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Thyroid & Metabolism

Author: Byron J. Richards, CCN
Many individuals are confused as to whether they have a low or underactive thyroid, or some type of thyroid condition such as hypothyroid, hyperthyroid, elevated thyroid autoantibodies, or Hashimotos thyroiditis. Interestingly, many people are simply suffering from rather simple nutritional deficiencies.

The healthy function of your entire thyroid system is a top-level health priority, as sluggish thyroid is now shown to make any other health problem more challenging as well as being a significant issue in and of itself. A lack of proper nutrition for your thyroid system is a huge metabolic problem. How can your body make energy if it is lacking basic nutrients that make normal thyroid function possible? Is it any wonder that close to half the population is complaining of fatigue and other symptoms of low thyroid?

An amazing array of science now explains how nutrition assists thyroid hormone to work properly in your body. Nutrition helps your body make thyroid hormone, activate thyroid hormone, helps thyroid hormone work inside cells, and assists your brain to better regulate overall thyroid status. Even if you are taking thyroid medication it is likely you can benefit from appropriate nutritional support.

There are a number of very basic nutritional inadequacies that really stress healthy thyroid function. These are the very first things anyone concerned about thyroid health should supplement.

A common problem is that your thyroid lacks nutrients to make basic thyroid hormone, known as T4 (thyroxin), or you may lack key nutrients that help convert T4 to the biologically active T3. Your thyroid can be inflamed or stressed, which gets in the way of making T4 at an optimal rate. And your liver can be inflamed or stressed, which gets in the way of converting T4 to T3 at an optimal rate. Cells around your body require basic nutrition to carry out the metabolic instructions that T3 is giving them; otherwise it is no different than not having enough T3.

Any or all of these simple-case thyroid problems can be addressed with nutrition. Optimal nutrition can enhance the formation of thyroid hormone in the thyroid gland, enhance the activation of T4 to the biologically active T3, and enhance the nutritional ability of cells to utilize thyroid hormone. I have designed various dietary supplements to fill these specific needs.

Does Your Thyroid Have The Nutrients It Needs To Get The Job Done?

A variety of other nutrients, if lacking, can impede healthy thyroid function. At the top of this list are vitamin D and zinc. Ensure you are not lacking in these, as either of them can be responsible for the symptoms of a sluggish thyroid.

Researchers recently demonstrated that a lack of vitamin D was associated with lower levels of T4 and that irritation of the thyroid gland was more pronounced if vitamin D is lacking. It should be noted that cold weather itself is a temperature stress that makes your thyroid work harder, and the lack of sun in winter months makes it more likely you could be deficient

Zinc is another cofactor mineral that needs to be adequate for thyroid hormone to perform at an optimal pace. A lack of zinc is known to reduce the activity of TRH (thyroid releasing hormone in the hypothalamus), in turn tending to depress thyroid hormone levels. Zinc participates in the conversion of T4 to T3, and zinc is needed to bind active thyroid hormone to the DNA of cells. Zinc is needed for immunity, sex drive, and maintaining leptin status while on a diet. It is lost in sweat and by stress.

Brain levels of leptin act as a traffic cop, regulating the amount of norepinephrine allowed to stimulate the production of thyroid (leptin bases this on the adequacy of stored fat (a perception that is often faulty).  Norepinephrine-transmitting nerves are also wired directly to the thyroid gland, which act as a catalyst to get the thyroid moving.  Supplemental tyrosine is well known to promote brain activation, mental clarity, and better mood.  Tyrosine is also the central molecule of thyroid hormone (four iodine molecules are attached to one tyrosine to make thyroxine, T4).

Iodine is absolutely vital for the formation of thyroid hormone in the thyroid gland.  Adequate iodine is also needed to block various compounds from binding to the thyroid (fluoride, perchlorate, goitrogens in food).  Iodine is also needed to assist the metabolism of estrogen in a healthy way and iodine is needed to assist various hormone receptors throughout the body to work properly.  Iodine is essential for brain function and intelligence.

Selenium is highly concentrated in the thyroid gland, more so than in any other organ in the human body, indicating its vital need in normal thyroid function.  It acts as an antioxidant that protects the thyroid gland, a cofactor nutrient that facilitates the production of thyroid hormone, and as a nutrient that is required to facilitate the conversion of T4 to T3 (triiodothyronine, active thyroid hormone that works inside cells to set the pace of metabolism).

Manganese has long been known as the anti-pear nutrient, helping to reduce weight gain on the hips and thighs.  New science is showing the vital role of manganese in liver function, fat metabolism, and liver anti-oxidant status.  This relates to thyroid hormone activation, as most activation (conversion of T4 to T3) occurs on cell membranes in the liver.  If the liver is suffering from excessive free radical stress, then cell membranes are not as functional and the activation of thyroid hormone may become distressed.

The thyroid stimulating properties of guggul have been reported for the past twenty years. The active component in this herb is gugglesterone Animal studies show it works partly by stimulating thyroid hormone production, supporting fat burning in the liver and partly by increasing liver antioxidant status.

Ashwagandha is a stress-busting herb and thyroid booster that rejuvenates the body. It has been shown to enhance thyroid hormone levels by directly working as an antioxidant that reduces the amount of lipid peroxides forming in the liver.  Living in a high-stress world, Ashwagandha is another helpful nutrient to offset the demands and wear of living.

Vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 is especially important for the enzymes that make thyroid hormone. A lack of B12 is commonly found in those struggling with thyroid function (along with poor mood).  A recent study of patients with thyroid autoimmune disease found that 28% were deficient in B12.

Important:  Always consult your doctor before changing the dose of thyroid medication. You cannot simply use nutrients and not take a prescribed medication.  If you have any questions about combining nutrition with thyroid medication please consult your health care professional every person’s situation is a bit different.