A common thyroid-gland disorder can pile on pounds, sap your energy, and leave you achy, bloated, and moody—all at once. The problem: hypothyroidism, or when youre low on thyroid hormones. Experts now think lifestyle changes—even a little sushi—may prevent or delay it. “Anyone who has warning signs should act now,” says Richard Shames, MD, co-author of Feeling Fat, Fuzzy, or Frazzled? Here are four smart steps.
1. Order the dynamite roll
A healthy thyroid needs iodine, selenium, and magnesium. Iodine is a building block of thyroid hormone, and many people with hypothyroidism dont get enough. What you eat can help keep levels healthy: sushi, seafood, or sea vegetables like kelp, for instance, contain iodine. Multivitamins also usually have sensible amounts of the stuff, plus selenium and magnesium, which help make and metabolize thyroid hormone. (Just be careful: Too much iodine can also trigger abnormal thyroid function, Dr. Shames says.)
2. Cook your broccoli
Raw cruciferous vegetables—think broccoli and cabbage—are packed with healthy nutrients, but they also have compounds that interfere with the bodys ability to use iodine for thyroid hormone production. Cooking them inactivates most of the bad compounds, says Sherrill Sellman, a naturopathic doctor and author of Hormone Heresy.
3. Rinse—and repeat
Rinse well after brushing to avoid swallowing fluoride toothpaste, and dont drink too much fluoridated tap water. Studies suggest that fluoride may decrease your bodys production of thyroid hormone and interfere with how the hormone moves through your blood, says Kathleen Thiessen, PhD, a panelist for the National Research Councils recent scientific review of fluoride standards for drinking water.
4. Say no to stress
Manage it however you can—keep to your workout schedule and get more sleep, for instance. Heres why: Exercise boosts circulation and enhances relaxation. And that helps keep your bodys production of the hormone cortisol under control, which, in turn, improves thyroid function, Sellman says. Meanwhile, if you dont feel like working out, a good nights sleep can fight that low-energy feeling. Sweet dreams.