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The thyroid, a butterfly-shaped endocrine gland located in the front of the neck near the trachea, regulates hormones, metabolism and protein production. Thyroxine (abbreviated as T3) and triiodothyronine (T4), hormones secreted by the thyroid, travel to other parts of the body. When the thyroid malfunctions, changes in the diet may hasten its return to a balanced production. Oats, long considered one of nature's most wholesome foods, are beneficial to the thyroid in many instances.
Hypothyroidism (Underactive Thyroid)
Hypothyroidism, or an underactive thyroid, occurs when the thyroid stops secreting the needed amount of hormones. Many of the symptoms caused by hypothyroidism can be initially misdiagnosed as many other conditions, or simply getting older. Weight gain, fatigue, a hoarse voice and muscle aches are only a few symptoms of an underactive thyroid. Doctors often prescribe synthetic hormone pills to counter deficiency in natural hormone production. However, green oats (Avena sativa) temporarily soothe nerves and depression associated with an underactive thyroid. All types of oats are good for hypothyroidism.Variations include tonics sold in health food stores; oatstraw tea made from unripe oats; or prepackaged oat bars or cereals. And, of course, hot oatmeal.
Hyperthyroidism (Overactive Thyroid)
When the thyroid produces too many hormones, hyperthyroidism, or overactive thyroid, causes rapid weight loss, tremors, breathlessness and an inability to tolerate heat. Radioactive iodine may be used to kill the overactive thyroid cells. Severe cases require removal of some or all of the thyroid gland. Avoid oats and oat supplements when treating hyperthyroidism, along with sugar, dairy products, wheat and pine nuts. Instead, eat goitrogenic foods, like leafy green vegetables, which lessen the presence of hormone-producing iodine in the body.
When the thyroid works normally, TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone), which regulates T3 and T4 production, tests in the normal range between 0.4 to 5.0. If the T3 and T4 scores are also normal, and you maintain the same weight for long periods of time, you have a healthy thyroid. A well-balanced diet, including a moderate amount of oats--such as those found in breakfast cereals and oatmeal--will keep your thyroid functioning without problems.
A digestive disorder called Celiac disease interferes with the absorption of food nutrients and damages the small intestines. It's closely tied to autoimmune thyroid disease. People with Celiac disease suffer from gluten intolerance and should avoid wheat, barley and rye, but can consume pure oats on a limited basis if they don't contain any trace of wheat gluten. Patients with other disorders related to autoimmune thyroid disease like Grave's disease or Hashimoto's disease also should consume oats untainted by wheat gluten.
Other Health Benefits
Oats are one of the best foods for your all-around health. In addition to counteracting hypothyroidism, oats provide fiber, reduce cholesterol and high blood pressure and keep your heart strong. Oats also lessen the risk of contracting type 2 diabetes and certain cancers.