We have all heard of the thyroid, but many of us may not know exactly what it does.

The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped organ located in the front part of the neck. Although, it is small it is a major gland that affects nearly every organ in the body. It’s part of the endocrine system. Its job is to regulate fat and carbohydrate metabolism, respiration, body temperature and brain development. It also regulates the heart, blood calcium levels and cholesterol levels. For us aging beauties, let’s not forget that it also regulates skin integrity. The thyroid works by releasing hormones known as T3 and T4, which help keep the body functioning properly.

 Hypothyroidism, which is an underactive thyroid, is the most common thyroid condition in the United States. Over 27 million people in the US suffer some type of thyroid disease. Hypothyroidism is usually caused by Hashimoto’s disease or autoimmune thyroiditis. This is when the body mistakes its own tissue for an invader and attacks until the organ is damaged. Without these T3 and T4 hormones our metabolism slows down. When this happens, we tend to gain weight, suffer from fatigue, have dry skin and hair. We may also have trouble concentrating. Unfortunately women are seven times more likely to suffer from hypothyroidism than men and it usually occurs in middle age.

People with hypothyroidism have a greater risk of cardiovascular disease and high cholesterol levels due to the low levels of thyroid hormones T3 and T4.

 Hyperthyroidism is an over active thyroid gland. The most common form is Graves disease which is when the thyroid produces too much of T3 and T4. Here we see weight loss, high blood pressure, rapid heartbeat and diarrhea.

 Both types of thyroid disease affect carbohydrate metabolism, which has an effect on glucose control. There are many metabolic changes in this disease and clients need to have a realistic set of goals. First, you need to get the thyroid under control. After speaking with your doctor, having labs and medications addressed, then work on the weight gain or weight loss.

 For many people who have hypothyroidism, weight loss is a concern. It is the calorie and carbohydrate controlled meal plans, which will help the most. Drinking two liters of water a day and including more vegetables, leaner meats, more beans, and fiber is what the diet should contain. Naturally, I recommend taking out all fast foods, sugary drinks and added fats. Eating, what I call “clean” will help not only a thyroid condition but also the diseases that may accompany it, such as the heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

 There are several nutrition factors one can consider when looking into thyroid disease. Iodine is the first nutrient, although iodine deficiency is rare here in the United States. It is a vital nutrient in the body and essential to normal function. The thyroid hormones are comprised of iodine.

 Vitamin D deficiency is linked to Hashimoto’s syndrome, however it is unclear whether low vitamin D levels are a direct cause of Hashimoto’s or the result of the disease.

Graves disease is known to cause bone loss, which is can be made worse by the lack the deficiency of Vitamin D. Foods that contain vitamin D include milk, dairy, eggs, mushrooms, fatty fish and sunlight, the natural source. If you are low in vitamin D, supplemental D3 may be necessary but this vitamin needs to be monitored by a physician.

 Selenium has a great effect on the immune system and is found in high concentration in the thyroid gland. If you have thyroid issues you may want to have your selenium levels checked. Natural sources of selenium are found in Brazil nuts, tuna, crab and lobster.

 Vitamin B12 is a vitamin that is also found to be deficient in thyroid patients. Good sources include fortified cereals, sardines, salmon, and dairy products.

Please note that some supplements may interfere with medications. Calcium supplements for example may interfere with thyroid supplements. Interestingly, coffee and fiber supplements lower the absorption of thyroid medication so you should take them an hour apart.

 Lastly, let’s not forget about exercise. You may be tired and depressed but it is so important for you to get out and get some physical activity, such as walking, bike riding, tennis or golf. It may not always be easy, but get out when you can and move in some way. You will feel better once you have enjoyed your activity.

 Last of all; please check out The Everything Thyroid Diet Book by Clara Schneider.