The thyroid is often overlooked but is vital to your body’s proper functioning. Located on your trachea (windpipe) between your Adam's apple and collarbone, the thyroid produces key hormones related to metabolism that keep your body working properly.
Your health can be significantly impacted without a working thyroid, so keeping this gland healthy and functioning properly throughout your life is vital.
In this article, we’ll explore common thyroid conditions, how a high-fiber diet and taking a fibre supplement can help manage thyroid conditions, and how to conduct a quick self-assessment to determine if you have an immediate risk of thyroid disease.
Understanding Thyroid Conditions
The thyroid produces specific hormones such as T4 (thyroxine) and T3 (triiodothyronine) which tell your body’s cells how much energy to use, therefore helping to control your metabolism. As these hormones are used up, your thyroid will replace them appropriately.
Thyroid conditions (often referred to as thyroid disease) occur when the thyroid produces the wrong number of hormones. The two main thyroid conditions you can suffer from are hyperthyroidism and hypotension.
Hyperthyroidism occurs when your thyroid produces too much thyroid hormone which causes your body’s cells to use energy too quickly. This can result in increased heart rate, diarrhea, feelings of nervousness/anxiety, feelings of tiredness/fatigue, having trouble sleeping, experiencing an enlarged thyroid, muscle weakness and tremors, irregular menstrual cycle, and/or vision problems or irritation.
Hypothyroidism occurs in the opposite instance when your thyroid produces too few thyroid hormones. This can result in involuntary weight gain, feelings of tiredness/fatigue, moments of forgetfulness, inability to tolerate cold temperatures, intensified menstrual cycles, having a hoarse voice, having dry hair.
Why Fibre Can Help
Eating a diet high in fibre has been linked to the maintenance of your digestive, heart, and overall health. It can also reduce the probability of developing a thyroid condition; those already suffering from a thyroid condition can benefit greatly by ensuring they consume a high-fibre diet.
Only 5% of Canadians are currently meeting Health Canada’s recommended daily intake of fibre, which is 25g per day for women and 38g per day for men. In fact, most Canadians are only consuming about half that amount.
Fibre has been linked with numerous health benefits, most notably:
- Improving digestion and regularity
- Functioning as a prebiotic to feed the beneficial bacteria in your gut to flourish
- Lowering and regulating LDL and total cholesterol levels, improving heart health
- Helping to regulate blood glucose (sugar) levels
- Increasing satiety, which can help with weight loss
Those with a thyroid condition are at a higher risk for developing heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and gut health issues like diverticulitis and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Fibre can be particularly useful to reduce the effects of thyroid conditions by:
- Lowering cholesterol to promote a healthy heart
- Slowing digestion and stabilizing blood sugar levels, after meals, to prevent sugar from being absorbed too quickly
- Promoting regular and healthy bowel movements. Insoluble fibres help with constipation, and soluble fibres will bulk your stool to help with diarrhea.
- Increasing your satiety. Fibre will help you reduce your caloric intake by making you feel fuller for longer, and therefore, helping you to lose weight, which is a challenging area for those with hypothyroidism.
What’s the best fibre supplement for helping your thyroid?
While many Canadians try to meet their fibre needs purely through diet, the reality is it can be hard to get enough. Taking a fibre supplement is a great way to ensure you are getting all the health benefits fibre can provide.
When selecting a fibre supplement, look for one with the following attributes:
- Contains both soluble and insoluble fibre
- Has a clean ingredient deck (beware of added sugars and flavoring)
- Naturally grown and produced (many psyllium fibres such as Metamucil are chemically extracted)
- Is produced by a reputable brand, preferably domestically
- Is backed by research (barley beta-glucan for example is one of the most heavily researched and beneficial types of soluble fibre you can introduce into your diet)
NutraStat beta-glucan fibre is an excellent choice because it contains both soluble (beta-glucan) and insoluble fibre, contains a single ingredient (barley), and is produced using a chemical-free process.
Are there any risks known by supplementing fibre for a thyroid condition?
The only risk related to taking a fibre supplement is that it can delay the digestion of medications. Because fibre slows the digestion of nutrients in the digestive tract, it can delay medications from being absorbed as well. As a result, it's best to take any medications before or 2 hours after taking a fibre supplement.
How to conduct a thyroid self-check
While not exhaustive, this quick self-check provided by the Cleveland Clinic is a good starting point to determine if you are at immediate risk.
To do this check, you’ll need a mirror and a glass of water.
- Your thyroid is located between your Adam's apple and the collarbone
- Look in the mirror and tilt your head back
- Drink some water, swallow and watch your thyroid move upside down
- Look for any lumps or bumps when you swallow
- Repeat a few times
- If you see any lumps, bumps, or protrusions, you’ll want to see your doctor right away to get yourself checked
Here’s a detailed video that outlines these steps and what to look for: How to Do a Self-Thyroid Exam