If you have been feeling unduly tired and fatigued lately, are unable to cope up and suffering from insomnia, maybe your thyroid is playing up. Go for a TSH test. Yes, even if you consider yourself too young for thyroid disease and even if you are in the low risk category.
This is what happened with a friend of mine. She didn't notice the changes, but her family did. She had become restless. There was a faint tremor, some muscle weakness, and she was gaining weight for no reason. So, she went for a full body check-up and it didn't take long to discover what was wrong. She had a problem with her thyroid gland.
Many people with thyroid abnormalities have obvious symptoms that prompts them to seek help, but many others do not. The symptoms tend to develop slowly and can mimic other things. Result is that thyroid issues often go undetected for years.
Know About Thyroid
Thyroid is a butterfly-shaped, walnut sized gland located at the base of the neck, just below the Adam's apple. Although it weighs less than an ounce, this gland has an enormous say in maintaining the synergy of the body.
It is our body’s silent workhorse and releases the vital hormones that control our digestion, metabolism, heartbeat, temperature and how we use energy. It secretes two crucial thyroid hormones - T4 (thyroxine) and T3 (triiodothyronine).
If there is not enough thyroid hormone in the bloodstream, the body's metabolism slows down. This is called hypothyroidism (underactive). If there is too much thyroid hormone, your metabolism speeds up. This is called hyperthyroidism (overactive).
When Are You at Risk?
You are at increased risk if a close relative has had a thyroid problem. Thyroid disease often runs in the family as thyroid hormone abnormalities are commonly dictated by the immune system, which has genetically determined components.
Plus, there is a Covid connection too. Recently, there have been some reports that Covid has led to precipitation of thyroid abnormalities in some low risk people.
Research published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism shows that the link between COVID-19 and the thyroid disease is clear and patients infected with coronavirus may be at risk of developing subacute thyroiditis. Subacute thyroiditis is an inflammation of the thyroid gland that follows an upper respiratory viral infection.
In addition, chronic stress is a risk factor for developing thyroid abnormalities and this pandemic has been a very stressful time for all of us which has increased our vulnerability manifold.
Look Out for These Symptoms
Excess fatigue, abnormal weight changes, low fertility, depression and anxiety, anaemia, easy bruising, early grey hair and excessive hair loss and low sex drive.
Also look out for moist, warm skin, increased frequency of bowel movements, increased heart rate, nervousness, increased perspiration, muscle weakness, and trembling hands.
To ensure health of your thyroid gland and to heal it, you can follow these eight simple pointers
Consume enough iodine
This is a very important mineral for maintaining the glands health and functioning. So, to prevent iodine deficiency, eat enough of iodine rich foods like seaweeds, iodised salt and seafood.
Score enough selenium
Selenium kickstarts the production of active thyroid hormones. So, eat selenium rich foods like eggs, seafoods, organ meats, cereals and dairy products everyday.
Get enough protein
Besides its multiple uses, protein is also important for the efficient working of the thyroid gland. It is needed to transport the thyroid hormone to the tissues. Include dairy, eggs, nuts, seeds, lean meat, fish, nuts and seeds and legumes in your daily diet.
Keep the gut healthy
A well-functioning gut is important for proper functioning of the thyroid gland. So, include probiotics in your diet. Eat fermented foods, drink kanji, have home-made curd.
Zinc is important
Zinc is a key nutrient for thyroid and our body needs to churn out thyroid hormone. Too little zinc in diet could lead to hypothyroidism. So, stock up on meats, seeds, dairy, eggs and whole grains.
Eat good fats
Insufficient good fats in the diet can mess up all hormones, including thyroid hormones. So, include flax seeds, nuts, ghee, coconut and coconut oil in your diet.
Load up on antioxidants
Foods that are high in antioxidants are also good for your thyroid. Berries are perfect for that. In fact, cranberries top the list in the ORAC scale which ranks foods based on their antioxidant value. Next comes grapes. In fact, all fruits and vegetables deliver good amount of antioxidants, so include them in the diet every day.
It goes without saying that you need to avoid all forms of processed food, junk food, artificial sweeteners, BPA, chemical additives and too much sugar. All of these interfere with thyroid functioning.
(Kavita Devgan is a nutritionist, weight management consultant, and health writer based in Delhi. She is the author of The Don't Diet Plan: A no-nonsense guide to weight loss, Fix it with Food, Ultimate Grandmother Hacks, and Don’t Diet! 50 Habits of Thin People)