10 Ways to Prevent Thyroid Disease

Taking a Proactive Role in Your Thyroid Health

According to the American Thyroid Association, more than 12 percent of people living in the United States will develop a thyroid condition during their lifetime. 

While there is no one step that can definitively ensure you do not develop thyroid disease, there are choices you can make that will certainly help. 

1
Ask for a Thyroid Collar When X-Rayed

Healthy thyroid
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Just before you undergo dental x-rays, be sure to ask the x-ray technician to place a collar on your neck (called a "thyroid collar"). This collar looks a bit like the neck part of a turtleneck sweater, and it's heavy and lined in lead. 

The purpose of the collar is to protect your thyroid gland from radiation exposure. This is important, as your thyroid gland is the most vulnerable organ in your head and neck region, due to its location and large size. 

2
Stop Smoking

Cigarette smoke has various toxins (thiocyanate in particular) that are especially dangerous to the thyroid and can trigger thyroid disease in susceptible people.

Cigarette smokers also are more likely to develop thyroid eye complications of Graves' disease, and treatments for those eye problems are less effective in smokers.

While stopping smoking is no easy task, talk with your doctor. There are a number of options available to help you through this daunting but absolutely doable journey. 

3
Consider Treatment for Positive Thyroid Antibodies

Research has shown that when you have a normal TSH level, but elevated thyroid peroxidase (TPO) antibody levels, preventive treatment with thyroid hormone replacement medication may decrease your antibody levels and inflammation, and may also resolve any symptoms you have. There is also evidence that thyroid hormone replacement may prevent progression to overt hypothyroidism.

Overall, deciding whether or not take thyroid hormone replacement (in this situation) requires a thoughtful discussion with your doctor. Many factors need to be considered like what your TSH is, your age, your family history, and whether or not you have symptoms. 

 

4
Don't Go Soy Crazy

Soy is a controversial nutrient, especially when it comes to your thyroid health. While unlikely to have an effect on your thyroid (research is supporting this more and more), consuming soy in moderation is probably best.

In addition, if you have thyroid disease, it's important to not consume soy foods within three to four hours of taking your thyroid hormone replacement medication.This is because research has consistently shown that soy interferes with gut absorption of levothyroxine.

5
Talk About Selenium Supplementation With Your Doctor

An inexpensive supplement, selenium, may help prevent certain forms of thyroid disease. More specifically, research suggests that selenium lowers thyroid antibody levels in people with Hashimoto's disease and pregnant women with thyroperoxidase (TPO) antibodies. Moreover, in pregnant women, selenium supplementation decreases the likelihood of developing postpartum thyroiditis. 

Of course, be sure to speak with your personal doctor about taking selenium. It's role in thyroid health, especially in Hashimoto's disease, has still not been fully teased out. In fact, studies suggest that high selenium levels in the body may be a risk factor for developing type 2 diabetes. 

6
Consider Keeping Potassium Iodide On Hand for A Nuclear Emergency

Potassium iodide (KI) is an over-the-counter supplement that, when taken within hours after a nuclear accident (or attack on nuclear facilities) may help protect the thyroid from the risk of thyroid cancer.

It's important to only take KI under the instruction of your local health authorities, according to the  American Thyroid Association. This is because not every radioactive release contains the radioactive iodine that causes thyroid cancer.  

 

7
Consider Fluoride's Role

While some research suggests that people living in areas with fluoridated drinking water are at a higher risk of developing hypothyroidism than people without fluoridated drinking water, other research has not shown this. Until this link has been fully teased out, it's not generally recommended to avoid fluoride.

If you are concerned, however, about the role of fluoride in your personal health, be sure to discuss it with your doctor. 

8
Look Out for Your Water and Perchlorate

Perchlorate is a by-product of rocket fuel production that has contaminated the water supplies in areas throughout the nation. Because a large percentage of U.S. produce is irrigated with perchlorate-contaminated water, perchlorate is also prevalent in the U.S. food supply. 

Since perchlorate may reduce thyroid hormone levels, it's sensible to stay up on your area's perchlorate contamination and maximum state levels for perchlorate in the water. Also, if you use well water, consider having it tested for perchlorate contamination.

9
Get Celiac Disease Diagnosed and Treated

Celiac disease, a condition that causes the intestines to react abnormally to gluten (a protein found in wheat, rye, barley, and oats, and other related grains), is linked to autoimmune thyroid disease.

While scientific data does not traditionally support the use of a gluten-free diet in treating a person with autoimmune thyroid disease, it may help certain people, particularly those whose thyroid disease developed as a result of gluten consumption. 

Regardless, it's important to only make a large dietary change under the guidance of your doctor. 

10
See Your Doctor Regularly

Seeing your primary care doctor for your regular check-ups is important, not only for your overall health but also for your thyroid health. This is especially true if you are at risk for developing thyroid disease (for example, you have a family history of Hashimoto's thyroiditis). 

A Word From Verywell

In the end, do your best to optimize your thyroid care. Remember, as well, while taking steps to prevent thyroid disease is a good idea, it's not 100 percent (but certainly worth a try). 

Sources:

Braverman, L, Cooper D. Werner & Ingbar's The Thyroid, 10th Edition. WLL/Wolters Kluwer; 2012.

Drutel A, Archambeaud F, Caron P. Selenium and the thyroid gland: more good news for clinicians. Clin Endocrinol (Oxf). 2013 Feb;78(2):155-64. doi: 10.1111/cen.12066.

Iglesias M et. al. "Radiation exposure and thyroid cancer: a review.." Arch Endocrinol Metab. 2017 Feb 16:0. doi: 10.1590/2359-3997000000257.

Messina M. Soy and Health Update: Evaluation of the Clinical and Epidemiologic Literature. Nutrients. 2016 Dec;8(12):754.

Wiersinga, WM. Smoking and thyroid. Clin Endocrinol (Oxf). 2013 Aug;79(2):145-51. doi: 10.1111/cen.12222.