Monday, January 21, 2013

How to Protect Your Thyroid in a Toxic Environment

Threats to your thyroid abound, but you can take preventive steps like eating selenium-rich foods such as sardines.

Sardines on plate
Sardines and other selenium-rich foods promote thyroid health.

Your thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland that sits just below your Adam’s apple. It is small, but has a big job: Your thyroid is responsible for making hormones that affect just about every aspect of your body’s organs, cells and tissues. Thyroid hormones help to regulate things like your heart rate, body temperature and metabolism. Think of your thyroid as your metabolic engine; keeping this little powerhouse healthy is vitally important to keeping your whole body healthy. Unfortunately, there are threats to thyroid health that include:

  • Stress
  • PCBs — a banned chemical still found throughout the environment
  • X-rays of the head and neck region
  • Cigarette smoking

The result of damage to the thyroid gland is either too much or too little thyroid hormone released. Too much can cause sweating, changes in appetite, fatigue, weakness and sleep disturbances. Too little and you may experience weight gain, dry skin, constipation and depression. To protect your thyroid, reduce your exposure to these threats where possible. Luckily, diet can make a difference in helping your thyroid gland protect itself from environmental harm.

  • Selenium-rich foods such as tuna, halibut, sardines and Brazil nuts support systems that protect the thyroid gland.
  • Iron, found in red meat, dark leafy greens and legumes, is essential for thyroid health.
  • Iodine is also essential for thyroid function. Iodized salt is one primary source, while yogurt, milk, fish and shellfish also are good sources.

Of the thyroid threats listed above, stress is one of the most common and the most in your control. Go for a walk. Practice yoga. Spend time with friends. Read. Breathe deeply. Decrease your stress and protect your thyroid powerhouse.

By Elisha Rain, MS, CN, Bastyr dietetic intern, and Debra Boutin, MS, RD, chair and dietetic internship director, Department of Nutrition and Exercise Science at Bastyr University.

FALL 2015
Have questions about a program?
Request information »

More Health Tips

These simple tips can help provide relief from seasonal allergies so you can enjoy spring again.

Stainless steel and glass bottles are the safest options for you to drink water out of.

The northern latitude of Seattle allows its residents to make vitamin D from sunshine for only eight months out of the year, but excess amounts are stored for use in the winter, so be sure to soak it up while you can.

You can save money and preserve the flavor of your nuts, oils and whole grains by keeping them cool.

It's easy to hand your compost over to Seattle's curbside pickup program, but why give away your valuable scraps when you can use them to add nutritents to your own garden?

Even though cold and flu are caused by a different type of virus, the symptoms can be similar.

Subscribe to Newsletters

CAPTCHA
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
8 + 2 =
Solve this simple math problem and enter the result. E.g. for 1+3, enter 4.