The thyroid gland, like any gland in your body, requires a number of basic nutrients to function properly. Every day your thyroid gland produces a certain amount of thyroid hormone that requires specific building blocks. If any of those building blocks are missing, your thyroid may not make enough thyroid hormone and you may suffer from common symptoms of hypothyroidism such as:
=> Weight Gain
=> Hair Loss
=> Cold hands and feet
=> Brain fog
=> Dry brittle nails and hair
Let’s talk about each nutrient that your thyroid needs and how to find out if you are deficient. It may be that you would benefit from some simple supplements for hypothyroidism.
Zinc is required for the production of T4 and the conversion to the active form of thyroid hormone known as T3 (triiodothyronine). T4 (thyroxine) is the inactive form of thyroid hormone and does not become active until it converted into T3. T3 enters your cells and fires up the energy-producing parts of your cell known as mitochondria. Zinc is required for healthy T3 receptors in your cells so even if you have enough T3, it won’t work optimally if you are deficient in Zinc.
A Zinc taste test is the easiest way to determine if you are Zinc deficient. Simply purchase a liquid Zinc solution such as Zinc Challenge from Designs for Health and follow these instructions:
Put about 2 tablespoons of the Zinc Challenge in your mouth and swish it around for 30 seconds noting any specific tastes. Spit out the solution and do not swallow because Zinc can cause nausea on an empty stomach.
=> If you don’t taste anything then you are probably Zinc deficient.
=> If you notice a “dry”, “furry”, “sweet” or “mineral” taste then you are probably Zinc deficient.
=> If you notice a strong unpleasant taste that gets worse over time then you probably have just a mild Zinc deficiency.
=> If you immediately notice a strong unpleasant or “metallic” taste then you probably have sufficient Zinc levels.
If you are Zinc deficient I recommend taking 30-60mg of Zinc a day with food for 30 days and then retesting. It may take up to 60 days to replenish your Zinc levels. Make sure your Zinc supplement has a small amount of copper in it because taking Zinc will deplete your body of this important mineral.
Vitamin A is the most common vitamin deficiency in the world. Vitamin A is important for thyroid hormone receptors and it activates the gene that regulates Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH). You should be getting plenty of vitamin A if you are eating lots of fruits and vegetables. Be careful when supplementing with vitamin A because it can cause deficiencies in other fat-soluble vitamins such as D, K and E. Vitamin A can also cause liver toxicity and bone loss. Your vitamin A supplement should say “natural carotenoids” or “mixed carotenoids” so you know they are close to what Mother Nature intended. Taking a single synthetic carotenoid such as beta carotene can potentially cause health problems.
A deficiency in B-vitamins, more specifically B2, B3, B6, B12 and B9 (folate) can lead to hypothyroidism. Folate is also important as it ties in closely with TSH levels. B-vitamins are usually depleted due to high levels of stress. B6 deficiencies can lead to low serotonin levels and sleep problems. B12 deficiency is common in those with gluten-intolerance and Celiac disease. This is true for folate as well but make sure you are taking the “methylated” form of folate if you have the MTHFR defect. MTHFR is a blood test to see if you have a genetic problem with folate metabolism.
Asparagine is an amino acid that makes up thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH). Protein deficiencies are very common which can lead to hypothyroidism. The easiest way to tell if you are protein deficient is to do a grip strength test using a dynamometer which we do on all our patients. A simple chart based on your age and gender can tell if you are squeezing enough pounds which is directly related to protein status. I recommend approximately 1.2 grams of protein per kilogram bodyweight as a general rule if you are deficient. In addition to getting enough food, a good whey protein supplement can help or pea or hemp protein if you have a dairy allergy.
Leucine is a branched-chain amino acid along with isoleucine and valine. Leucine is required for thyroid hormone production in the thyroid gland. Leucine is highly “anabolic” meaning that it builds and repairs your body, especially muscle tissue. Leucine helps your metabolism function at a high level along with thyroid hormone. Leucine is also important for healthy blood sugar levels so if you are insulin resistant, leucine can really help. I recommend 1 scoop of leucine powder added to all of your protein shakes.
Tyrosine is an amino acid required for T4 and T3 production in the thyroid gland. Tyrosine, however, can increase adrenaline levels which actually inhibits thyroid function so I don’t recommend supplementation unless you are truly deficient. Deficiency is rare, so this amino acid is usually not necessary.
Guggul comes from the Myrrh plant and its compounds have been shown to improve T4 and T3 levels. It also works as an anti-inflammatory and an antioxidant.
Antioxidant Vitamins C and E
These antioxidants have been shown to restore thyroid function when the liver is “backed-up” and is having difficulty detoxifying. Vitamin E should be taken like vitamin A in a “mixed” form such as “mixed tocopherols.” Vitamin C is easiest to handle in high doses if it is buffered with magnesium, zinc, potassium and calcium. Copper is another antioxidant important in protecting the thyroid gland.
Ashwagandha, also known as “Indian Ginseng” is an adrenal adaptogen. Ashwagandha has been shown to improve T4 levels and conversion of T4 into T3. Additionally, since it is an adrenal adaptogen, it will help keep cortisol levels in check and cortisol in excess will increase reverse T3 levels. Reverse T3 binds to T3 receptors and blocks healthy T3 from binding and working properly. Ashwagandha also improves mood, energy, stamina, and sleep quality.
Iron is required for thyroid hormone production, the conversion of T4 into T3 and for the best utilization of T3 inside the cell. Many women have low iron levels because they lose blood every month during menstruation so if the amount in the diet does not exceed the amount lost, a deficiency can occur. The ferritin test is a blood test that tells us how much iron is actually stored in the body.
This test is rarely ordered in conventional medicine so millions of women are left with thyroid problems due to low iron stores. Read this article to learn more about the importance of the ferritin test and your thyroid.
Iodine is not recommended in individuals with Hashimoto’s or Graves’ disease because it can make these conditions worse. Iodine is required for thyroid hormone production in the gland. Eating foods rich in iodine such as seaweed and seafood can provide enough iodine. Iodized salt contains iodine but this form of salt has other issues because it is just sodium chloride. A good multivitamin will have about 150mcg of iodine which is enough for most people. If your physician finds you to be deficient, then you may require a higher dose in the range of 1-6mg a day for 2-3 months to fully restore your levels.
Iodine is extremely dangerous if you have a “hot nodule” on your thyroid gland because it can inflame the nodule, and cause a thyroid storm which can lead to an emergency room visit and even death. Do not supplement with milligram doses of iodine without consulting your doctor first.
Additionally, many studies have shown that when iodine is added to the food supply, the incidence of autoimmune thyroid disease increases because iodine is a trigger of Hashimoto’s diseae and Graves’ disease. Proceed with extreme caution.
Selenium is required for the conversion of inactive T4 into active T3. A deficiency in selenium will cause low T3 levels resulting in all the symptoms of hypothyroidism as mentioned above. Selenium also helps improve the symptoms of Hashimoto’s disease and Graves’ disease as well as lowering antibody levels. I wrote a great blog post on selenium and your thyroid which you can read by clicking here.
A good quality multivitamin should cover many of your bases here but you may need extra nutrients depending on your situation. A qualified healthcare professional can help you determine if you are deficient and would benefit from these simple supplements for hypothyroidism.