, give you plenty of selenium to keep your thyroid in check. But a good multivitamin or supplement blend can add an extra dose.
The studies are clear low zinc = thyroid problems, particularly hypothyroidism. Many people with healthy diets are getting enough zinc in through their meals, but some with poor diets or other health conditions may not be getting quite enough.
Here’s the catch-22: one of those health conditions making it harder to absorb zinc is a thyroid disorder…creating an unhelpful cycle of not enough zinc and improper thyroid hormones.
A wide variety of foods offer zinc:
- Legumes (chickpeas, lentils)
Like selenium, a high-quality zinc supplement (or multivitamin with zinc) may be helpful to get the proper amount for optimal thyroid health.
5. Using Products with BPA
By now, just about everybody knows that plastics aren’t great for us – but they are especially bad for thyroid health. A study on BPA, a common ingredient in plastic products, showed the substance can directly disturb your thyroid hormone activity.
While you can find quite a few BPA-free plastic options on the shelves, your best bet is to go glass all the way. Especially for holding any sort of food product.
Remember that BPA doesn’t stop at plastics. It can be found in metal cans as well. The best way to avoid this is to always buy your veggies fresh instead of canned and choose sauces in glass jars.
Good Habits for Thyroid Health
Fortunately, most of these bad habits for thyroid health can be turned around quite easily. Here’s your plan:
- Make an appointment with your doctor to get your thyroid checked
- Eat healthy foods and ditch any inflammatory foods
- Start a regular, moderate exercise program
- Start taking any necessary natural supplements
- Switch over to glass containers
Not only will your thyroid thank you for the changes, so will your entire body.