Many of us have a preferred bedtime routine before hitting the hay. A warm bath, a cup of tea, a good book — all are little habits that help mellow the mind and body after a long day.
What you might not know is that your evening routine can also affect your thyroid.
Turns out, the tiny, butterfly-shaped endocrine gland is essential to your overall health. Not only does it control your metabolism, but it’s also vital for other bodily functions like breathing, digestion, brain development and fertility, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
Needless to say, when your thyroid is thriving, the rest of your body can perform at its best.
Here, Deena Adimoolam, MD, a New York City-based endocrinologist and internist, shares six nightly practices you can start now to promote a healthy thyroid.
1. Eat Plenty of Vegetables with Dinner
Filling up your plate with produce is one of the best habits you can have for your overall health, including your thyroid health.
Over time, chronic inflammation can potentially affect your thyroid, and contribute to chronic illnesses like arthritis, heart disease, stroke and diabetes, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
While no specific food can prevent (or cause) thyroid problems — and no conclusive data currently shows a connection between anti-inflammatory foods and thyroid health specifically — Dr. Adimoolam still recommends eating plenty of vegetables daily.
How many servings of veggies should you eat, to be exact? The 2020–2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend adults get about two to three cups of vegetables per day.
While certain foods like vegetables can fight inflammation, others can promote it. And sweetened beverages like soda top the list.
Excess added sugar can trigger inflammation, according to Harvard Health Publishing. And as we’ve learned, chronic inflammation can affect your thyroid.
Sipping on sugary drinks is also linked to weight gain, obesity, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and other metabolic conditions, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Problem is, soda and other sweetened beverages make up the majority of added sugars in the American diet, per the CDC. That’s right: Approximately a quarter of our sugar intake comes from beverages such as soft drinks.
Added sugar should only contribute to about 10 percent of your daily total calories, Dr. Adimoolam says. That means, if you’re getting 2,000 calories a day, only 200 calories should come from added sugars (which equals about 12 teaspoons of sugar). For context, one 12-ounce can of soda boasts 10 teaspoons of added sugar, per the CDC.
So, for better thyroid and overall health, skip the soda at nighttime (and any time, really) and stick to water or unsweetened beverages.
Turns out, eating seafood for dinner may help support your thyroid health. That’s because fish are full of nutrients that are necessary for a well-functioning thyroid.
For instance, many foods from the sea supply a solid dose of minerals such as selenium, iodine and zinc. “These minerals are important for production of thyroid hormone, especially for those with a known thyroid condition,” Dr. Adimoolam says.
Seafood (especially yellowfin tuna) is an excellent source of selenium, while zinc is naturally found in oysters and Alaskan king crab, she says.
Similarly, fish like cod, shrimp and tuna contain healthy amounts of iodine, according to the USDA.
Not a fan of fish? You can also season your food (in moderation) with iodized salt to incorporate iodine in your diet or consider supplementing your diet with a multivitamin. Always talk to your doctor before taking a supplement, though, especially because getting too much iodine can harm your thyroid function, per the USDA.
No one functions their best on inadequate sleep. And the same can be said about your thyroid gland.
A July-September 2021 study in Sleep Science illustrates this point: Researchers found that people with sleep problems experienced a significant increase in certain hormones on their thyroid function tests, concluding that poor sleep quality may affect thyroid hormones.
The connection between sleep and thyroid health may have something to do with stress, Dr. Adimoolam says. A lack of sleep taxes your body and causes stress. And high stress can negatively affect your thyroid function, according to El Camino Health.
Stress can also exacerbate thyroid conditions such as Graves’ disease or Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, per a November 2022 paper in the Medical Science Monitor.
Conversely, “More sleep leads to less stress on the body, which allows organs like the thyroid to function at their best,” Dr. Adimoolam says.
For improved overall health and quality of life, she recommends catching at least seven hours of solid zzzs every night.
Taking a post-supper stroll is a simple strategy that can support your thyroid and overall health.
Exercise in general has benefits for your entire body, helping all your systems — including your thyroid — to function at their finest, Dr. Adimoolam says.
And walking provides some particular pluses: It can reduce your risk of high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes, strengthen your bones and muscles and help you maintain a healthy weight, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Walking can also lift your mood and decrease stress. That’s because being active lessens stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol, and boosts endorphins, i.e., feel-good brain chemicals, according to Harvard Health Publishing.
And, as we know, managing stress is key for keeping your thyroid healthy.
6. Make Meditation a Habit
Any relaxing, stress-reducing activity can benefit the body, including the thyroid, Dr. Adimoolam says. Which is why a nightly meditation is another marvelous way to cut down stress levels that can sabotage thyroid health.
A plethora of research has shown that mindfulness meditation — which involves focusing on the present moment and engaging in breathwork — is especially effective at reducing the body’s response to stress (and improving anxiety and depression), according to the American Psychological Association.
Even taking just a few minutes to meditate can help you de-stress, clear your mind and wind down before bed. Plus, meditating might even help you sleep more soundly.
Case in point: A small April 2015 study in JAMA Internal Medicine found that people who practiced mindfulness meditation for six weeks experienced less insomnia, fatigue and depressive thoughts.
That’s a major bonus, as quality sleep is essential for a well-functioning thyroid.