Mystery Illness? 11 Tips on Keeping Your Thyroid Healthy

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thyroid gland near the stethoscope
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Everything from exhaustion, weight gain, and forgetfulness to hair loss, low sex drive, and goiters can result from thyroid issues, since the gland is responsible for releasing hormones into the body, making its health essential to a well-functioning body and endocrine system. Even if symptoms are mild, they tend to be chronic, which affects quality of life in the long term. Yet many people — with women being the most affected — have thyroid issues and don't know it because the signs and symptoms can be subtle and seemingly unrelated. Luckily, there are many everyday tasks that can be done to help support healthy thyroid function, many related to diet.

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Symptoms of thyroid disorders can be difficult to notice. Everything from trouble losing weight to thinning hair can indicate a problem. Keep a list of persistent or new symptoms to talk about with a doctor.

female patient being reassured by doctor in hospital room
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Screening for thyroid health is complicated because there are a number of different hormone levels that can be checked. Not all of these levels are checked in routine blood exams, so ask a doctor to run a complete thyroid panel to really get to the bottom of the situation.

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Ridding your food and environment of toxins can help the thyroid find balance. There are multiple ways to detox for thyroid health and overall endocrine health, but many involve dropping the usual suspects of dairy, processed foods, and sugar.

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Regular exercise has been shown to improve health across the board, including for the endocrine system. Low-impact exercise and weight training actually have the most benefits for those looking to balance hormones. Lifting weights a few times a week is a good place to start.

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Gluten has hormone disruptors that can exacerbate problems for people with thyroid issues. Eliminating gluten might not be essential for everyone, but it is worth trying for a week or two to see if you notice any difference.

Japanese seaweed salad
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Seaweed is rich in iodine, a compound the thyroid needs to function properly. Eating three to four servings of sea vegetables such as seaweed, dulse, and nori in a week will help support the thyroid. They can be used in salads, soups, or as supplements.

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Selenium is another important compound needed for hormone health, and has been shown to be beneficial to overall female well-being. Brazil nuts have the highest concentration of selenium; about three a day covers the recommended dose.

canned tuna
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Mercury can be a hormone disruptor, and with fatty fish considered a health food, there is a risk of getting too much. Limit fattier fish such as mackerel, swordfish, and tuna; options such as trout and grouper are safer.

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Green leafy vegetables, broccoli, and cauliflower are rich in vitamins and minerals that help support overall health as well as endocrine health. These can be eaten raw or steamed, though many prefer steamed — there is some controversy over raw cruciferous vegetables disrupting the thyroid's ability to use iodine.

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If reworking a diet to include and exclude these things is too daunting, start small and supplement with the right combination of vitamins and minerals. Consult a doctor about which vitamins are right.

Hand rejecting a bottle of beer in the bar.
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Alcohol does no favors when it comes to balancing hormones and supporting thyroid function. While this doesn't mean never indulging, try to avoid having more than one drink at a time, and indulge only occasionally.

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