The thyroid, a little, butterfly-shaped gland below your Adam’s apple, basically rules your body, states Douglas Husbands, DC, CCN, a clinical nutritionist and chiropractic practitioner in San Carlos, California. It controls your metabolism, explains Husbands, and an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) slows everything down– from your pulse and temperature to your energy level and the rate at which you burn calories. An overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism), on the other hand, revs the body into overdrive. According to Mary Shomon, author of Living Well With Hypothyroidism, “As many as 59 million Americans have a thyroid condition. Sadly, the vast majority do not get diagnosed.”
Hypothyroidism– the more common condition by far– usually occurs in women, individuals older than 60, and those with a family history of thyroid problems. Worldwide, the most common cause is iodine deficiency, however in the US and other industrialized countries where people use iodized salt, the principal offenders include autoimmune conditions (where immune cells attack the thyroid tissue), radiation to treat cancers of the head and neck, and medications such as lithium. The list of potential symptoms includes fatigue, forgetfulness, depression, heavier periods, dry hair and skin, mood swings, weight gain, intolerance to cold, hoarseness, and constipation.
If you have few of these signs, you must think about having your thyroid hormone (thyroxine or T4) and thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) levels tested. Depending upon the outcomes, you might need to take daily synthetic thyroid hormones. But you can also complement hormone treatment with the following essential nutrients, all of which are needed for healthy thyroid function. Even if you have regular thyroid levels, these essential minerals and vitamins can help keep your thyroid running efficiently.
Before thyroid hormones can do their task, your body needs to convert them into an active form. This requires the mineral selenium. Husbands recommends that individuals with thyroid issues– along with those with healthy glands– supplement with 200 mcg of selenium (he prefers selenium methionine) daily to promote thyroid health. You can get the same quantity from one big handful of Brazil nuts, which are by far, the very best food source of the mineral.
You likewise need an adequate amount of zinc for your thyroid hormones to work properly, notes Shomon. In a small clinical study last year, researchers at the University of Massachusetts discovered that the thyroid hormone levels in zinc-deficient women improved considerably after four months of treatment with a 26.4 mg everyday dose of zinc. Although further research is needed, Shomon suggests taking 10 mg of zinc a day; and due to the fact that zinc can obstruct copper absorption, be sure to take 1 to 2 mg of copper daily also.
Insufficient L-tyrosine, a critical amino acid, limits the amount of thyroid hormones the body can make, so taking L-tyrosine supplements can kick start a slow thyroid, Shomon states. She notes, nevertheless, that “L-tyrosine supplements can be too stimulating for some individuals,” giving them the “jitters” and triggering insomnia. Start with 200 mg or less a day and work up to 500 mg if you tolerate it well.
Important for lots of bodily functions, iodine likewise plays a role in the production of thyroid hormones. “But it’s difficult,” states Shomon, “because while iodine deficiency is a significant threat factor for hypothyroidism, too much iodine can aggravate the thyroid and worsen existing conditions.” You need at least 150 mcg of iodine a day, most of which you can make it through salt. That amount must be a cinch– the average American consumes four times this much. Nevertheless, if you use noniodized salt, you have to get iodine from other sources, such as seafood, seaweed, dairy, and eggs. If you eat any of these foods, you should not need to supplement. Problems from too much iodine develop when you take several milligrams daily.