Thyroid among young ones: Diets and Prevention

Sheela Seharawat, Dietitian & Founding Member, Diet Clinic
Sheela Seharawat, Dietitian & Founding Member, Diet Clinic

Thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland located in our neck, just below the thyroid cartilage, also known as the ‘Adam’s Apple’. The main purpose of this gland is to release a hormone by the same name – Thyroid. These hormones are very crucial to the body, as it regulates our metabolic activity and thereby our energy. It controls the entire phenomenon of how our body uses other hormones and vitamins and other essential elements for growth, development and maturation. But, at times the gland fails to perform its function and thereby, an all essential function of our human body gets a setback, resulting in a plethora of health issues.

Though thyroid problems are typical during adulthood, it is not that children cannot get affected by it. It is said that the signs and symptoms when it occurs in children is similar to the ones in adults, but there always a difference and this we all should be aware of.

Thyroid amongst young ones

Mostly, the problems in thyroid gland with children are a little difficult to pick as these are many and all of these symptoms are correlated as a part of normal development in kids – changes in sleep patterns, changes in appetite, emotional changes and even changes can be observed in their levels of energy.

In the case of kids, hypothyroidism – a condition when the responsible gland is not producing enough thyroid hormones, is more common than the hyperthyroidism – when the gland is producing excess to what is required.  Whether it is hypo or hyper, both have negative effects on the child’s health, growth, development, his or her ability to concentrate and mood disorder.

Symptoms to be noticed in children with thyroid issues

In this case, the child is easily noticed because of the goitre that develops or even at times develops less slowly than normal. The child generally weighs more as per the height and age and even though he or she is hardly obese.

Some other common symptoms are:

  • Slower heart rate
  • A feeling of tiredness or lethargy
  • Inability to tolerate the cold
  • Dry skin and hair
  • Constipation
  • Puffiness in the face particularly around the eyes
  • Impaired memory and difficulty in thinking
  • Poor performance at school
  • Depression

Hyperthyroidism is, however, less common in children than adults, but it affects so many areas that it becomes quite difficult for parents and others to pick up a problem. Look for the following:

  • Difficulty in swallowing
  • Prominent eyes
  • Weight loss despite an increase in appetite
  • A sudden growth spurt
  • An increase in scalp hair loss
  • A rapid pulse
  • Raised blood pressure
  • Nervousness, shakiness, tremors, an inability to sit still, swinging feet
  • Tiredness
  • Poor performance at school
  • Increased sweating
  • Dislike of hot weather
  • Poor memory skills
  • Rapid fingernail growth
  • Weak shoulder and thigh muscles
  • Difficulty falling asleep and/or poor sleep patterns

Thyroid prevention in kids with thyroid issues

In recent times, more and more kids and teens are getting affected with thyroid issues. It severely affects their normal growth and development and can even stall puberty in them. The low energy levels and a constant feeling of fatigue can hamper their performance in school and peers.

In order to ensure that our kids stay healthy and do not develop thyroid problems at a younger age, it is important that he or she right kind of foods, in right proportion and balance is given to them.

Let’s look at these right foods that we all should start giving our children right away:

Iodine:

Children with hypothyroidism should not be provided with foods high in iodine, as it could make things further worse. And in some, it could even instigate hyperthyroidism.

The thyroid gland needs iodine for its normal functionality. In general, kids obtain the required quantity of iodine form a well-balanced diet that they eat. But, less or too little iodine can cause both – hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism. Always, check with your child doctor before adding or removing any source or supplement of iodine that you may have been giving to your child.

Apart from providing iodised salt let them eat more iodine-rich foods like seaweed, fish, dairy and eggs in case of iodine deficiency.

Selenium:

Selenium is important to activate the thyroid hormones so that it can be effectively used by the body. Brazil nuts, tuna, sardines, eggs, and legumes are good sources of selenium and adding them to your kid’s diet is a great way to feed them with the mineral. It is also a great antioxidant that help protect the thyroid gland in children from the adverse effects of free radicals.

Zinc:

Alike selenium, zinc does the same thing. It helps activate the thyroid hormones so that it can easily and effectively be used in the body. Zinc also helps in regulating the hormone that signals the thyroid gland to release more thyroid as and when required.

Oysters and other shellfishes and chicken are good sources of zinc that can be added to the diet.

Eggs, meats. fish (especially seafood), vegetables (cruciferous vegetables in moderation), fruits (mainly berries, bananas, oranges and tomatoes) and gluten-free grains and seeds like buckwheat, quinoa, chia seeds and flaxseeds are some great foods to be included in your kid’s diet in cases with thyroid issues.


This article has been contributed by Sheela Seharawat, Dietitian & Founding Member, Diet Clinic. Practising since 2006 as a registered dietician under IDA, Sheela Seharawat is a motivational speaker, an expert dietician and a strong believer of healthy and motivated living.

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