10 Ways You Can You Prevent Thyroid Disease

by Mary Shomon Patient Advocate

Can you prevent thyroid disease? While some types of thyroid disease are not avoidable, there are some things you can do that will either prevent you from developing your thyroid disease or a thyroid condition, or lower your risk. Let’s take a look at these 10 specific practical and effective tactics.

Periodic Table Iodine
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Make sure you have healthy iodine levels

Iodine from your diet is the key ingredient of the thyroid hormone your body manufactures. If you are deficient in iodine, it’s impossible for you to produce enough thyroid hormone, which can make you hypothyroid. To avoid deficiency of iodine, you can start by supplementing with the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of iodine, 150 mcg/day. (If you are pregnant or planning to get pregnant, guidelines recommend you get 220-250 mcg/day, and if you are breastfeeding, 290 mcg/day.)

Breaking A Cigarette
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Stop smoking

Cigarettes contain the chemical thiocyanate, which can damage your thyroid gland. Cigarette smoking is associated with an increased risk of thyroid disease, as well as increased difficulty treating certain thyroid-related conditions. For the benefit of your thyroid — as well as your lung and heart health — talk to your doctor about effective ways to stop smoking.

Toothpaste squeezed
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Be careful about toxic exposures

A number of chemicals are known to be toxic to your thyroid gland. They are found in food, water, and household products, and include:

  • Triclosan, in some antibacterial soaps and toothpaste
  • BPA bisphenol-A (BPA), found in food can linings and plastic products
  • Perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) for flame-resistance, stain-resistance, and waterproofing, found in carpets, fabrics, and clothing
  • Nonstick coating on pans

To protect your thyroid and endocrine health, check labels, and choose products that do not include these chemicals.

Dental Professional Preparing X-Ray for a Patient in Office
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Ask for a thyroid collar during dental x-rays

Frequent dental x-rays can expose your thyroid gland to unnecessary levels of radiation, which can increase your risk of thyroid abnormalities. Avoid unnecessary or routine dental x-rays whenever possible. When you absolutely need a dental x-ray, insist that your dentist uses a protective lead thyroid collar, which is placed around your neck to shield your thyroid from radiation exposure.

Danger zone at nuclear power plant
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Keep potassium iodide on hand

If you live in an area located downwind of a nuclear facility, keep enough potassium iodide supplements on hand at home, work, and in your car for your entire family. If a nuclear accident takes place and you are at risk of radiation exposure, authorities will instruct you on how and when to take the pills. Taking the supplement before radiation exposure can protect your thyroid gland from absorbing radioactive iodine, reducing your risk of thyroid cancer and other problems.

Soy Milk and Soybean Products
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Don't go overboard on soy

Overconsumption of soy foods can slow your thyroid's production of hormones, and impair your body’s ability to metabolize thyroid hormone. If you want to eat soy foods, rather than overdoing it with soy powders, soy supplements, soy milk, soy burgers, and soy-fortified foods, consider using fermented forms of soy such as tofu and miso as a condiment, and not as a primary protein. Experts also recommend that you avoid genetically-modified (GMO) soy and choose non-GMO soy products.

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Don't overdo raw goitrogenic vegetables

Goitrogenic vegetables are cruciferous vegetables that, when eaten raw and in large quantities, can slow down your thyroid gland and make you hypothyroid. Common goitrogenic foods include kale, broccoli, spinach, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts. You can eat these healthy foods. Just make sure that you steam or cook them to reduce their thyroid-slowing properties. And be careful about overdoing raw smoothies made with these vegetables.

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Get tested for celiac disease

A common trigger for autoimmune thyroid conditions like Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and Graves’ disease is celiac disease. Celiac disease is an inability to process the protein gluten, found in wheat and other grains. Undiagnosed celiac disease is a known trigger for elevated thyroid antibodies and thyroid disease. If you have any symptoms of celiac disease, get tested. The treatment for celiac disease, a strict gluten-free diet, may lower antibodies and prevent some thyroid problems.

Fish oil and vitamin D softgels
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Address any vitamin D deficiency

Vitamin D deficiency — defined as 25-hydroxy vitamin D levels of less than 20 ng/mL — is associated with an increased risk of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and Graves’ disease, as well as many other health challenges. Vitamin D therapy can significantly reduce thyroid antibodies and may prevent overt hypothyroidism. You can have a blood test to evaluate your vitamin D levels. An important note: Some integrative practitioners feel that baseline vitamin D levels should be above 50 ng/mL.

Selenium
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Supplement with selenium

The mineral seleniumis very important for thyroid function. Research has shown that supplementing with selenium can reduce thyroid antibodies, and may even restore your thyroid function to normal without medication. Since selenium is not easy to get from your diet — the best source of selenium is Brazil nuts — consider a daily selenium supplementation. Just be careful not to get more than 400 mcg of selenium daily from both food and supplements, because higher levels can be toxic.

Mary Shomon
Meet Our Writer
Mary Shomon

Mary Shomon is a patient advocate and New York Times bestselling author who empowers readers with information on thyroid and autoimmune disease, diabetes, weight loss and hormonal health from an integrative perspective. Mary has been a leading force advocating for more effective, patient-centered hormonal healthcare. Mary also co-stars in PBS’ Healthy Hormones TV series. Mary also serves on HealthCentral’s Health Advocates Advisory Board.