It only weighs between 20 and 60 grams and yet it is responsible for so many processes in our body - the thyroid gland is an organ that many people unfortunately only think about when they have problems with it. In this article, you'll learn why the thyroid is so important and what you can do to keep it healthy.
What role does the thyroid play?
Hormone balance, energy levels, metabolism, regulation of body heat, fat, protein & carbohydrate metabolism, sexuality, psyche, healthy embryo development during pregnancy and more. The thyroid gland is significantly involved in all these processes. Quite a lot of tasks for such a small organ. So if it doesn't function properly, a lot of things in our body can get out of balance.
What do you need for a healthy thyroid?
By far the most important trace element for the thyroid gland is iodine. Our body cannot produce it itself and can only store it to a limited extent, which is why we depend on regular intake through our diet. Almost 80% of the iodine ingested is processed in the thyroid gland. It thus produces the hormones that control so many processes in our body. Adults should take about 150-200mcg of iodine daily, pregnant and breastfeeding women even 230-260mcg. In nature, iodine is found mainly in fish and meat. However, fish has ten times the iodine content of meat. Iodine can also be found in the soil, but this is practically not the case in Germany, which is why it is one of the regions in Europe with the lowest iodine content.
The second important trace element for the thyroid gland is selenium. Here, too, we depend on an external intake; adults need about 60-70mcg of selenium per day. Selenium is found mainly in nuts, but also in cabbage, mustard seeds, mushrooms and lentils.
How you can recognize an iodine deficiency
Unfortunately, there isn't that one symptom that immediately makes you think of iodine deficiency. Many of the symptoms can also indicate another deficiency. For example, an iodine deficiency can manifest itself in
- lack of drive
- extreme fatigue
- concentration problems
- tightness & pressure in the throat
- skin changes
Especially with symptoms such as fatigue and listlessness, your own assessment is required. Everyone needs different amounts of sleep, and you have to assess for yourself whether you need more sleep than before or are less able to concentrate. It is therefore particularly important to listen to yourself.
Iodized salt - to ensure the iodine supply
We encounter iodine every day in the supermarket - in salt. Normal table salt is often enriched with iodine. But why is this actually the case?
The recommended daily dose of iodine is 180-200 mcg, and even higher for pregnant and breastfeeding women. However, the actual dietary intake in Western and Central Europe is significantly lower. On the one hand, this is due to the iodine-poor soils that occur in our latitudes and which therefore only produce low-iodine agricultural products. In addition, in areas that are far from the coast, little or hardly any fish is eaten, which is the most important source of iodine. Fish from inland waters contains far less iodine than sea fish. For this reason, the WHO first recommended the regular intake of iodized salt in the 1980s. The situation improved significantly with the widespread consumption of iodized salt in Germany, Austria and Switzerland.
People living in countries where iodized salt is not common should pay particular attention to their iodine intake.
Iodine supplementation - what you should pay attention to
If you suspect that you have an iodine deficiency, you should definitely talk to your doctor. He or she can test your blood values and give you dietary tips. If you are on a low-fish, vegetarian or vegan diet, supplementation of iodine and selenium may be recommended. However, please talk to a doctor beforehand, as the additional intake of iodine can be harmful, e.g. in case of Hashimoto's disease.
When choosing the supplement you should pay attention to natural origin and best quality. As said, the thyroid gland absorbs nutrients like a sponge, and so do any pollutants or chemical aids that may be contained. There are some natural, herbal sources from which a high-quality extract can be made that will optimally support your thyroid. In the case of iodine, for example, people often turn to algae, since they contain a lot of iodine, just like fish. In addition, they are easy to cultivate in salt water without too much interference in the ecosystem. Selenium is often obtained from mustard seed extract. Acacia fiber is also commonly obtained in this context. Here, however, the ecological footprint is significantly worse, since acacia trees are found mainly in the tropics and Australia.