The thyroid is a small gland located in the center of the neck. Most people don’t think that much about it, but its function is vital to your well-being. An important hormonal gland, the thyroid plays a major role in your metabolism, and regulates your hormones(1).
According to the American Thyroid Association, an estimated 20 million Americans have some form of thyroid disease, and up to 60 percent of those people are unaware of their condition(2). If you suspect you have a thyroid disorder, you should see a doctor about it, especially if you have the following symptoms:
- Fatigue and loss of energy
- Slowed metabolism and rapid weight gain
- Difficulty concentrating
- Sensitivity to cold
- Slow pulse
- Waxy skin thickening and swelling
- Dry skin
- Brittle, dry hair
- Loss of sexual desire
It’s not uncommon for people to confuse these with symptoms of other illnesses, or even for the natural results of aging, but in combination they can add up to a serious thyroid disorder.
Both hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism cause swelling in the thyroid gland as well, sometimes causing a visible goiter or struma.
What To Check To See If You Have A Thyroid Problem
The following is a list of the different hormones that the thyroid gland produces. When getting your hormone levels checked, you should make sure your doctor checks all of these in order to tell if you have a thyroid problem:
- Thyrotropin synthesis hormone, or TSH
- Free T4
- Free t3
- Reverse T3
- Thyroid peroxidase antibodies
- Thyroglobulin antibodies
Things You Can Do To Improve Thyroid Function
Even if you aren’t diagnosed with a thyroid disorder, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your thyroid is functioning perfectly. If you’re concerned about your thyroid, there are some easy steps you can take to improve your thyroid function.
1. Take iodine and selenium supplements. Iodine and selenium are particularly important for thyroid function, and many people are deficient without even knowing it(3).
2. Get plenty of sleep – you should aim for between 8 and 10 hours of quality sleep per night, but if you notice that you’re sleeping more than that and are still tired, you should get your thyroid checked out.
3. Take iron, zinc and copper supplements. While these minerals’ role in thyroid function are less well-defined than the roles of iodine and selenium, they are nonetheless significant for promoting good thyroid function(4).
4. Don’t eat too many cruciferous vegetables – a diet too high in these veggies has been associated with cases of thyroid cancer in women(5).
5. Improve gut health by eating fermented foods.
6. Go gluten-free.
7. Manage your stress levels with meditation, yoga or exercise.
8. Finally, work with your healthcare provider to find and treat the source of your thyroid imbalance.