The Hidden Danger of Chronic Headaches

When you get a headache, what's the first thing you do?

If you're like most people, you probably just pop a couple of painkillers and hope your headache will go away.

But for some people, headaches are more than just a mild annoyance that a pill can fix. And if you're one of the 38 million Americans with migraine problems, you should get your thyroid checked.

A new study from the University of Cincinnati found that folks with a possible migraine disorder had a 41% greater risk of having thyroid problems. These include hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, and thyroid cancer.

The thyroid is an organ that weighs about one ounce and sits at the back of your throat.

It's responsible for many of your hormone chemical signals. Your thyroid sends signals that control digestion, body temperature, weight gain and loss, and even your energy levels.

You probably don't give much thought to your thyroid. And there's a good reason you don't... If you look at the data, few people receive a diagnosis of hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism.

Hypothyroidism happens when you don't make enough hormones (hypo means low). It affects 4.6% of the population under the age of 65 and about 10% of those 65 and over.

Hyperthyroidism happens when you make too many hormones. It's rarer, affecting about 3% of the population.

I know these numbers sound low. But here's the thing... Many folks remain undiagnosed.

In fact, according to a study in the Journal of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, about 27 million Americans have thyroid disease, but about 13 million of these folks have no idea they are sick.

That's because thyroid problems have symptoms – not just headaches – that overlap those of dozens of other diseases.

For instance, a quick check on fatigue as a symptom pulls up more than 25 different causes. Your fatigue could be caused by any number of things, from cancer, to stress, to overeating.

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Here's a look at the most common symptoms...

Hypothyroidism symptoms:

  • Increased sensitivity to heat or cold
  • Dry skin
  • Constipation
  • Weight gain
  • Fatigue
  • Depressed mood
  • Muscle weakness or pain
  • High cholesterol
  • Brittle nails

Hyperthyroidism symptoms:

  • Weight loss
  • Excessive hunger
  • Fatigue
  • Panic attacks
  • Insomnia
  • Puffy eyes or bulging eyes
  • Fast or abnormal heart rate
  • Tremor

Unfortunately, it's the commonness of these symptoms that often leads doctors to miss the diagnosis of thyroid problems – which explains why the numbers are low.

Now, we know that as we age the chances of having thyroid issues increases. And with that comes a host of problems – for instance, your metabolism might break down medications too fast (hyperthyroidism) or too slowly (hypothyroidism).

So what can you do to take care of your thyroid before you have problems? It turns out, most of the foods that we already recommend for your overall health and wellness are great for thyroid health.

For the most part, eating foods high in iodine, selenium, zinc, iron, and copper helps your thyroid. It's important to note, however, that too much iodine causes hyperthyroidism, so you'll want to make sure to consume those foods in moderation.

1) Iodine: High-iodine foods include cod, tuna, shrimp, seaweed (including kelp), dairy products, bread, cereals, and table salt.

2) Selenium: You can find selenium in Brazil nuts, oysters, cashews, lobster, shrimp, and sunflower seeds.

3) Zinc: Zinc is plentiful in oysters, lobster, cashews, pine nuts, pecans, beef, and lamb.

4) Iron: Red meat, poultry, seafood, chickpeas, pumpkin seeds, beans, lentils, and spinach are all good sources of iron.

5) Copper: Get your copper from beans, nuts, seeds, turnip greens, mustard greens, and asparagus.

Finally, there are two foods to eat in careful moderation... soy and kelp.

Soy affects the absorption of any thyroid hormone pills you might be taking. In fact, if you have even minor thyroid issues, doctors advise you to avoid too much soy. Try only having soy products a few times a week instead of every day.

Kelp has one of the highest amounts of iodine. One serving of food like seaweed and kelp noodles has about a full day's worth of iodine. That's about 150 micrograms (mcg) per day, according to the NIH.

Just be sure to eat in moderation. And avoid kelp supplements. Those can have up to 500 mcg per pill, a dangerously high level.

Taking care of your thyroid now will help guard against problems in the future. If you have the symptoms listed above, however, make sure to get your thyroid checked. Take the time to find a specialist, too – an endocrinologist. They can better evaluate your symptoms and get you on medication if necessary.

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Here's to our health, wealth, and a great retirement,

Dr. David Eifrig and the Retirement Millionaire Daily Research Team
Baltimore, Maryland
October 11, 2016