Endocrine Health Issues for Men and Women
By Jennifer Kohler, MS, FNP-BC, CLC
Endocrine health issues are not exclusive to females. Both males and females can be affected by thyroid problems and cortisol problems. Fatigue, mood changes, and weight changes are common symptoms of potential endocrine problems. This month we will look at thyroid dysfunction.
Hypothyroidism occurs when there is an insufficient synthesis of thyroid hormone which is necessary for your body’s metabolic process. Causes of hypothyroidism range from insufficient iodine intake to autoimmune destruction to other endocrine diseases or infections. Hyperthyroidism is not seen as commonly as hypothyroidism and is related to the overproduction of thyroid hormone.
Multiple factors can affect thyroid hormone production and conversion, so an integrative approach to thyroid health is important. Exercise is important to help maintain a healthy weight/stop weight gain, and improve mood. Working on decreasing overall stress from your environment, illness, and emotional/mental health can also help by decreasing the demand on your immune system.
There are necessary nutrients that are required for thyroid hormone production, conversion, and binding. The major nutrients are vitamin A and D, iodine, selenium, and zinc. Too much or too little iodine can cause problems. Some dietary restrictions or heavy metal toxicity can affect healthy iodine levels. There have been some studies that have shown that healthy selenium levels can also improve thyroid antibody levels. Vitamin A deficiency can be associated with excess alcohol intake or very strict diet restrictions. Most people can get adequate vitamin A in their diet through milk, eggs, meat, and fortified cereals. Strict diets that avoid meat, dairy, and eggs can usually get adequate vitamin A through foods rich in beta-carotene (carrots, sweet potatoes, spinach, cantaloupe, romaine, greens). Zinc is another element that is needed for thyroid health. Many people can get adequate zinc from meat, dairy, fish, poultry, dry beans, and fortified cereals. And if you are a current patient here at IM of CNY, you already know about Vitamin D and its importance in our health. Staying on top of and maintaining a healthy Vitamin D level is definitely a challenge at times for those of us in the Northeast. Omega-3, iron, and probiotics are also part of the nutritional picture for thyroid health.
Regarding gluten, a number of patients who have thyroid problems and especially those with elevated thyroid antibodies, report improvement when following a gluten-free or gluten-restricted diet. The idea of doing this can be daunting for some people, however, today’s markets offer an enormous amount of gluten-free options and there is an abundance of information about eating gluten-free. If you are still struggling with some health issues, it can be helpful to try going gluten-free for a month to see if your symptoms improve.
If you are concerned about your thyroid health and want to be seen in consultation at IM of CNY, please call our office at 315-741-5774 for more information.