Is Your Thyroid Happy? How to Optimize Thyroid Function as You Age

Is Your Thyroid Happy? How to Optimize Thyroid Function as You Age

Written by tyemedical on Jan 30th 2020

Age plays a key factor in thyroid disorders, even though conditions can be diagnosed at any age. In fact, hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) is most common in women over age 60. But middle-aged women aren’t in the clear. With the rise in autoimmune disorders, Hashimoto’s disease has become most prevalent in women ages 40-60. So, if you want to keep your thyroid happy as you age, consider taking some proactive steps today.

Your Thyroid in a Nutshell

This tiny gland (located at the base of your throat) is a very big deal – just ask anyone diagnosed with a thyroid condition. As part of the endocrine system, this gland produces hormones that regulate critical bodily functions such as:

  • Metabolic rate
  • Heart function
  • Digestive function
  • Muscle control
  • Brain development
  • Maintaining bone mass
  • Mood

So when it’s unhappy, your thyroid function is diminished and affects other important areas of life. These thyroid “issues” are typically one of several specific disorders:

  • Hypothyroidism (under-active thyroid)
  • Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid)
  • Hashimoto’s disease (autoimmune)
  • Grave’s disease
  • Goiter
  • Thyroid nodules

According to, one woman in eight will develop a thyroid condition in her lifetime, which means it’s worth doing what you can to keep your thyroid humming!

How Age Affects Thyroid Function

Not only are thyroid conditions more likely as you age, they also become more difficult to diagnose. In older patients, symptoms are more subtle or brushed off as part of the normal aging process, symptoms such as tissue swelling, anemia, subtle palsies, migraines, and moderate weight gain. In truth, these symptoms indicate an underlying thyroid disorder. Thyroid malfunction in seniors happen more gradually making the signs difficult to detect.

So why are seniors more prone to poor thyroid function?

Experts suggest thyroid anatomy and function change with age, largely due to fibrosis and atrophy within the gland, as well as changes in thyroid hormones. Older adults are also more likely to develop thyroid nodules, which can be problematic for thyroid health or contain cancer cells.

How to Keep Your Thyroid Happy – At Any Age

Get Your Minerals

Balance is key when it comes to minerals and your thyroid. Too much or too little will likely cause problems with thyroid function. Try consuming small amounts of these minerals each day:

  • Iodine (about 150 mcg daily)– iodized salt or sea salt with natural iodine
  • Selenium (100-200 mcg daily) – tuna, shrimp, salmon, sardines, scallops, chicken, beef, turkey, eggs, and shitake mushrooms
  • Zinc (8-11 mg daily) – shellfish, mollusks, meat, legumes, nuts

It’s always best to consume vitamins and minerals in your diet, but if that’s not possible, consider a selenium or zinc supplement. First, check your multivitamin to see if these minerals are included at the recommended levels.

Filter Drinking Water

City water contains high levels of fluoride and chlorine, both of which block absorption of iodine into the thyroid. Consider installing a water filter that removes both offenders from your drinking water.

Eat Fermented Foods

Fermented foods are filled with healthy probiotics (good bacteria) that are crucial to maintaining a healthy gut. Since your gut plays an important role in converting inactive thyroid hormone (T4) into active hormone (T3), it’s important to keep your digestive system running smoothly for optimal thyroid function.

Try getting your probiotics through “cultured” or fermented vegetables like sauerkraut and other fermented foods such as sourdough bread, kombucha tea, or high-quality plain Greek yogurt. Two or three servings a day should do the trick.

Reduce Stress

If you’re already predisposed to a thyroid condition (it runs in your family), then chronic or acute stress could stimulate your thyroid to work harder, thereby causing the condition to manifest. Additionally, stress makes you more prone to Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, and autoimmune conditions.

Do your best to reduce stress in your life, mental, physical, and emotional. Moderate exercise and a 7-9 hours of sleep each night will also reduce stress and help keep your thyroid function optimal.

Start the Day Slowly

A large majority of people with thyroid disease are diagnosed with hypothyroidism, which is more susceptible to the detrimental effects of stress. So along with reducing overall stress in your life, consider starting your day in first gear and slowly ramping up to your cruising speed.

If you must use an alarm clock, try something less intrusive or jarring. For example, some smart watches vibrate to wake you up. You can also try using a musical alarm for a gentler wakeup call.

Additionally, instead of jumping into a frantic morning routine, add 5-10 minutes of stretching and deep breathing when you first get out of bed. It’s healthiest to start your day relaxed, limber, and with plenty of oxygen. It also helps set your attitude for the day. A frenzied pace places a serious strain on your thyroid function.

Practice Yoga

If you’re ready to take the next step in your lower-stress lifestyle, try adding some yoga to your day. If you don’t have time for this in the morning, continue your simple morning stretches and schedule yoga for the afternoon or evening. Yoga poses help reduce stress in a gentle way and can positively impact thyroid function.

Even if you’ve slimmed down the pressures in your life, yoga is a great way to relieve bodily tension in a peaceful and relaxing manner. The focus it requires often clears stressful thoughts from the mind.

If you’re ready to get started, sign up for a beginner’s yoga class or download a free app like Down Dog. Even the free version is highly customizable and great for beginners.

Avoid Using Anything Plastic

This is a tough one, because we live in the age of plastics! However, if you’re serious about maintaining healthy thyroid function, you’ll probably want to give this a try. Even if you continue using some plastics and only reduce your exposure, you’ll be making gains. Some simple first steps might be swapping plastic food containers for glass ones and buying canned goods with BPA-free liners.

According to EndocrineWeb, BPA (bisphenol AF) and DEHP (diethylhexylphthalate) are common ingredients in many plastics and are known as “endocrine disrupters.” These endocrine disrupting chemicals change the way your body’s hormones work, thereby affecting many bodily functions. In fact researchers have found a significant link between them and thyroid cancer, finding that those who have been exposed to low doses of BPA and DEHP are 14-times more likely to develop thyroid cancer.

Detox Beauty Supplies

While you’re ridding your home of as many plastics as possible, it’s best that you say goodbye to some cosmetics too. Cosmetics and beauty supplies, such as nail polish and shampoos, also contain phthalates and could negatively affect your thyroid function. Consider slowly replacing your traditional favorites with healthier brands.

Use Cast Iron or Stainless-Steel Cookware

We’ve all heard about alarming chemicals found in the non-stick coating of Teflon pans, and as of 2013, Teflon claims all their products are PFOA free. PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid) is also an endocrine disrupter that negatively affects thyroid function. So, you might wonder if it’s okay to use the new Teflon or non-stick pans on store shelves today. If you’re concerned about toxins and your health, specifically your thyroid health, it’s probably best to skip coated pans altogether.

Even if the pots and pans are free of PFOA, researchers are uncertain of other chemicals used in non-stick coatings and how they affect health. If you want to play it safe, invest in some stainless-steel cookware. Read the product information thoroughly, and with a little adjustment, the transition will be easy.

Other Risk Factors and Common Symptoms

Some circumstances beyond your control can affect your thyroid function and increase you risk of developing hypothyroidism. If any of these risk factors apply to you, you’ll want to be more vigilant about detecting symptoms and consider making some changes to reduce your risk.

According to the Mayo Clinic, you are at increased risk for an under-active thyroid if you:

  • Have an autoimmune disease like type 1 diabetes or celiac disease
  • Have a family history of thyroid disease
  • Have had thyroid surgery (i.e. partial thyroidectomy)
  • Have been treated with radioactive iodine or anti-thyroid medications
  • Received radiation to your neck or upper chest
  • Have been pregnant or delivered a baby within the past six months

Hypothyroidism is often difficult to detect in its early stages as mentioned previously, because symptoms typically develop gradually and are attributed to getting older. As the disease progresses, more evident changes and a decreased quality of life become more apparent.

When you research hypothyroidism, you’ll find a host of symptoms but not everyone experiences all of them, and if the condition is caught early, you might be able to avoid many of the effects. However, several symptoms are very typical among hypothyroid patients:

  • Fatigue
  • Weight gain
  • Cold intolerance
  • Weakness and muscle aches

If you’ve noticed some changes or are at higher risk for developing a thyroid condition, consult with your doctor. Simple blood tests can help determine if you’re maintaining healthy thyroid function.

Be sure to follow up with your doctor, even if your symptoms are tolerable. If you’re one who like to “tough things out,”you’ll want to reconsider when it comes to thyroid conditions. If left untreated, hypothyroidism can lead to the development of a goiter, heart disease, decreased lung function, mental deterioration, and myxedema (a rare type of coma).

What About Hyperthyroidism (Overactive Thyroid)?

As with hypothyroidism, an overactive thyroid initially causes subtle symptoms such as an increased heart rate, heat intolerance, and fatigue when performing daily activities. When your thyroid produces too much hormone, it’s typically due to the autoimmune disorder known as Graves’ Disease, enlarged thyroid nodules, or thyroiditis. This condition is less common than an underactive thyroid, but if you suspect something is amiss, then it’s important to follow up with your doctor.

Your Key Takeaways

Thyroid conditions are typically easy and inexpensive to diagnose and treat, and you can save yourself a lot of discomfort and greater risks if you see your doctor when you suspect something.

If your doctor isn’t already monitoring your thyroid function with annual blood tests, consider asking them to be added to your other routine tests. Annual testing helps your doctor establish a baseline of thyroid function that’s healthy for you. If things begin to change, your doctor can more readily diagnosis a thyroid condition in the early stages.

Remember that you can be proactive about your thyroid health by decreasing stress, including certain minerals and probiotics in your diet, and detoxing your environment as much as you can (without stressing yourself).

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