Author: Dr. Barry Durrant-Peatfield, author of ‘Your Thyroid and How to Keep it Healthy’
Iodine is required for proper thyroid function as it is a component of thyroid hormones. The number in the name of each thyroid hormone indicates the number of iodine atoms it contains i.e. T3 has three atoms of iodine while T4 has four. Deficiency of iodine causes the thyroid gland to enlarge into what is known as a goiter and results in symptoms of hypothyroidism because the thyroid is unable to manufacture thyroid hormones. Good food sources of iodine include fish, seafood and sea vegetables as well as Yogurt, cow’s milk, eggs, mozzarella cheese and strawberries. Iodine supplements are also available, usually as kelp extracts.
An amino acid which like iodine is a component of thyroid hormones and is therefore essential to their production. Food sources of tyrosine include fish, chicken, pork, wheat, oats, dairy products, avocados, bananas, lima beans, almonds, sesame seeds and pumpkin seeds. Tyrosine supplements are widely available in tablet, capsule and powdered form.
This trace mineral is another essential nutrient in the process of thyroid function. It is required to make the enzyme 5-deionidase which converts T4 to T3. Food sources include grains (eg. corn, wheat, oats, and rice), nuts (Brazil nuts and walnuts), fish (tuna) and meat and dairy products (beef, chicken, egg, cheese).
This mineral is involved in huge numbers of enzymatic reactions in the body, particularly those involving other minerals. Research suggests it is important for thyroid function at every level including T4 to T3 conversion and the intracelluar action of T3.
A herb native to subtropical areas of India, Thailand and Burma. It is widely used in Ayurvedic medicine. Its active constituent Forskolin has been shown to increase the production of thyroid hormones and stimulate their release5. It also increases an important chemical called Cyclic AMP which is involved in making sure the thyroid hormone message is transmitted to the nucleus of the cell6.
Guggul (Commiphora mukul)
Another ayurvedic herb with particular benefits in hypothyroidism. Research in mice shows that the active constituents (guggulsterones) have strong thyroid stimulating actions and increase iodine uptake7. Guggul has also been shown to improve liver function and reduce lipid peroxidation (damage to fats by free radicals). One study found that guggulsterones simultaneously increase T3 while lowering lipid peroxidation. It is therefore concluded that since the liver is the major site of conversion of T4 to T3 guggul increases T3 levels by protecting the liver from free radicals and improving liver function8.
Yet another herb traditionally used in ayurvedic medicine is ashwagandha. It works in a similar way to guggul in improving thyroid function by increasing blood levels of T4 and T3 as well as reducing lipid peroxidation in the liver and increasing antioxidants such as superoxide dismutase and catalase9.
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