The thyroid gland is part of the endocrine system and releases hormones, which control many of organism's functions. Thyroid hormones essentially regulate growth and development, cognitive functions and energy metabolism.
Problems in the thyroid gland or hormone can lead to many disorders. Hyperthyroidism (overproduction of thyroid hormones) and hypothyroidism (underproduction of thyroid hormones) are two common problems. Enlarged thyroid gland can cause goiter, thyroid cancer, thyroid nodules, and thyroiditis (inflammation of the thyroid gland). Hashimoto's disease is an autoimmune disease that occurs when the immune system produces antibodies against the thyroid gland.
Hypothyroidism may lead to fatigue, weight gain, hair loss, forgetfulness, and even depression. Conversely, hyperthyroidism can cause extreme anxiety, insomnia, weight loss despite good appetite, and tachycardia. Thyroid diseases may not seem critical at first. But their effects -- including obesity or weight loss, palpitations, forgetfulness, or depression can result in a lower quality of life.
Research shows that 40 out of 100 people in Turkey have thyroid problems, and 30 out of 100 have goiter. Genetic factors, iodine deficiency or excessive consumption of the vegetables like cabbage that has goitrogenic effects and suppresses the absorption of iodine, can cause thyroid disorders. For example, the high frequency of goiter in the Eastern Black Sea Region is associated with the over-consumption of black cabbage. Soy protein, although not consumed widely in Turkey, can also lead to thyroid problems.
Dietary iodine directly affects thyroid gland functions. The addition of potassium iodate to table salt became compulsory in Turkey in 1998 in order to prevent widespread thyroid problems, especially goiter, caused by iodine deficiency. The ratio of potassium iodate to table salt is 25-40 mg per kg. Five grams of iodized salt a day, along with eating fish twice a week, provides sufficient iodine in the diet. Iodized salt may lose iodine when exposed to heat, so it’s better to add iodized salt after the food is cooked.
In addition to adequate iodine intake, you can reduce your risk of thyroid problems by following a balanced diet.
Balanced nutrition is essential to sustain metabolic functions, maintain ideal body weight, and prevent chronic diseases. A diet that balances the food groups provides sufficient amounts of minerals such as iodine and selenium, which produce and release thyroid hormones. Consuming at least 2 liters (8 to 10 glasses) of water every day helps support thyroid gland functions by regulating digestion and circulation.
Foods such as fish, seafood, flax seeds, and walnuts are good sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Fish and seafood are the best sources of iodine and selenium, which support the structure of the thyroid hormone. Omega-3 fatty acids can be effective in protecting against cardiovascular diseases and diabetes that are often seen in individuals with thyroid problems. Eating fish, preferably fatty fish, twice a week contributes to the intake of iodine, selenium, and omega-3 fatty acids.
Dietary fiber in foods is resistant to absorption in the small intestine. A balanced diet that includes fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains provides the recommended 25-30 grams of fiber every day. Adequate fiber intake is very important in sustaining thyroid functions that protect against cardiovascular diseases or diabetes that are linked with thyroid diseases.
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