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Thyroid Health: A Guide to Awareness and Prevention

Thyroid model near neck

The thyroid gland, though small and often overlooked, plays a crucial role in your overall health.

Located in your neck, this butterfly-shaped gland is essential for regulating a lot of important things like your:

  • Metabolism
  • Energy production, and
  • Hormonal balance

Hint: An unhealthy thyroid gland can make you feel extremely fatigued and unwell, affecting your overall energy levels, mood and as many patients report; basically everything they do.

Understanding the thyroid, its functions, and how to maintain and bolster its health is vital for everyone.

We explore the thyroid gland, its common disorders, preventative care, and why thyroid health matters to you

What the thyroid is

The thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped gland located at the front of the neck, just below the Adam’s apple.

It produces hormones, primarily thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3), which regulate metabolism.

These hormones influence nearly every cell in the body, affecting heart rate, body temperature, and how quickly calories are burned.

Thyroid graphic

Common thyroid disorders

Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland does not produce enough hormones.

Symptoms can include:

  • Fatigue
  • Weight gain
  • Cold intolerance
  • Dry skin
  • Depression

It is most commonly caused by Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, an autoimmune disorder where the immune system attacks the thyroid.

Hyperthyroidism

Hyperthyroidism is the opposite condition, where the thyroid produces too many hormones.

Symptoms can include:

  • Weight loss
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Sweating
  • Nervousness
  • Irritability

The most common cause is Graves’ disease, another autoimmune disorder.

Personality changes can indicate a problem

Personality changes that might indicate a problem with the thyroid gland include:

  • Increased anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Mood
  • Depression
  • Lethargy
  • Brain fog

These changes occur because thyroid hormones significantly impact brain function and emotional regulation.

Thyroid nodules and cancer

Thyroid nodules are lumps that can form within the thyroid and while most are benign, some can be cancerous.

Thyroid cancer is relatively rare but treatable, especially when detected early, highlighting the importance of screenings.

Regular check-ups can help identify these issues before they become severe, which also often makes treatment much simpler.

Preventative care for thyroid health

Like many areas in good health, preventative approaches and healthy choices go a long, long way.

Maintaining thyroid health involves a combination of dietary choices, regular medical check-ups, and lifestyle adjustments.

Diet

A balanced diet rich in iodine, selenium, and zinc is crucial for thyroid function.

  • 🐟 Iodine is essential for hormone production and can be found in seafood, dairy products, and iodised salt.
  • 🥚 Selenium, found in Brazil nuts, sunflower seeds, eggs, tuna and mushrooms, helps protect the thyroid gland from damage.
  • 🍚 Zinc, present in meat, whole grains, shellfish, and legumes, supports hormone production.

Regular check-ups

Regular medical check-ups are essential for monitoring thyroid health.

Blood tests measuring levels of TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone), T3, and T4 can indicate whether the thyroid is functioning correctly.

Early detection of thyroid disorders can significantly improve treatment outcomes.

Lifestyle choices

Stress management, regular exercise, and avoiding exposure to environmental toxins can also support thyroid health.

Stress can negatively impact thyroid function, so incorporating stress-reducing activities such as yoga, meditation, or hobbies can be beneficial.

Why thyroid health matters

The thyroid gland’s influence extends far beyond metabolism. Its health impacts energy levels, mental health and even heart function.

Here’s why thyroid health should matter to everyone:

Energy levels and metabolism: Thyroid hormones regulate how the body uses energy. Imbalances can lead to significant changes in energy levels and body weight.

Mental health: Both hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism can affect mood and cognitive function. Symptoms like depression, anxiety and brain fog are common in thyroid disorders.

Heart health: Thyroid hormones directly influence heart rate and blood pressure. Maintaining thyroid health is essential for cardiovascular well-being.

Three interesting facts about the thyroid

Women are More Prone
Thyroid disorders are more common in women than men. Hormonal changes during pregnancy, menopause and menstruation can influence thyroid function.

Age is a factor
While thyroid issues can occur at any age, they are more common in older adults. Regular screenings are recommended as part of routine health care for older individuals.

Silent symptoms
Many thyroid disorder symptoms are subtle and often mistaken for other health issues. This is why awareness and regular check-ups are crucial.

So why all the focus on thyroid health?

World Thyroid Day on May 25 shines a light on thyroid patients and those committed to the study and treatment of thyroid diseases worldwide.

The thyroid gland, though small, has a significant impact on our health and by understanding its functions, recognising common disorders, and taking steps to maintain its health, you can ensure a better quality of life.

Regular check-ups, a balanced diet, and a healthy lifestyle are key components in keeping your thyroid, and consequently your overall health, in check.

We’re in complete agreement with World Thyroid Day.

If you’re concerned about any of the symptoms listed above, or would like to address anything troubling you, get in touch with us.

Mooney Street Medical is committed to ensuring your thyroid health and quality of life allows you to live how you see fit.