To the great frustration of many of the 27 million Americans with thyroid gland issues, the thyroid has a profound impact on metabolism. Unintended weight gain and weight loss are common, and both can be a daunting challenge to rectify. Although weight may be the most common complaint, clients are at an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes, underscoring the need to eat a balanced diet and adopt a healthful lifestyle. But since one-half of all people with thyroid disease are undiagnosed and weight changes are a common symptom,1 RDs are in a prime position to spot potential thyroid conditions, make appropriate referrals, and help clients get a timely diagnosis and the treatment they need. This article will provide an overview of thyroid disease, its relationship with cardiovascular disease and diabetes, and the role nutrition plays in maintaining thyroid health. Thyroid The thyroid gland is a 2-inch butterfly-shaped organ located at the front of the neck. It regulates fat and carbohydrate metabolism, respiration, body temperature, brain development, cholesterol levels, the heart and nervous system, blood calcium levels, menstrual cycles, skin integrity, and more. The most common thyroid condition is hypothyroidism, or underactive thyroid. As with all autoimmune diseases, the body mistakenly identifies its own tissues as an invader and attacks them until the organ is destroyed. This chronic attack eventually prevents the thyroid from releasing adequate levels of the hormones T3 and T4, which are necessary to keep the body functioning properly.
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