World Thyroid Day. Does this event ring a bell? Maybe not. That’s because not a lot of people know the importance of that small, butterfly-shaped gland at the base of the neck.
That’s our thyroid gland, by the way, and let us tell you how immensely significant it is.
First and foremost, the thyroid gland is responsible for the overall wellness of the body. Some of its numerous functions are elevating heart rate, maintaining the right cholesterol levels, aiding in optimum metabolism, keeping your body weight healthy, promoting excellent energy levels, helping in muscle functionality, and preventing us from those annoying mood swings!
Remember the old adage, “Two heads are better than one?” As with any other body organ, one cannot function without the help of the others. The thyroid gland is responsible for releasing thyroid hormones so the body can function properly. Hence, your thyroid gland also works together with the pituitary gland. The pituitary gland is responsible for “declaring” how much thyroid hormones the thyroid gland should produce. There are three kinds:
- Triiodothyronine (T3)
- Tetraiodothyronine (T4)
How Winter Can Affect Your Thyroid
Seasonal changes affect the state of your thyroid – most especially during winter. An imbalance in thyroid-stimulating hormones (TSH) means it’s trouble for your overall health, specifically your thyroid. Two common forms of thyroid imbalance are hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid), where the gland makes too many hormones. During winter, it makes you lose muscle and fat causing the body’s inability to regulate body temperature. Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid), on the other hand, is when the gland doesn’t produce ample hormones for the body to function accordingly. This results in a weak metabolic system and prevents the body from producing heat. Not the best performance you want from your body especially if it’s winter season. So why does the cold weather get the best out of your thyroid? Here’s why:
- Our body needs nutrients to function and one of those is Vitamin D. This is essential to maintain an excellent immune system, perfect bones, and a healthy thyroid. Vitamin D levels spiral down during the colder months which leads to bone and muscle aches, sluggish injury healing, and fatigue.
- During winter, the thyroid gland will have more difficulty in generating heat to regulate body temperature. This causes our T4 and T3 to drop.
- Our body may have a harder time warming up in the winter season because of lower thyroid hormones, in turn, our muscles and joints don’t perform as perfectly compared to the warmer months.
Tips to Keep Your Thyroid Healthy During Winter
- Have Your TSH Levels Checked
Your TSH levels may rise to keep up with the body’s heat production and might lead to a hypothyroidism misdiagnosis. Experts advise taking several TSH tests all throughout the seasons to be sure your thyroid is in tiptop condition. Furthermore, consult your doctor if you need thyroid hormone replacement medications. Some doctors recommend increasing the patients’ dosage during the cold season.
- Eat More Proteins and Healthy Fats
Try not to let winter hinder you from staying healthy and that means, no sweet tooth cravings! Although a hot high-calorie, the sugar-laden chocolate drink might be heaven in a cup, resist every urge to drink it! A lot of people with underlying thyroid conditions are more vulnerable to processed sugar. Instead of your usual sugar binge, opt for leaner and healthier fats like chicken, salmon, lean meat, eggs, olive oil, nuts, avocados, and more.
- Now is the Time to Befriend the Sun
Going outside for 20 or 30 minutes every day to soak up some sunlight is actually beneficial not only for your overall wellness but also for the tiny, butterfly-shaped gland. This is also great for increasing your Vitamin D levels. If for some reason you can’t seem to get enough sun, there are various supplements and Vitamin D3 is the best kind there is. Get a recommendation from your doctor.
- Load up on Iodine, Zinc, and Iron
Iodine helps in the thyroid hormone production. But since our body doesn’t naturally yield iodine, it’s best to get it from iodine-rich food sources such as cod, dairy, shrimp, lima beans, seaweed, eggs, tuna, or prunes. Zinc and iron are essential nutrients for converting T4 to T3. Make sure to inhibit zinc and iron deficiencies by eating these types of food: spinach, shellfish, entrails, legumes, seeds, quinoa, turkey, broccoli, tofu, nuts, whole grains, kale, oysters, lobsters, potatoes, or green beans.
- Avoid Stress
Winter can sometimes take its toll on people (some of us don’t like cold weather, FYI). In turn, stress likely occurs during this time. This can jeopardize your immune system and can make you more susceptible to diseases. And with an underperforming thyroid, you can be facing a serious, long-term disease. Exercise regularly, to get your daily dose of endorphins. Walking for 30 minutes can already make you break a sweat. You can also try other forms of stress-free therapies like massages, acupuncture, yoga, tai-chi, or even a simple stretch and breathing exercise can refresh your mind throughout the day.
A Happy Thyroid Means a Happy You
While you can finally get your skis and snowboards out when winter comes marching in, remember to always take care of your thyroid gland to keep the bodily functions at a maximum. These tips and ways to keep your thyroid healthy in the winter aren’t really hard. Squeezing these into your usual daily routine will be perpetually favourable. So remember, that small, butterfly-shaped gland needs your help all throughout the winter. Keep it happy so you’ll be happy as well.