The thyroid is the butterfly-shaped gland at the base of your neck. As part of the endocrine system, the thyroid gland produces hormones that regulate your body's energy use, along with many other essential functions.
When your thyroid hormone production drops, your body processes slow down and change, affecting virtually every system in your body. Undiagnosed thyroid disease puts patients at risk for other ailments, such as cardiovascular diseases, osteoporosis, and infertility.
Key nutrients drive thyroid hormone production. Because the thyroid gland is highly nutrient-dependent, poor nutritional status is one of the root causes of thyroid dysfunction. Nutrient deficiencies can worsen symptoms or prevent thyroid medication from doing its job.
Ahead, a look at some of the main vitamins and minerals that support thyroid gland function.
It's known that vitamin B12 provides energy, but did you know that a deficiency in this vitamin might also cause mood swings and brain fog? Suppose you feel sluggish, depressed, and can't remember where you put the remote. In that case, supplementing with vitamin B12 could help. Good sources of this vitamin include nuts, meat, fish, and dark leafy greens.
Selenium is a trace mineral that is essential to many of the body's regulatory and metabolic functions. It has antioxidant properties and plays a critical role in reproduction, DNA production, metabolism, immune function, and thyroid health. Studies have also shown an association between low levels of selenium with increased risk for cancer, cardiovascular disease, cognitive decline, obesity, and thyroid disease.
The thyroid gland houses more selenium than any other tissue in the body. Selenium is a critical component of "selenoproteins," enzymes involved in thyroid hormone metabolism and the thyroid gland's antioxidant defense. Research suggests that selenium deficiency may be an environmental trigger for Hashimoto's disease. Consistently meeting your selenium needs is this incredibly important for Hashimoto's patients. Great selenium sources are Brazil nuts, tuna, shellfish, pinto beans, halibut, and spinach.
Zinc fights free radical damage, helps prevent poor concentration, assists in hormone production, and has countless other benefits. It is also helpful in converting thyroid hormones T4 to T3. Good sources of zinc include lamb, chicken, mushrooms, salmon, and cashews.
Iodine is a vital nutrient in the body and essential for thyroid hormone production. When the pituitary gland secretes TSH, it increases the thyroid's uptake of iodine. It stimulates the synthesis and release of T4 and T3. Without sufficient iodine, TSH levels remain elevated and lead to goiter, an enlargement of the thyroid gland that reflects the body's attempt to produce thyroid hormone.
Iodine deficiency is the leading cause of hypothyroidism worldwide. Still, it is rare in the U.S. since iodized salt was introduced in the 1920s. In the United States, Hashimoto's Disease is the leading cause of hypothyroidism in the U.S., accounting for 90-97% of cases. For this reason, the relationship between iodine and Hashimoto's continues to be debated by thyroid experts.
Iodized salt and fish, dairy, and grains are significant iodine sources in the standard diet. Seaweed (such as kelp, nori, kombu, and wakame) is also an excellent food source of iodine, but its iodine content is widely variable.
Vitamin D can increase energy, improve TSH levels, reduce depression, protect from heart disease, and is anti-inflammatory. However, many hypothyroid patients are deficient in vitamin D. Vitamin D is called the "sunshine vitamin" for a good reason. You may be able to get the recommended amount of this vitamin by spending 20 minutes in the sunlight twice per week! Food sources include yogurt, salmon, fish oils, and mackerel.
Magnesium is an essential mineral that helps our bodies by keeping our bones healthy, regulates blood pressure, helps calm the nerves, and increases energy. It is also critical that magnesium is present for thyroid hormones T4 to convert to T3. Not only are most people deficient in magnesium, but caffeine can also cause magnesium loss. Many hypothyroid patients have extreme fatigue, making an exhausted body turn to coffee for a quick pick-me-up. However, the more caffeine in our diets, the more magnesium is lost. Great magnesium sources include dark leafy greens, almonds, sunflower seeds, black beans, and bananas.
Besides being an essential component of building red blood cells, iron is necessary to synthesize thyroid hormones. It can also play a role in moving oxygen and creating energy within our body. Anyone with hypothyroidism knows that there's no tired like "hypothyroid tired' and an iron deficiency may be part of the cause. Beef, chicken, salmon, apricots, white beans, and spinach are rich sources of iron.
The adrenal gland contains the highest levels of vitamin C in the body. The adrenals and thyroid are closely related and work together, so if the adrenal gland function is disrupted, the thyroid gland may be affected. Elevated stress levels and vitamin C deficiency may lead to adrenal stress, which then negatively affects the thyroid, slowing down metabolism. Citrus fruits, berries, cherries, and tomatoes are all great choices to boost vitamin C levels.
Every person has unique nutritional needs, which can be complicated by health conditions like hypothyroidism. The best way to understand your vitamin levels is with an essential vitamin blood test. Paloma Health also provides you the opportunity to work with a nutritionist to determine nutritional status for optimal thyroid health.
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