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Can you prevent thyroid disorders?

Tuesday 14 April 2020
Thyroid Disorders

Table of Contents


I. Understanding the thyroid

II. Healthy iodine levels 

III. Stop smoking

IV. Be careful about toxic exposures 

V. Ask for a thyroid collar 

VI. Selenium supplements 


Understanding the thyroid

The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland located at the base of your neck. The thyroid is vital to the healthy functioning of the endocrine system. The endocrine system is made up of several glands that create essential hormones in the body. The endocrine hormones help control mood, growth, metabolism, and reproduction. The glands in the endocrine system release hormones into the bloodstream. Too much or too little of these hormones can wreak havoc in the body. Medications like Synthroid can help to regulate thyroid problems. [1]

The thyroid’s hormones regulate vital body functions, including:

  • Breathing
  • Heart rate
  • Central and peripheral nervous system
  • Bodyweight
  • Muscle strength
  • Menstrual cycles 
  • Body temperatures 

a person getting an ultrasound on their neck

This gland is 2 inches long and creates two hormones: triiodothyronine and thyroxine. Too much of these hormones can cause irritability, moodiness, hand trembling, and hair loss. Some common thyroid disorders include: 

  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Graves’ disease
  • thyroid nodules
  • Goiters
  • Hashimoto’s disease [2]  

According to the American Thyroid Association, 12 percent of people in the United States will develop a thyroid disorder at some point in their life. They also estimate that 20 million Americans currently have thyroid problems, but up to 60 percent of those people are unaware of their condition. 

Symptoms of thyroid disorders can be treated with medications like Synthroid and Levoxyl and iodine therapies. Graves’ and Hashimoto’s are inherited disorders and cannot be prevented, but there are several things a person can do to reduce their risk factors of developing a thyroid disorder. Even if you can’t avoid your thyroid issues, you can make several lifestyle changes that will reduce your symptoms and improve your quality of life. Read on to learn more about managing your thyroid disorder. 

Healthy iodine levels 

Iodine is an essential element that is needed for the production of thyroid hormones. Iodine is not something that naturally occurs in our body, so we must get enough iodine in our diet. If you do not receive iodine, you can experience an enlarged thyroid, which causes a goiter. Before the invention of iodized salt in the mid-twentieth century, many areas in the United States were iodine deficient. The American Thyroid Association estimates that 30 percent of the world’s population remains at risk for iodine deficiency. 

a spoon dipping into a bowl of yogurt

Some familiar sources of iodine include:

  • Cheese
  • Eggs
  • Frozen yogurt
  • Saltwater fish
  • Soy milk
  • Soy sauce
  • Cows milk 

If you have access to these iodine-rich foods, then your thyroid condition can be much less severe. Having the right amount of iodine is vital to pregnant women because severe iodine deficiency can result in miscarriages, stillbirth, preterm delivery, and congenital abnormalities. Even mild iodine deficiency in mothers in the United States can lead to children with lower intelligence levels. Iodine deficiency is the most common preventable cause of intellectual disabilities in the world.[3]  

Stop smoking

Smoking cigarettes is not advised for anyone, but if you are at risk for thyroid issues, it can create more severe problems. Cigarettes contain the chemical thiocyanate, which directly damages the thyroid gland. Thiocyanate disrupts the iodine uptake in your body, which then blocks the production of thyroid hormones.  

a lit cigarette on the railing

Smoking cigarettes causes damage to many organs in your body and also increases your risk of developing thyroid disease. Research shows that smokers are more likely to develop Graves’ disease, which is the leading cause of hyperthyroidism. Quitting smoking is not an easy task, so don’t be afraid to reach out to your doctor for help. Quitting smoking takes time and dedication, and there are many techniques a person can use to cut down their smoking habit. [4] 

Be careful about toxic exposures

It is important to stay aware of materials in your home and diet that may have toxic effects on your body and immune system. Many products around your house are known to interfere with your thyroid function. Some common toxins present in our everyday life can include:

Pesticides: Many pesticides found in foods, especially organochlorine pesticides, can affect your metabolism and thyroid function. To avoid pesticides, you can choose organic meat, dairy, and produce. It is smart to always wash your fruit before consumption to avoid the risk of thyroid issues like goiters.

Bisphenol A (BPA): BPAs are used in plastics, food can coatings, and dental sealants. The presence of BPA in these everyday products can decrease thyroid sensitivity and cause thyroid resistance. If you are worried about exposure to BPA, then don’t cook or reheat with plastic products and use glass or stainless steel instead. 

Triclosan: Triclosan is an antibacterial chemical that is added to soaps, lotions, and toothpaste. Triclosan disrupts the function of the endocrine system and can slow thyroid function. It is important to read labels on your products if you want to avoid triclosan.

Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA): PFOA is a chemical used on nonstick products like Teflon and food wrappers. If you are exposed to a higher concentration of PFOA, then you may be at risk for a variety of thyroid conditions. You can easily find nonstick brands of cookware that do not use PFOA. [5]  

a non stick pan

Ask for a thyroid collar

People of all ages require x-rays for standard medical and dental procedures. If you need to get a lot of dental surgery, you may want to ask your dentist or doctor for a thyroid collar to wear during dental x-rays. Frequent dental x-rays can expose your thyroid gland to unnecessary levels of radiation. Radiation can cause many thyroid abnormalities and cancer in more severe cases. 

If you have to expose your head to x-rays at the dentist, you can ask your dentist for a lead collar to put around your neck. This shield will protect your thyroid from radiation exposure. 

Selenium supplements 

Selenium is a nutrient found in specific proteins and the thyroid has the largest concentration of selenium in the body. If you maintain a healthy diet, you should be able to keep a balanced level of selenium that can help prevent thyroid disease. Studies have shown that proper selenium levels lower thyroperoxidase antibodies in those with Hashimoto’s disease and decrease symptoms of hypothyroidism. The best source of selenium is Brazil nuts. 

Daily selenium supplementation may be necessary if you are at risk for thyroid problems. Always ask your doctor before beginning a selenium supplementation program because the body should not get more than 400 mcg of selenium in a day because high levels can be toxic. [6] 

The content in this article is intended for informational purposes only. This website does not provide medical advice. In all circumstances, you should always seek the advice of your physician and/or other qualified health professionals(s) for drug, medical condition, or treatment advice. The content provided on this website is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.