As we dive into a new year, it’s a great time to focus on this vital gland in your body. Many people don’t think of their thyroid until something goes wrong and they need to have tests done. However, keeping your thyroid healthy throughout the year should be a top priority. To help you with this goal, we’re going to give you tips to keep your thyroid functioning at the best possible level to stay healthy throughout 2019. 

We’ve compiled a list of the top five things you need to know about your thyroid, and what you can do if you find a lump or bump in, on, or around this gland. 

1. The Basics

Do you know what your thyroid is, where it is and what it does? You’re not alone if you answered with a no. Your thyroid gland is shaped a little like a butterfly. You can find this gland toward the front of your neck in the lower portion. You can’t feel or see this gland if it’s healthy and functioning like it should be. It’s usually a good indicator that something is wrong if you can feel it or even see it when you look in the mirror. 

This small gland plays a huge role in helping regulate several systems in your body. It helps with hormone production as well as linking directly to your nervous system, menstrual cycle, body weight, cholesterol levels, muscle strength and your heart rate and breathing. 

2. Your Thyroid Needs a Constant Supply of Iodine to Function Properly

Your thyroid gland loves iodine. You have to have enough of it in your body to help support healthy thyroid function, because your thyroid uses iodine to help produce hormones. These hormones are vital because they help to regulate your organs. Unfortunately, your body doesn’t produce iodine by itself. 

You must get your necessary iodine by eating foods that contain good levels of it, such as bread and table salt. These foods were specially formulated with iodine in 1924 to combat the wave of iodine deficiency found all over the United States. Not having enough iodine in your diet can lead to a condition called Hypothyroidism, a condition that develops when your thyroid doesn’t get enough iodine to produce the hormones your body needs to function. 

3. Thyroid Disease is Common

Did you know that roughly 20 million Americans have some form of thyroid disease? There are even more people who don’t have any idea that there is a problem with their thyroid. You can have Hypothyroidism or Hyperthyroidism. Both are a result of an improperly functioning thyroid gland. However, they mean very different things. 

Hypothyroidism is a condition where your gland isn’t producing enough hormones to cover needed hormone production adequately. Hyperthyroidism is a condition where your gland is producing too many hormones for your body to handle. Common signs of Hyperthyroidism include things like having trouble sleeping, losing weight, irritability, difficulty concentrating, and feeling too warm. On the other hand, symptoms of Hypothyroidism include feeling cold, lethargy, dry skin, slow heartbeat, constipation, and unexplained weight gain. 

4. You Can Encourage Thyroid Health by Diet

There are things that you can do to promote good thyroid health even though the exact causes of thyroid issues are unknown. Your diet plays an essential part when it comes to keeping your gland working at optimal levels. 

You may want to cut down on heavily processed foods and gluten to start. Once you do this, you can start adding foods to your diet that promote good health. These foods include things like seaweed, nuts, fish, whole grains, beans, fruits, vegetables, dairy and spices like turmeric. As always, you want to add everything in moderation to get a balanced and healthy diet. 

5. You Can Live Without Your Thyroid

Did you know that you can live without your thyroid? This is true although this gland is responsible for so many vital functions in your body. Cancer in your thyroid is one instance where your doctor may decide to remove it. 

It’s important to note that you will have to take a pill each day for the rest of your life that essentially replaces your thyroid’s function. This is usually the last resort for people who have issues with their thyroid. You may want to try alternative treatments or get a second opinion with a specialist first. 

Thyroid Testing 

Many people who find lumps on or around their thyroid choose to see a reputable FNA (fine needle aspiration) doctor to help with testing. FNA is a popular testing method because it’s minimally invasive, there is a very short recovery time and it’s a very reliable way of finding out if your lumps are cancerous or benign. 

FNA is an outpatient procedure where the specialist uses ultrasound to pinpoint the location of the lumps. They’ll mark the area and insert a very thin needle to collect the sample. These samples go to a laboratory for testing. You usually receive the results within a few days. It can be as short as up to 48 hours after the procedure. 

Benefits of Fine Needle Aspiration

Several advantages come with getting this type of biopsy. We’ve highlighted the biggest reasons why people decide to have this procedure. They include but are not limited to: 

•    Minimally invasive

•    Outpatient procedure

•    Comes with pinpoint accuracy

•    Very little or no downtime

•    Quick results

Bottom Line

By taking time to learn about your thyroid, you will be more aware and apt to catch early warning signs. If you notice something unusual and think it may be related to your thyroid, make an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible so you can begin the diagnosis process and determine a treatment plan that is right for you. Find a medical professional that fits your needs and can provide you the best medical attention, as not all doctors or pathologists are created equal.