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Despite all your efforts to feel full of energy and to maintain a healthy weight, sometimes the healthy lifestyle formula still fails to bring real results. But maybe it’s not that you are doing the wrong things, but rather focusing on the wrong problem. Feeling sluggish, overweight and with dry skin and coarse or brittle hair could mean you need to improve your thyroid gland function.

Approximately one in eight women will develop a thyroid disorder in their lifetimes. As we age, the thyroid becomes less efficient. Hypothyroidism is the term used to describe a condition in which the thyroid is under-active and unable to efficiently convert fat cells into energy.

Here are three ways to tackle an underactive thyroid and improve thyroid gland function.

1. Selenium and Iodine

Trace minerals are key in protecting your thyroid and the standouts among them are iodine and selenium. Selenium deficiency is often found in those with serious inflammation or digestive health issues. Selenium intake should be about 55 mcg per day in healthy adults. While a healthy thyroid requires a high presence of selenium, its iodine content requires normalization – not going too high or too low the recommended intake. The body does not make iodine itself, so it is important to fuel up on iodine-rich foods, without going overboard, keeping intake in the 150-299 μg/day range. Too much iodine reduces the activity of the enzyme, thyroid peroxidase, which is necessary for proper thyroid hormone production. Together, selenium and iodine work together to improve thyroid function.

Eat selenium-rich foods, such as Brazil nuts, sunflower seeds, fish, shellfish, meat, poultry, eggs, mushrooms and whole grains. Iodine-containing foods include cheese, milk, eggs, yogurt, saltwater fish, seaweed, shellfish, soy milk, soy sauce and iodized table salt.

2. Go to the Gut

Improving colon health is crucial to overall health, and especially for thyroid health. The colon hosts 70 percent of the body’s immune tissue. When its walls are compromised, protein molecules may escape into the blood stream and threaten the body’s immunity. This can lead to autoimmune diseases.

Improve digestion by staying hydrated, eating lots of fiber-rich fruits and vegetables and keeping stress low.

3. Stay Clear of Gluten

A gluten-free diet is getting a lot of buzz these days, and perhaps for good reason. According to more than a few studies, autoimmune thyroid diseases such as Hashimoto’s and Graves’ are linked to gluten intolerance.

And it’s not that gluten itself is so bad, but rather that the protein portion of gluten – gliadin – is mistaken by the body as the protein portion of the thyroid gland. When released into the bloodstream, the immune system tags it for destruction, causing the immune system to virtually attack the thyroid.

It might even be required for you to give up gluten entirely, as it will last in your system for up to six months each time you eat it.

Aylin Erman is founder of GlowKitchen. There she shares step-by-step picture recipes of her plant-based creations. Aylin lives and works in Istanbul as a writer and editor at the country’s first-ever green-living and sustainability platform, Yesilist. Like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter to keep up with food news and recipes.

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Photo Credit: Dawn Endico