Thyroid health depends on multiple nutrients ranging from vitamin A to zinc. Now more than ever, everyone must be mindful about nutritional patterns as dietary habits and lifestyles can either help or hinder thyroid function and metabolism. If nutrient needs are not met, thyroid function and metabolism are challenged while damaging free radicals further stress your body and immune balance resulting in your whole being affected.
The core of nutritional health for thyroid is to ensure adequate primary nutrients, tyrosine and iodine, which form thyroid hormones T4 and T3. There are several nutrients directly involved with thyroid health beyond tyrosine and iodine that are integral to thyroid gland and hormone function. Here are some updates and refresher points on a few key nutrients for thyroid.
Vitamin A is necessary for more than just eyesight and immune system health. Adequate vitamin A helps iodine work within the thyroid for normal metabolism. It is necessary for iodine absorption. Inadequate vitamin A combined with inadequate iodine causes the pituitary gland in the brain to increase TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) production and causes enlargement of the thyroid gland. Vitamin A helps regulate thyroid signals and provides essential antioxidant support.
Animal food such as dairy, fish, and meat provide the best sources of vitamin A. Plant-based diets provide carotenes, or provitamin A, which are found in leafy green vegetables, orange and yellow vegetables, tomato products, and some fruits. Provitamin A/carotenes need to be converted into vitamin A for the thyroid and other tissues. Sometimes this process does not happen well because of genetics or underactive thyroid function. Inadequate dietary intake of vitamin A can occur even with the plethora of food choices and grocery stores we have today in America.
B vitamins are required for thyroid function and all tissues throughout your body. At the core of metabolism in every cell is the process of methylation. This critical activity requires several nutrients, but especially vitamins B6, B12, and folate. Stress, high calorie/nutrient poor diets, gut problems, numerous medications, alcohol intake, and genetic needs, etc. affect B vitamin status. These nutrients and others that drive healthy, balanced methylation must be available otherwise it can adversely impair metabolism and thyroid function. Healthy methylation is essential for thyroid metabolism.
Four molecules of iodine are attached to one molecule of the amino acid tyrosine. This makes T4 hormone. T4 is not very metabolically active. It must be converted into T3, the activated form of thyroid hormone. The trace mineral selenium is required to remove one iodine molecule from T4 to become T3.
Consumption of chlorinated, fluoridated water (city tap water), brominated flours, or beverages like soda pop or sports drinks made with brominated vegetable oils, compete against iodine absorption. This can readily affect your thyroid function and contribute to toxins stored in your tissues.
You need to supplement with iodine if you don’t consume iodized salt or iodine-rich foods like seafood, seaweed, eggs, and dairy. Iosol Iodine provides highly absorbable, non-toxic iodine that is gentle. It does not contain potassium iodide that can act as an irritant to the thyroid gland, especially when consumed in higher doses.
Too little iodine intake leads to lower thyroid hormone levels and slower metabolism. In some individuals, excess iodine intake may dampen thyroid function, i.e. Wolff– Chaikoff effect and increase TSH and decrease T3 levels. Others who are toxic from brominated products, chlorine, and fluoride, may need to use very small amounts of iodine along with selenium, chlorella, lipoic acid, glutathione, and fiber to support gentle detoxification.
For individuals with a sensitive system, start with the basic RDA 150 mcg per day of iodine. Higher doses may be used for more therapeutic needs. A good response is improvement in energy, body temperature, and general well-being. If you feel fatigued, cold, or your metabolism feels sluggish or if you feel hot, sweaty, and anxious after using iodine, take a break from it. Brain-adrenal health (HPA axis connection) and your selenium status greatly impact this response. Make sure to support this network. Iodine is powerful. A little bit of support can make big difference. More is not always better.
Iron is a trace mineral required for the production of thyroid hormone. Lack of iron blocks the enzyme thyroid peroxidase, which impairs hormone production. As a result, thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) levels increase and the thyroid gland swells.
Serum ferritin is the best lab test to show iron deficiency. Research shows that restoration of serum ferritin above 100 substantially improved thyroid symptoms, even in women using appropriate levels of levothyroxine (thyroid hormone) medication. Normal hemoglobin levels do not rule out iron insufficiency.
Those who follow a plant-based diet, women with heavy menses, children and teens, athletes, or those who have digestive concerns like celiac disease, ulcers, Crohn’s disease, gastric banding or by-pass, or use acid blocking medications, etc. often lack iron.
Adequate protein is needed for general energy production and quality calories which are essential for thyroid gland function. Low protein diets, or fad diets, puts further strain on thyroid gland function. Insufficient protein intake can worsen iodine deficiency and increase oxidative stress on the thyroid gland.
Animal proteins provide all of the essential amino acids including the amino acid phenylalanine that converts into the amino acid tyrosine. Tyrosine together with iodine forms the core of T4 and T3 thyroid hormones. If you consume primarily a plant-based diet without dairy and/or have significant dietary restrictions, you may lack adequate building blocks for production and transport of thyroid hormone.
Selenium plays critical roles in protection of the thyroid gland and thyroid hormone function. As the thyroid gland produces thyroid hormone, free radicals are produced. Selenium is a required trace mineral necessary to protect your thyroid gland from this oxidative stress. Selenium is also used to activate and manage thyroid hormone throughout your body.
Selenium works together with the master antioxidant glutathione to protect your thyroid gland from free radical stress and immune attack on tissues. Selenium protects your thyroid gland against the effect of too much iodine.
Zinc is necessary for production of thyroid hormone, conversion of T4 to T3, and is essential for the proteins that carry the hormone to all of your tissues. Zinc affects the enzyme systems TSH and TRH (thyrotropin releasing hormone) along with the hypothalamus and pituitary involved in hormone production management. In addition, thyroid hormone receptor sites require zinc to function.
Thyroid hormone affects every single cell in the body, which means there must be enough zinc to go around for the receptor sites to work. Inadequate zinc is linked with high levels of leptin which further impacts metabolism and healthy weight management.
Other Factors that Influence Thyroid and Metabolism
Age, female gender, hormone transitions such as puberty, pregnancy, and menopause, along with gluten intolerance, soy and goitrogens (goiter-inducing foods), adrenals and chronic stress, genetics and methylation imbalances, environmental stress and toxins, smoking, alcohol consumption, chronic infections, and/or medications affect thyroid function. These factors and more also influence your nutritional status and, in turn, affect thyroid metabolism.
Thyroid health and metabolism is much more than hormone replacement when function is slow or dysregulated. This system depends on adequate nutrients just as much as motor vehicles depend on gas in the gas tank and a fully charged battery. How adequate are your nutritional fuel supplies for your thyroid system?