The thyroid is one of the largest of the endocrine glands, and the hormones it produces influence almost all physiological processes in the body. This butterfly-shaped organ is located inside your neck, directly beneath the voice box. It produces three hormones — diiodothyronine (T2), triiodothyronine (T3), and thyroxine (T4), related to metabolism regulation and a number of other functions.
When the thyroid is functioning properly, the appropriate amount of all three hormones is manufactured in the proper ratio; but when this normal production is disrupted, adverse health effects arise. Hypothyroidism, a condition defined by too little thyroid hormone production, is often a result of iodine deficiency and may lead to unexplained lethargy, weight gain, rough skin, hair loss, and sensitivity to cold. The thyroid gland may also be hyperactive, or over-productive. Symptoms for this condition, which affects about 1 percent of men and 8 percent of women, includes difficulty concentrating, frequent bowel movements, weight loss, irregular heartbeat, and a lack of menstrual periods in women.
Maintaining thyroid health involves, among other things, eating (and avoiding) certain foods. Too much gluten may contribute to thyroid dysfunction in gluten-sensitive individuals because the protein causes inflammation; and processed soy products such as soy meats, cheeses, and milks contain phytoestrogens, which research has concluded is linked to an increased risk of developing hypothyroidism. The best foods to eat for thyroid health are ones rich in iodine, selenium, zinc, and iron — minerals that play key roles in the hormone production process.
Here are eight things to eat for a healthy thyroid.