4 Steps You Can Take to Avoid Thyroid Problems

Your thyroid helps regulate metabolism, temperature, and heartbeat. Here’s how to keep it on track.

If you don’t have a thyroid problem, you probably don’t spend a lot of time thinking about that butterfly-shaped gland in your neck, which helps regulate metabolism and body temperature (among other things). But thyroid disorders are pretty common—some experts believe 30% of women will develop one in their lifetime.

An autoimmune disorder can throw your gland out of whack, but it’s thought that lifestyle factors (like stress or diet) also can play a role. Hyperthyroidism (aka an overactive thyroid) can cause rapid weight loss, an unusually fast heartbeat, and anxiety; while hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid) can trigger constipation, weight gain, and extreme fatigue.

If you suspect you have a thyroid problem, consult your doctor about potential treatment options. But in addition to medical treatment, there are a few lifestyle changes that can help keep your thyroid on track. We spoke to Ashita Gupta, MD, an integrative endocrinologist at Mount Sinai West in New York City, about how to maintain a healthy thyroid. Here, her four big recommendations.

Go Mediterranean

One of the most important things you can do to maintain a healthy thyroid is eat a well-balanced diet. “Seventy percent of our autoimmune system is found in our intestines, known as GALT, or gut-associated lymphoid tissue,” Dr. Gupta explains. “When the intestinal lining becomes inflamed, it can trigger an immune response. Studies show that this plays a role in the development of thyroid disease.”

To help keep inflammation in check, Dr. Gupta recommends following a Mediterranean diet. She suggests aiming for four to five servings of vegetables and three to four servings of fruit each day, along with plenty of lean proteins and fatty fish, such as salmon, herring, anchovies, and mackerel. For other healthy fats, Dr. Gupta likes extra-virgin olive oil, expeller-pressed organic canola oil, sunflower oil, safflower oil, coconut oil, nuts, nut butters, and avocados.